Tamil Nadu

A Xi change | Mamallapuram gets a second wind

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Mamallapuram has carved a new niche for itself in tourist maps after the recent India-China summit.

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Mamallapuram has been famous from the time it was a port town under King Narasimhavarman 1 (known as Mamallan or ‘wrestler’) of the Pallava dynasty in 700 AD. This seaside town on the Bay of Bengal, located some 60 km from Chennai, has been a world heritage site since 1984.

And now, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping chose it as the venue for their second informal summit, the town has been pushed into the limelight like never before. Thousands of cameras captured its architectural marvels as the two leaders walked about the site. It has inspired young people from Chennai’s workplaces, colleges and schools to visit, while domestic and foreign tourists are now thronging Mamallapuram every day. The town was revamped in a big way for its VIP visitors, with lawns freshly laid with Korean grass, pavements remade with special stone cladding, and new spotlights illuminating the sculptures.

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The architectural legacy of the Pallava period is carried forward today by hundreds of stone carvers and sculptors who live in the town, and by the several sculpting schools that flourish here. Sculptures created here have the GI tag, and they are exported to various countries. Artisan-cum-art dealer Harikrishnan says tourist arrivals to the town have increased 10 times, and his own customers have increased threefold.

(Text and images by Shaju John)

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