Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived here on Friday to a traditional welcome the quintessential Tamil style as hundreds of artists performed various forms of dance and folk arts. This metropolis and the ancient port city of Mamallapuram wore a festive look to roll out a red-carpet welcome for the Chinese President, who will take the road to reach Mamallapuram to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and take a tour of world-famous monuments.
From the traditional Bharatanatyam to Nagaswaram to the folk art of Mayilattam, Thapattam and Karakattam to the Nashik dhol to Kerala’s very own Chenda Melam – India’s cultural prowess was at rich display on Friday as the Chinese President drove to the luxurious five-star deluxe hotel ITC Grand Chola, a distance of 5 km from the airport.
Xi was welcomed by Tamil Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and Deputy CM O Panneerselvam and was accorded the traditional Purana Kumbam respect by the famous Sri Kabaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore here. Though a believer of Communist principles, Xi was accorded the highest honour of the temple with four priests presented him the metal pitcher filled with holy water, fresh mango leaves and a coconut on top.
The airport was all decked up to welcome the Chinese President with the walls being painted with drawings symbolising the long ties between the two countries. The tarmac wore a colourful look with hundreds of artists dressed in colourful attire performing various forms of folk art and traditional dance like bharatanatyam.
Chennai’s airspace was closed during the movement of VVIP flights and no commercial aircraft would be allowed to fly over Mamallapuram till the visit ends.
Arches made of banana trees, vegetables and sugarcanes symbolising the Tamil traditions were erected at various vantage points. Thousands of people lined up on the way from the airport to the hotel on both sides of the road holding Indian and Chinese flags.
At 4 pm, the Chinese President would leave for Mamallapuram by road, a journey of nearly an hour, Xi will receive welcome at 35 locations across the 50-km route via the IT Corridor that houses some of the biggest software firms in the world and the scenic East Coast Road (ECR).
In Mamallapuram, the two leaders will visit Arjuna’s Penance, Five Rathas and Shore Temple, part of the Group of Monuments declared as World Heritage Sites, besides witnessing a culture programme to be presented by artists from Kalakshetra Foundation.
Modi will host a private dinner to Xi at the historic Shore Temple overlooking the magnificent Bay of Bengal on Friday night, while the leaders will hold extensive talks, both one-on-one and at delegation level, on Saturday.