Mamallapuram readying for Modi-Xi meet

TE Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on October 05, 2019

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi   -  POOL

Ancient port town has historical connection with China and Buddhism

The coastal town of Mamallapuram (aka Mahabalipuram) has pipped the sacred city of Varanasi to host the historic informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping next week, thanks to the Chinese connection the port town has.

The historical Buddhism connection is being capitalised well with statutes of Buddha seen at various vantage points in Mamallapuram, which is getting a major facelift with hundreds of workers toiling round-the-clock to ensure that the town is ready for the historic meeting between October 11 and 13.

Workers sprucing up the shore temple at Mamallapuram on Friday ahead of the summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on October 11   -  Bijoy Ghosh

The meeting also assumes greater significance as the trade war between the US and China has been escalating in the recent times.

The meeting at the UNESCO World Heritage Site also reiterates the Centre’s commitment to hold meetings outside Delhi. In April 2014, the DefenceExpo was held near Mamallapuram.

In September 2014, the two leaders met in Ahmedabad on the banks of Sabarmati river, and this time will meet at Mamallapuram, about 50 km south of Chennai. In April 2018, Modi and Xi had held multiple meetings in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, as part of a two-day informal summit to solidify the India-China relationship.

Historical connect

Historians said that the ancient port town of Mamallapuram was used effectively by the Pallavas to trade with China. More importantly, Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, who was an icon in China, was the third prince of a Pallava king who travelled to China from Kancheepuram via Mamallapuram in 527AD. He went on to become the 28th patriarch of Buddhism succeeding Prajnatara.

In Pictures | Modi-Xi Meet: Preparations underway in Mamallapuram

The meeting is also likely to help Mamallapuram become a must visit place for Chinese tourists, who mostly visit Bodhgaya, said a State government official.

Officials from Archaeology Survey of India; Tamil Nadu government and from the Centre are all around Mamallapuram busy making arrangements at the four tourist attractions - Shore Temple; Five Rathas; Krishna’s butter ball and Arjuna’s Penance.

An official said the two leaders will be visiting all the four places for photo shoots before heading to a one-on-one dinner meeting on October 11. There will be a bilateral talk between the two leaders again on Saturday at a sea side hotel in Kovalam. The East Coast Road, which was the host for the Defence Expo 2018, and the 30-km stretch that will lead to Mamallapuram, is witnessing unprecedented clean up with illegal hoardings removed. Workers are removing power pillars that are closer to the road; laying road patches and painting the medians.

A helipad is also getting ready. Modi is likely to fly from Chennai to Mamallapuram while Xi is expected to take the road route from the city. While State officials are gung-ho about the meeting, the local shopkeepers are cursing as they are set to lose five days of business. “I earn about ₹1,000 every day, and during weekends, it is nearly double or triple,” said Vasuki, who runs a soft drink shop near the Five Rathas.

Tourists continue to throng Mamallapuram. There is no official communication as to when the tourists will be stopped from visiting the town. However, all the restaurants and shops in the town have been told to close three days before the meeting, with a multi-level security to be in place. Tourists, mostly foreigners, have been asked to vacate the town. Policemen are also taking details of foreign tourists visiting the town.

Published on October 05, 2019

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