Warmth on display as PM Modi hosts Xi Jinping

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their visit at at Arjuna's Penance, ahead of the summit at the World Heritage Site of Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu. (AFP Photo)

Dressed in the traditional Tamil attire of veshti, shirt and mel thundu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday displayed greater warmth with Chinese President Xi Jinping as he took him around four magnificent rock wonder monuments in this ancient port city of the famed Pallava kingdom.

Xi also looked visibly happy and seemed to have enjoyed a stroll around the monuments – Arjuna’s Penance, Krishna’s Butterball, Five Rathas and Shore Temple – along with Modi as the Prime Minister explained the historical significance of the structures built between 7th and 9th century.

As the town along the Bay of Bengal looked mesmerising with clean and decked-up roads and beautiful lights adorning them, the informal summit began on an informal note. Veshti-wearing Modi welcomed Xi, who also looked informal in his white full-sleeves shirt and black trouser, at Arjuna’s Penance with a warm handshake and took him around the rock-cut monuments for nearly an hour.

Accompanied by interpreters, the leaders were at ease with each other.

More than once, Xi was seen posing questions to Modi, while pointing fingers at the monuments they were visiting. The Prime Minister too looked cool and was seen explaining the significance of the heritage structures, which have found a place on the list of World Heritage Sites.

At the Five Rathas, a stellar example of monolithic Indian rock-cut architecture, Modi and Xi sat down for a 20-minute informal chat during which they tasted tender coconut water and were closeted in an animated discussion. While serving coconut water for Xi, Modi lent a helping hand in getting him a paper tissue.

The icing on the cake was their nearly 10-minute stroll around the 8th-century wonder called the Shore Temple that overlooks the magnificent Bay of Bengal.

The two leaders sat down to experience a slice of India’s dance traditions. They were enthralled by the mesmerising performance of Bharatanatyam, dance-dramas on Mahatma Gandhi and Ramayana and kathakali rendition by artists.

The cultural event began with Alarippu, the invocation piece symbolising the offering of respects to the God and guru.

The two leaders ended the day on a very cordial note by baking bread together relishing the traditional Tamil cuisine that included the quintessential sambar and rasam.

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