Conductor Zubin Mehta was among five artists awarded the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors of 2006 for contributions to American culture.
The Mumbai-born maestro becomes the first Indian American to be recognised after The John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts instituted the awards 28 years ago.
The Kennedy Center has often said the Honors have redefined America's perception of its artistic legacy and reinvented the way the nation rewards its artists.
The Honors have been compared to a knighthood in Britain or the French Legion of Honor -- the defining reward for a lifetime of endeavour.
Other artists recognised this year are British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who counts among his credits Bombay Dreams; country music singer Dolly Parton; singer, songwriter Smokey Robinson; and director Steven Spielberg.
Also read: 'India is in his marrow'
The 2006 honorees were saluted at a gala performance in the Kennedy Center's Opera House on December 3. US President George W Bush and Laura Bush attended the event.
The annual gala is considered the highlight of the Washington cultural year.
Before the gala performance, President Bush and the First Lady received the honorees at the White House. The Honors were bestowed the night before the gala, December 2, at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Text: Aziz Haniffa
Image: United States President George W Bush and First Lady Laura Bush with the Kennedy Center honorees at the Blue Room of the White House during a reception for the annual Kennedy Center Honors Gala December 3, 2006. From left, singer and songwriter Smokey Robinson, musical theatre composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, country music singer Dolly Parton, film director Steven Spielberg and conductor Zubin Mehta.
Photograph: Eric Draper/The White House via Getty Images