Chennai, 08 Oct 2019: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has temporarily shut down tourism to monuments in Mahabalipuram ahead of the bilateral summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping from Tuesday.
Members of the public will not be allowed at popular tourist attractions located in the temple town beginning Tuesday. The historical Buddhism connection is being capitalised well with statutes of Buddha seen at various vantage points in Mamallapuram, which is getting a major facelift with hundreds of workers toiling round-the-clock to ensure that the town is ready for the historic meeting of Modi-Xi between October 11 and 13.
“In exercise of powers conferred under Rule 5 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Rules, 1959 entry to public is suspended in the [Group of Monuments, Mahabalipuram] from 08.10.2019 to till the completion of VVIP visit due to security reasons,” according to an order from the Chennai Circle of the ASI.
In addition to the suspension of tourism, Mahabalipuram has also witnessed tightening of security across the town. 500 police personnel have been deployed in the 20 km stretch between Mahabalipuram and Akkarai. Two deputy superintendents of police (DSPs), six inspectors, and 500 police personnel have been deployed across Mamallapuram in different shifts, including night patrolling. CCTV cameras have been installed across the town as well as on the outskirts for round-the-clock surveillance.
Ancient port town, Mahabalipuram, has historical connection with China and Buddhism. The Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram includes the five Ratha temples, the cave sanctuaries and structural temples along the coast of the Bay of Bengal. The Pallava-era monuments have also been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram, meaning Great Wrestlers City, referring to Pallava King Narasimhavarman II.
Both leaders are expected to visit three of the monuments— the Shore temple, Arjuna's penance and the Five Rathas during their two-day visit.
On Sunday, the state police arrested Tibetan activist and writer Tenzin Tsundue and nine other activists who had reportedly planned a protest during Premier Xi's visit, calling for the independence of the region under the Chinese state.
In September 2014, the two leaders met in Ahmedabad on the banks of Sabarmati river, and this time will meet at Mamallapuram, about 50 km south of Chennai. In April 2018, Modi and Xi had held multiple meetings in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, as part of a two-day informal summit to solidify the India-China relationship.
The meeting is also likely to help Mamallapuram become a must visit place for Chinese tourists, who mostly visit Bodhgaya, said a State government official.