Prime minister Narendra Modi gave Chinese President Xi Jinping a walkthrough on artefacts and handlooms of Tamil Nadu at Fisherman’s Cove hotel near Mamallapuram, where they met on Saturday as part of an informal India-China summit. Weavers and sculptors, who had lined up, gave a demonstration on how the artefacts and weaving are done. Modi explained to Xi the items on display. Later, he presented a silk shawl, a 5ft goldplated brass Thanjavur lamp and a Thanjavur painting of Goddess Saraswathi. The handloom stalls were arranged by Chennai-based Weaver Service Centre and the handicrafts by Poompuhar.
Modi picked up a wooden idol of Buddha and another of Ganesha and showed them to Xi as the artisan started chipping away at one in his hand. Xi seemed to be impressed by the way the man was working and replicated the hand movements of the worker.
“I was working on a wooden statue when both the dignitaries came. Modi sir took the small sandalwood statue of Lord Ganesha and showed it to President Xi. Later giving back the statue, Modi sir praised the art work,” said Velayudham, an artisan from Kallakurichi.
Then, they moved on to see an array of different types of stones used to make stone sculptures. Xi was seen picking up one stone. Modi explained the relevance of an ornate Nachiar Koil brass lamp that was on display. “The lamp is 5ft tall and the entire lamp is made of brass (60% copper and 40% zinc). We have also gold-plated the lamp which has three branches. It took us 30 days to complete the lamp,” said Chinnappa of Nachiar Koil near Kumbakonam, explaining the carving intricacies to the digitaries.
Modi gifted Xi a red Kanjeevaram sari. He also presented him with a silk shawl with an image of Xi Jinping woven on it using golden threads.
In return, Xi handed over to him a bone China porcelain plate with an image of Modi painted on it. “Modi wanted to see the weaving of a sari and I started to weave a Chettinad sari. He explained to the President that weaving is part of Indian culture. He then saw a sari which had 1,330 couplets of Tirukkural on display. Modi then spoke about Saint Thiruvalluvar and the couplets,” said Mohan, a member of the Weaver Service Centre. Another weaver named Tirumurthi from the centre was also there.
Poompuhar, Tamil Nadu’s handicrafts bazaar, presented a Thanjavur painting. “The painting is of 3ft height and 4ft width. The Prime Minister liked the painting and saw other paintings on display,” said a senior Poompuhar official.
Sirumugaipudur Sri Ramalinga Sowdambigai Weavers Cooperative Society Limited in Coimbatore was asked to weave the silk shawl with Xi’s image almost a month ago. The deadline was tight. But use of electronic loom controller helped them produce three shawls — two red and a blue — on time.