Modi-Xi bonhomie on show as informal summit kicks off

MAHABALIPURAM: Premier Narendra Modi on Friday took Chinese President Xi Jinping on a tour of a seaside temple and monument complex as part of an informal summit against the backdrop of strained ties over the disputed region of Kashmir.
It is the second informal summit between Xi and Modi since they met in China’s Wuhan in April last year, and is aimed at building rapport between the leaders and providing “guidance” for bilateral ties, according to diplomats.
Soon after he was received by state officials at the Chennai airport, the Chinese leader was treated to cultural performances on the runway showcasing local Tamil dance and music.
Xi later reached the coastal town of Mamallapuram, where Modi welcomed him and took him on a tour of three ancient rock monuments and a shore temple dating back to the 7th and 8th centuries.
Modi was seen in visuals explaining to Xi the architecture and significance of the Hindu monuments, which are classed as a Unesco Heritage Site.
The symbolic tour was organised also to highlight the ancient trade links between China and the Pallava dynasty kings who once ruled the coastal region.
The leaders held a series of brief conversations at the complex through the evening and watched another cultural performance before sitting down for dinner.
Not many Presidents and Prime Ministers are fortunate enough to have another country’s Prime Minister as a tourist guide!
But Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday was fortunate as he had Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his guide, explaining in great detail about the architecture and significance of the three important rock-cut monuments in the famed sculpture town Mahabalipuram, about 60 km from Chennai.
Donning the traditional Tamil attire of ‘veshti’ (white dhoti), half-sleeve white shirt and angavastram over his shoulder, Modi welcomed Xi at Mamallapuram, also known Mahabalipuram, for the second informal India-China Summit.
Xi, who arrived earlier from Beijing, was equally casually attired in a white shirt and black trousers.
Modi received Xi near Arjuna’s Penance and took him inside the rock-cut temple and was seen explaining the features to the Chinese leader.
Then the two leaders walked over to Arjuna’s Penance sculpture. Modi, like a professional guide, was seen explaining to Xi the various images carved on the huge rock. Xi was seen listening to Modi keenly.
One of the magnificent monuments of Mahabalipuram, Arjuna’s Penance, chiselled out on a large boulder, shows several rows of Hindu gods facing towards a sage/person who is on a penance standing on his left leg. Apart from the gods, images of hunters, sages, animals and others have been carved out.
The image of Lord Shiva is also carved on the right side of the person on penance. It is said Mahabharat hero Arjuna was standing in penance to seek the divine Pasupathastra (weapon) from Lord Shiva.
Modi and Xi then walked over to Krishna’s Butter Ball — a gigantic boulder weighing about 250 tonnes seated on a short incline. Though it may seem that the boulder would roll down anytime, it has been there like that for aeons.
From there, the two leaders travelled a short distance in the same car to reach the Five Rathas.
Then the leaders of the two most populace nations decided to sit down for a small chat, each sipping tender coconut water. Modi was seen handing over the paper napkin to Xi like a close family member or friend.
Modi and Xi then enjoyed the dance programme by students of Kalakshetra Foundation near the Shore Temple.
Later, they had dinner together and taste Tamil delicacies, said an official.
Located on the Coromandel coast, Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram, sporting the Unesco World Heritage Site tag, is famous for its stone carvings and rock cut temples of the Pallava dynasty period. — IANS