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Mamallapuram’s Chinese links set to give a fillip to Modi-Xi summit


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mamallapuram and its history

Mains level : India-China Relations since ancient times

  • While expectation is in the air in view of the India-China meet in Mamallapuram next week, the coastal town’s ties with China is ancient and it is set to give a historic fillip to the summit.

Mamallapuram and China

  • The 2004 Saluvankuppam excavations in Kancheepuram district make it clear that Mamallapuram was a port town even during the Sangam era about 2000 years ago.
  • The mighty Pallavas, whose flourishing sea port was Mamallapuram for a long time, had a relationship with China and had even sent envoys there during their rule.

Trade relations

  • Celadon ware (pottery) of the first, second Century C.E. recovered on the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu gives us a clue to Chinese maritime activities.
  • Such finds and other archaeological evidences can be used to infer that regions, including coastal areas of present day Mamallapuram and Kancheepuram district had links with China.
  • Chinese coins dating to the same period were also found in Tamil Nadu adding they showed the ancient trade links to the dragon country.
  • Emperor Wei (185-149 BCE) encouraged traders and the Chinese text Ch’ien Han Shu of the first century refers to Kancheepuram as “Huang-Che” and Chinese kings had sent presents to the then ruler of Kancheepuram.

Literary evidences

  • The ancient Tamil work “Pattinapalai,” a post Sangam period work, cites the anchorage of a Chinese ship on the eastern coast of ancient Tamil Nadu.
  • Authored by Urutthiran Kannanar, the work refers to a ship “tungu naavay,” in Tamil, which is nothing but a big Chinese vessel “Zunk,” the archaeologist.
  • Also the Chinese text the “Han annals” has a reference to contacts with the Tamil country.

 Archaeological evidences

  • If you look at the Vayalur inscriptions (near Mamallapuram), they say that Pallavas had sent envoys (6-7th Century AD) to China.
  • Similarly Tamil inscriptions have been found in the dragon country as well.

Literary evidences

  • Chinese monk Hiuen Tsang visited Kancheepuram in the seventh Century AD and he no doubt reached the ancient port town of Mamallapuram and then continued his journey to the temple town.
  • Keen on understanding more about Buddhism and to get original texts of his religion, Hiuen Tsang visited Kancheepuram, which was then a flourishing Buddhist centre, as well as a hub of learning.
  • Ancient Indian sources indicate that Kancheepuram was referred to as a “kadiga,” which meant a “university,” and Tsang was attracted to Kancheepuram.



  • Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram or Seven Pagodas, is a town that lies along the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, 60 km south of Chennai.
  • The town’s religious centre was founded by a 7th-century Hindu Pallava King—Narasimhavarman, also known as Mamalla—for whom the town was named.
  • It contains many surviving 7th- and 8th-century Pallava temples and monuments, chief of which are the sculptured rock relief popularly known as “Arjuna’s Penance,” or “Descent of the Ganges,” a series of sculptured cave temples, and a Shiva temple on the seashore.
  • The town’s Five Rathas, or monolithic temples, are the remnants of seven temples, for which the town was known as Seven Pagodas.
  • The entire assemblage collectively was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
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