WASHINGTON — Once shunned by the United States, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi rode a wave of enthusiasm and popular support Monday to the White House, where he is kicking off a two-day visit with President Barack Obama. The two leaders sought to put a brave face on the relationship despite widespread concerns that U.S.-Indian ties have frayed in recent years.

Modi’s visit started with a private dinner with Obama on Monday evening, the day after thousands of Indian-Americans flocked to New York’s Madison Square Garden for a rare chance to see the new leader of the world’s largest democracy. The dazzling Bollywood-style dancers and dozens of U.S. lawmakers that took part in that event highlighted the rock star welcome that Modi is enjoying on his first official visit to the U.S. since being elected in May.

It wasn’t always so. When Modi requested a visa to visit the United States nearly a decade ago, Washington said no. That rejection came three years after religious riots killed more than 1,000 Muslims in the state of Gujarat, where Modi was the top elected official.

Another potential wrinkle in Modi’s visit: A human rights group is offering $10,000 to anyone who can serve Modi with a summons issued by a federal court in New York to respond to a lawsuit the group filed accusing him of serious abuses. The lawsuit is on behalf of two unnamed survivors of the violence.

Modi has denied involvement in the violence and India’s Supreme Court has said there was no case to bring against him. As a head of state, Modi has immunity from lawsuits in U.S. courts.

White House officials said they doubted the issue would cloud the visit.

Obama and Modi broke the ice over dinner Monday as they sought to reinvigorate soured relations between their countries. Joining them in the Blue Room was Vice President Joe Biden, who also attended a State Department lunch with Modi and Secretary of State John Kerry earlier in the day.

But there was one small issue: Modi is fasting to honor the Hindu goddess Durga and is consuming only water or lemon-flavored water. The White House said Modi’s dietary needs would be accommodated, but offered no details.

Obama’s courtship of Modi will continue Tuesday with an Oval Office meeting, marking a rare second day of attention from Obama.

During their talks, Obama and Modi will focus on economic growth and cooperation on security, clean energy, climate change and other issues, the White House said.