News Brief

Why Tamil Nadu’s Mamallapuram Was Chosen To Host The Modi-Xi Jinping Summit  

A temple in Mamallapuram/Mahabalipuram, the town that will host the Modi-Xi summit. (Arunkumar J S/Wikipedia)
Snapshot
  • The rich history of Mamallapuram’s relations with China makes it the best venue that India could have decided upon to host Modi’s summit with Xi.

During the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was then the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) prime ministerial candidate, made a significant statement on his plans to boost the country's economy.

He had said then that one of the measures he would take to popularise various tourist destinations in the country would be to hold important meetings with top global leaders at these places.

His argument was that the meetings with Presidents and Prime Ministers from other countries would give these tourist destinations a boost by making them popular. It would be one of his measures to boost the economy in the hinterlands.

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Modi has fulfilled this promise to an extent. In April 2017, the Indo-Bangladesh meeting between Modi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed was held in Kolkata, giving the eastern metropolitan city a fillip.

In July 2017, the Sino-Indian summit was held on the banks of the Sabarmati River in Gujarat. It brought the focus on Sabarmati and its related sites such as the Mahatma Gandhi Ashram.

Now, the Sino-India summit between Modi and the Chinese President Xi Jinping has been scheduled for 11-12 October at Mamallapuram, one of the tourist destinations in the country that is famous for its sculptors and sculpture.

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The Modi government has given much thought in selecting the venue for the Sino-Indian summit. Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram, as it is commonly referred to, was established by Narasimhavarman I of the Pallava dynasty in the seventh century AD.

The summit venue is 50 km from Chennai, Tamil Nadu’s capital. It was established as a seaport town by the Pallava king to carry out merchandise trade with other parts of the world.

Narasimhavarman was hailed as “Mamallan” for his excellence in warfare and hence, the seaport town was named Mamallapuram.

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The Pallavas had sent their envoys to China as they had a good relationship with them. The China-Pallava dynasty relationship included an understanding on defence.

Narasimhavarman II had offered help to the Chinese rulers to take on the Arabs and Tibetans.

Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang went around the Pallava kingdom of Narasimhavarman I and lauded the people’s valour, conduct, and excellence in education.

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Another significant aspect to the Sino-Indian summit being held at Mamallapuram is that India and China have had trade relations dating back to the pre-Christ period.

Historians say there is archaeological evidence of Sino-India links that date back to 2,000 years.

Pottery works belonging to the first and second century BC have been excavated from the Tamil Nadu coast, indicating that the Chinese were involved in maritime trade in those days. Chinese coins dating back to these centuries have also been found in the state.

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Tamil literary work, Pattinapalai talks of a Chinese ship dropping anchor on the east coast, in Tamil Nadu. Some Chinese literature, too, make references to contacts with Tamil Nadu regions.

Mahabalipuram, which is part of Tamil Nadu’s Kanchipuram district, is referred to in a Chinese text, Chien Han Shu, as ‘Huang Che’.

Excavations made at Saluvankuppam in Kanchipuram district, in 2004, revealed that Mahabalipuram was a port town 2,000 years ago during what is called the ‘Sangam’ period.

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Mamallapuram was a thriving port until the end of ninth century AD with the town being part of China’s 'Silk Route' and India’s 'Spice Route'. Kanchipuram’s silk industry owes its genesis to the import of raw silk from China through Mamallapuram.

The rich history of Mamallapuram’s relations with China makes it the best venue that India could have decided upon to host Modi’s summit with Xi.

In so doing, Modi has also blunted the attacks of Dravidian activists effectively.

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