Chidambaram Temple is a Hindu temple also known as Natraja temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located in the heart of the Chidambaram city,Tamil Nadu.The temple is 78 km south of Pondicherry and 235 Km from Chennai, Southeastern part of Tamil Nadu. The Sangam classics refer to Viduvelvidugu Perumtaccan, respected clan of traditional Vishwakarmas, as being the chief architect of the temple renovation. There have been several renovations in its history, particularly during the days of Pallava/Chola emperors in ancient and pre-medieval periods.
Below is attached an image of chidambaram temple from among many more Chidambaram temple images found all over web.
Chidambaram is one of the five holiest Shiva temples, each representing one of the five natural elements; Chidambaram represents akasha (aether). The other four temples in this category are: Thiruvanaikaval Jambukeswara,Trichy (water), Kanchi Ekambareswara (earth)Kanchipuram, Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswara (fire),Thiruvanna malai and Kalahasti Nathar (wind).
The temple spread over 50 acres in the heart of the city. It is an ancient and historic temple dedicated to Lord Shiva Nataraja and Lord Govindaraja Perumal, one of the few temples where both the Shaivite and Vaishnavite deities in one place.To the followers of Shaivism (Saivism) or the saivaite, the very word koil refers to Chidambaram. In the same way, to the followers of Vaishnavism it refers to Srirangam or Thiruvarangam.
The word Chidambaram may be derived from chit, meaning “consciousness”, and ambaram, meaning “sky” (from aakasam or aakayam); it refers to the chidaakasam, the sky of consciousness, which is the ultimate aim one should attain according to all the Vedas and scriptures.Another theory is that it is derived from chit + ambalam. Ambalam means a “stage” for performing arts. The chidakasam is the state of supreme bliss or aananda and Lord Nataraj is the symbolic representation of the supreme bliss or ananda natanam. Saivaites believe that a visit to Chidambaram leads to liberation (moksha). Yet another theory is that it is derived from the word chitrambalam, from chithu meaning “play or dances of God” and ambalam meaning “stage”
A unique feature of this temple is the bejeweled image of Nataraja. It depicts the Lord Shiva as the Lord of the dance Bharatanatyam and is one of the few temples where Shiva is represented by an anthropomorphic murthi rather than the classic, anionic Lingam. The Cosmic Dance of Lord Nataraja symbolises the motion of the universe as sustained by Lord Shiva. The temple has five courts.Aragalur Udaya Iraratevan Ponparappinan (alias Vanakovaraiyan) rebuilt the Shiva temple at Chidambaram around 1213 AD. The same Bana Chief also built Tiruvannamalai temple.The temple has been traditionally administered by an endogamous group of shiavite brahmins called Dikshitar, who also officiate as its priest.
History of Chidambaram temple :
The story of Chidambaram begins with the legend of Lord Shiva strolling into the Thillai Vanam (Vanam meaning forest and thillai trees – botanical name Exocoeria agallocha, a species of mangrove trees – which currently grows in the Pichavaram wetlands near Chidambaram. The temple sculptures depicting the Thillai trees date back to the 2nd century CE).
In the Thillai forests resided a group of saints or ‘rishis’ who believed in the supremacy of magic and that God can be controlled by rituals and ‘mantras’ or magical words. The Lord strolls in the forest with resplendent beauty and brilliance, assuming the form of ‘Pitchatanadar’, a simple mendicant seeking alms. He is followed by his Grace and consort who is Lord Vishnu as Mohini. The rishis and their wives are enchanted by the brilliance and the beauty of the handsome mendicant and his consort. On seeing their womenfolk enchanted, the rishis get enraged and invoke scores of ‘serpents’ (Sanskrit: Nāga) by performing magical rituals. The Lord as the mendicant lifts the serpents and dons them as ornaments on his matted locks, neck and waist.
Further enraged, the rishis invoke a fierce tiger, which the Lord skins and dons as a shawl around his waist.Thoroughly frustrated, the rishis gather all their spiritual strength and invoke a powerful demon Muyalakan – a symbol of complete arrogance and ignorance. The Lord wearing a gentle smile, steps on the demon’s back, immobilizes him and performs the Ánanda Thaandava (the dance of eternal bliss) and discloses his true form. The rishis surrender, realizing that this Lord is the truth and he is beyond magic and ritual which lead to lord natraja being also Thillai natraja and the temple being called Thillai natraja temple.
Below is an image of Chidambaram Natraja. Many more Chidambaram Natraja photos can be found all over internet.
Adhisesha, the serpent who serves as a bed for the Lord in his manifestation as Vishnu, hears about the Änanda thaandava and yearns to see and enjoys it. The Lord blesses him, beckons him to assume the saintly form of ‘Patanjali’ and sends him to the Thillai forest, informing him that he will display the dance in due course.Patanjali who meditated in the Himalayas during krita age joins another saint, Vyagrapathar / Pulikaalmuni (Vyagra / Puli meaning “Tiger” and patha / kaal meaning “feet” – referring to the story of how he sought and got the feet and eyesight of a tiger to help climb trees well before dawn to pick flowers for the Lord before the bees visit them).
The story of sage Patanjali as well as his great student sage Upamanyu is narrated in both Vishnu Puranam as well as Siva Puranam. They move into the Thillai forest and worship Lord Shiva in the form of Shivalinga, a deity worshipped today as Thirumoolataneswarar (Thiru – sri, Moolatanam – primordial or in the nature of a foundation, Eswarar- the Lord). Legends say that Lord Shiva displayed his dance of bliss (the Aananda Thaandavam) – as Nataraja to these two saints on the day of the poosam star in the Tamil month of Thai (Jan – Feb).
The Ananda Tandava posture of Lord Natraja is one of the famous postures recognized around the world by many. This celestial dancing posture tells us how a Bharathanatium Dancer should dance.
The demon under Nataraja’s feet signifies that ignorance is under his feet :
The Fire in this hand (power of destruction) means destroyer of evil
The raised hand signifies that he is the savior of all life.
The Ring at the back signifies the cosmos.
The drum in his hand signifies the origin of Life.
These are the main things that the Natarajar murti and the celestial dance posture depict. A rare type of thandava posture is seemed in Melakadambur temple near by 32 km from here.In this Karakoil, Nataraja dancing on a bull and deva’s rounds the structure it’s an pala art being kept in this shrine
Chidambaram is also referred to in various works such as Thillai (after the Thillai forest of yore in which the temple is now located), Perumpatrapuliyur or Vyagrapuram் (in honour of Saint Vyagrapathar) . The temple is supposed to be located at the Lotus heart of the Universe”: Virat hridaya padma sthalam. On the spot where the Lord displayed his dance of bliss, the Änanda Thaandavam – a spot exactly south of the “Thirumoolataaneswar temple”, today is the Ponnambalam/ Porsabai (Pon meaning gold, Ambalam/Sabai meaning stage) housing the Lord Shiva in his dancing form. The Lord is also hence referred to as the Sabhanayakar, meaning the Lord of the Stage.
This gold-roofed stage is the sanctum sanctorum of the Chidambaram temple and houses the Lord in three forms:
the “form” – the anthromorphological form as an appearance of Lord Nataraja, called the Sakala thirumeni.
the “semi-form” – the semi-anthropomorphological form as the Crystal linga of Chandramouleswarar, the Sakala nishkala thirumeni.
the “formless” – as the Space in Chidambara Rahasyam, an empty space within the sanctum sanctorum, the Nishkala thirumeni.
Chidambaram is one of the Panchabootha Sthalas, where the Lord Natraja is worshipped in his manifestation as sky or Aagayam (“pancha” – meaning five, bootha – meaning the elements: earth, water, fire, wind and space and “sthala” meaning location).
The others are:
the Ekambareswarar temple at Kanchipuram, where the Lord is worshipped in his manifestation as Earth
the Jambukeswarar temple at Thiruvanaikaval, in Tiruchirapalli, where the Lord is worshipped in his manifestation as Water
the Annamalaiyar Temple at Tiruvannamalai, where the Lord is worshipped in his manifestation as Fire
the Kalahasti temple at Srikalahasthi, where the Lord is worshipped in his manifestation as air/wind.
Chidambaram also is one of the five places where Lord Shiva is said to have displayed his dance and all these places have stages/ sabhais . Apart from Chidambaram which has the Por sabhai, the others are the Rathina sabhai at Thiruvaalangadu (rathinam – ruby / red) , the Chitra sabhai at Courtallam (chitra – painting), the Rajatha sabhai or the Velli ambalam at Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple (rajatha / velli – silver) and the Thaamira sabhai at Nellaiappar Temple, Tirunelveli (thaamiram – copper).
How to reach Chidambaram Temple :
Chidambaram is situated at a distance of around 224 km from Chennai. Known for the famous Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram is well connected to Chennai by road, rail and air. However, the best way to reach Chidambaram from Chennai is by road, a journey of about 4 hours by car. The places covered between Chennai and Chidambaram are Chennai – 30 km -> Vandalur – 58 km -> Mamandur – 47 km -> Bukkathurai -15 km -> Madurantakam – 145 km -> Chidambaram. On the way, there are several petrol pumps and ATMs. There are many hotels and restaurants like Rucira Drive In, Sangetha and KTR on the route.
Chennai to Chidambaram By Car: By the car: Hire a cab or rent a car to drive down to Chidambaram, which takes around 4 hours. This mode is ideal for group travel, with senior citizens and kids. The approximate cost of cab per kilometre ranges between INR 8 and 30, depending upon the type of the car hired.