CHIDAMBARAM - Siva (Natarajar) Temple|
Chidambaram is the seat of the cosmic
dancer Nataraja (Ananda Tandava pose ; the Cosmic Dance of bliss). It is
one of the Pancha (five) Bhutasthalas. Chidambaram is the Akasa sthalam
- Space. The other four are at Kanchipuram (Prithvi sthalam - Earth), Tiruvanaikaval
(Appu sthalam - Water), Kalahasti (Vayu sthalam - Air) & Tiruvannamalai
(Thejo sthalam - Fire).
The temple was
in vogue for centuries,but its known glory in records begins with the visit
of Hiranya Chakravarthi of Kashmir around 500 A.D. The king is said
to have been cured of his leprosy with a single dip in the temple pushkarini,
Sivaganga thirtham . The four great saiva acharyas Appar, Sambandar,
Sundarar and Manikkavachakar are connected with this holy temple and produced
master pieces eulogising their respective paths - Charya, Kriya, Yoga and
Gnana. This kshetra is said to have given liberation to several hundreds
of devotees - notable among them are Nandanar, Tirunilakandanayanar, Vyagrapada,
In the 10th century, the Chola king
Parantaka I made rich endowments to the temple, besides providing a golden
roof to the Karuvarai. The Cholas, who were devout Saivites made improvements
to the temple maintaining its glory. The north Gopuram was built
by Krishnadeva Raya and the east Gopuram was built by Sundra Pandyan.
The temple is built of granite on 39
acres of land in the heart of the city. It is surrounded by massive
walls with four big tall gopurams in four directions and a big tank called
Sivagangal tank measuring 175x100 feet towards the North. The North
& South gopurams are 160feet high. The 108 dance postures as
seen in the Natya Sastra are sculpted in these towers. It has five
principal sabhas known as Kanakasabha, Chit sabha, Nritya sabha, Deva sabha
and Raja sabha.
The idol of Nataraja is enshrined
in the Chit sabha. Behind this idol, is a black screen, which is
considered to cover the Akasa Lingam. There is no Lingam, but we
are made to believe that there is an invisible Lingam, with golden vilva
garlands, i.e stressing the belief that there is everything in nothing.
There are five silver plated steps to reach the Chit Sabha, representing
the Panchakshara mantram - Na ma si va ya. The embossed images of
the saints Vyagrapada and Patanjali, are to be seen on the doors.
Both these saints had been blessed with the sight of the cosmic dance of
Shiva. Lord Vishnu also is said to have witnessed this scene.
The sanctum of Sivakama Sundari lies
to the left of Natarajar Sannidhi. The images of Ratnasabhapati (Nataraja
of Ruby), the Spatika Lingam of Chandramauleeswara, Swarnakarshana Bhairavar,
Mukhalingam are also to be found in the Chitsabha.
In the Kanaka sabha (golden hall)
lying adjacent to the Chit Sabha, poojas are offered. The ceiling
of these two sabhas are gold plated.
The Nritya Sabha, which is richly
sculpted in the form of a chariot drawn by horses houses the images of
Nataraja in Urdhava Tandava pose, image of Sarabheswara.
The Deva Sabha is a spacious hall
meant for the celebration of important festivals and houses the festival
images of the Pancha Murtis (Somaskandar, Parvati, Vinayaka, Subramanya
and Chandikeswara) and other deities.
The Raja sabha measuring 103 metres
by 58 metres is housed in a 1000 pillared hall in the outermost prakaram.
Tradition holds that Sekhizhar recited the Peria Puranam here.
The images of the Saiva saints Appar,
Sambandar, Sundarar and Manikkavachakar are placed in the temple entrances
through which they entered the temple (Appar - West, Sambandar - South,
Sundarar - North and Manikkavachakar - East).
Two annual Bhrammotsavams are celebrated.
One in the month of Margazhi, during Arudra Darisanam festival and the
second in the month of Aani concluding with Aani Tirumanjanam, when the
deities are taken out in procession.
Other special features in the temple
The shrine for Govindaraja Perumal.
The representations of many famous
Siva Lingams associated with different temples in India.
The Vinayaka idol blowing a conch.
The huge Ganesha in the outer prakara
considered to be one of the biggest in India.
The temple of Sivakami Amman in
the outer prakara, with its beautiful arch with sculptural beauties.
The Subramania temple next to the
Durga temple adjacent to this.
The Annamalai University is located
here. Chidambaram is on the Chennai Tiruchirappalli Main line, between
Villuppuram and Thanjavur.
Images carved on the temple