Ahead of the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India, for informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, statues of Gautham Buddha and fighting bulls, a pointer to Tamil Nadu's tradition of 'Jallikattu" are among the sculptures coming up at vantage points at the world heritage site of Tamil Nadu's Mamallapuram. The historic coastal town is witnessing a flurry of activity, including infrastructure development in view of the high-level meet between leaders of both the countries. Heritage monuments, including the Shore Temple, Five Rathas, Arjuna's Penance, also known as the descent of the Ganges and Krishna's Butterball, besides the lighthouse, are being spruced up.
Krishna's butterball is a massive round boulder perched on a steep rocky slope in this town. This precariously balanced boulder is said to be a hunk of stolen butter dropped by the gods. Over 100 workers have been toiling to clean the monuments and give it a fresh look without causing any damage, strictly toeing all norms to protect them. The compound gates have been given a fresh coat of yellow paint in sync with the colour of the monuments. LED lighting to give a "soft and subtle" effect to the historic monuments and solar lighting is also being done in places like Arjuna's Penance, sources told PTI. Natural grass brought from Karnataka is being used for landscaping in and around monuments like Krishna's butterball to an extent of about two lakh square feet.
Ornamental plants are also being put up and trees trimmed. Granite tops are being fixed over parapet walls adjoining the monuments in select spots and a small-sized wooden gate with aesthetic looks has been installed. New granite pathways are being laid in the premises housing monuments, including the shore temple and butterball structure and a number of roads are being topped with tar. The entire stretch of East Coast Road from Chennai through Mamallapuram has been spruced up and illegal structures removed.
Also, the GST Road in Chennai, where the international airport is located, is being cleaned up. Road medians in and around Chennai airport have been given a fresh coat of paint and sanitary workers are on the job removing branches protruding onto the road from the sprawling Officers Training Academy premises at St Thomas Mount. Several retail kiosks, locally known as "bunk shops" were removed at Mamallapuram by local authorities. Low lying electricity distribution boxes were removed and hanging power cables replaced in Mamallapuram.
Recently, Chief Minister K Palaniswami and top officials visited Mamallapuram to monitor preparations for the meet. "Statues are being put up in key locations. Buddha and the fighting bulls, which is a pointer to Tamil Nadu's ancient tradition of Jallikattu, are among the sculptures which will be featured in Mamallapuram," an official told PTI. The statue of Buddha is being put up in the Shore Temple premises and others will come up in other key points, he added. "The idea is to showcase the rich Indian cultural heritage. Making sculptures with artistic finesse is our historic hallmark and the tradition continues to this day in Mamallapuram. The statues will speak volumes of our workmanship," the official said.
Mammallapuram, home to several sculptors, is dotted with shops selling a variety of sculptures and artefacts. Vendors and hawkers around the monuments have been asked to keep off during the high profile visit. Security has been tightened and plainclothesmen are already swarming the town and "visible patrolling" has been stepped up. Ahead of the summit, paramilitary forces are likely to be deployed in and around the town. Local hotels have been advised to be cautious while letting out rooms and keep police informed about guests. A 7-star hotel at Guindy in Chennai, a seaside resort near Mamallapuram and another such facility in the coastal town are expected to play host to the summit.
A two-day summit was held in China's Wuhan last year in April. The Wuhan Summit, which was the second informal meet between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping was held with an aim to improve ties between the two nations. The summit was seen as an effort by India and China to repair trust and improve ties after military standoff on in Doklam last year. The standoff rocked ties that were already seen as tense after India refused to attend a China organised conference on its multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative.