MAHABALIPURAM (IANS) — Hopes of a slew of confidence building measures to take relations forward and smooth ruffles appeared imminent as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping continued their one-on-one tete-a-tete over dinner Oct. 11, much beyond the scheduled time.
The one-on-one between the leaders of the two countries gave hope that something concrete would be worked out during the bilateral talks between the two sides on Oct. 12 morning.
Earlier, the two leaders chatted animatedly as they viewed the imposing seventh century rock-cut cave temples of Mahabalipuram, sipped coconut water and held hands and smiled for the crowds, both looking at ease and enjoying the picturesque and historical setting of Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO world heritage site.
Modi explained 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.
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 tons seated on a short incline. Though it may seem that the boulder would roll down anytime, it has been there like that for eons.
From there, the two leaders travelled a short distance in the same car to reach the Five Rathas.
The Five Monoliths or Five Rathas is a group of solid rocks. These are five free standing monolithic temples, which are said to be linked to the five Pandava brothers — Yudhishthira, Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva and their wife Draupadi — of the Mahabharat.
In the midst of the Five Rathas, there is also a huge elephant sculpture and also that of a lion.
Then the leaders of the two most populous 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.
From the Five Rathas, the two leaders drove to Shore Temple located close to the sea built during 700-728 AD. It is a three shrine configuration – two dedicated to Lord Shiva and one for Lord Vishnu.
During the December 2004 tsunami, several rock sculptures were exposed. According to legend, the shore temple is part of the seven temples or seven pagodas and six of them were submerged under the sea.
Modi and Xi then enjoyed the dance program by students of Kalakshetra Foundation near the Shore Temple.
After the cultural program, Modi hosted a dinner for his Chinese guest, with Tamil delicacies with rasam, spice ground kozhambu, halwa and other items on the menu, said an official.
He also presented Xi with Tanjore painting of a dancing Saraswati and a traditional Annam lamp.
Chinese historian Hieun Tsang had recounted his visit to the port town of Mahabalipuram and written about it. Many pottery and other relics have been found in Quangzhan province of China, linking the town with India.