Chidambaram Nataraja Temple

Chidambaram Nataraja Temple

The Chidambaram Nataraja Temple is a sacred Hindu temple where we worship Lord Shiva. It is located in the town of Chidambaram, Cuddalore District, East-Central, Tamil Nadu, South India. This temple is significant to the saivites and is famous for its grand architecture and structural splendor. The Sangam classics refer to Viduvelvidugu Perumtaccan, respected clan of traditional Vishwakarmas, as being the chief architect of the temple complex. There have been several renovations in its history, particularly during the days of Pallava or Chola emperors in ancient and pre-medieval periods.The word “Koyil” or temple in the Tamil Saivite tradition refers to none other than the Thillai Natarajar Temple.

History of Chidambaram Nataraja Temple

A mystical and intriguing story surrounds its history. The formation of this temple is steeped with local stories that are highly significant. It all starts with the legend of Lord Shiva strolling into the Thillai Vanam. Vanam meaning forest and Thillai trees that are a species of mangrove trees – they 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 lived a group of sages who believed in the supremacy of magic and that God can be controlled by rituals and mantras. Lord Shiva strolled in the forest with great beauty and brilliance, assuming the form of Bhikshatana, a simple mendicant seeking alms. He was followed by His consort, Vishnu as Mohini. The sages and their wives were enchanted by the brilliance and the beauty of the handsome mendicant and His consort. On seeing their womenfolk enchanted, the rishis got angry and invoked scores of nagas by performing magical rituals. Lord Shiva lifted the serpents and donned them as ornaments on His locks, neck and waist. Further enraged, the sages invoked a fierce tiger, whose skins and dons were used by Lord Shiva as a shawl around His waist and then followed by a fierce elephant, which was devoured and ripped to death by Lord Shiva.

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The rishis gathered all their spiritual strength and invoked a powerful demon Muyalakan – a symbol of complete arrogance and ignorance. Lord Shiva wore a gentle smile, stepped on the demon’s back, immobilized him and performed the Ánanda Tandava (the dance of eternal bliss) and disclosed his true form. The sages surrendered, realizing that Lord Shiva is the truth and He is beyond all powerful magical strengths no matter what.

Adhisesha, the serpent who serves as a bed for the Lord, hears about the Ananda Tandava and yearns to see and enjoy it. The Lord blesses him, beckoning him to assume the saintly form of ‘Patanjali’. He then sends him to the Thillai forest, informing him that he will display the dance in due course. Patanjali. The story of sage Patanjali as well as his great student sage Upamanyu is narrated in both Vishnu Puranam as well as Siva Puranam. In the Thillai forest Lord Shiva is worshipped then in the form of Shivalinga. The deity is worshipped today as Thirumoolataneswarar (Thiru – sri, Moolatanam – primordial or in the nature of a foundation, Eswarar- the Lord).

The early structure of the temple was constructed and maintained by Perumtaccan of the respected clan of Vishwakarmas. The golden roof of the Chitambalam was laid by the Chola king, Parantaka I. In those flourishing times, kings Rajaraja Chola I and Kulothunga Chola I made significant donations to the temple.

Significance of Chidambaram Nataraja Temple

  • Lord Shiva is in three forms in Chidambaram, as visible idol form, formless as Akasha or space and form and formless as a Spatika Linga.
  • It is here that the hymns of three great Saivite Saints were discovered.
  • Chidambaram is one of the Panchabootha Sthalas, where the Lord is worshiped in his manifestation as sky or Aagayam.
  • The temple is supposed to be located at the Lotus heart of the Universe”: Virat hridaya padma sthalam.
  • The spot where the Lord displayed his dance of bliss, the Ananada Tandava, 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.
  • The sanctum sanctorum is a gold-roofed stage of the 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-anthropo-morphological form as the Crystal linga of Chandramouleswarar;
    the “formless” – as the Space in Chidambara Rahasyam, an empty space within the sanctum sanctorum, the Nishkala thirumeni.
  • The 9 gateways of the temple signify the 9 orifices in the human body.
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Timings of Poojas and Rituals at Chidambaram Nataraja Temple

  • The Darshan time is from 6:00 am to 12pm in the morning and 5 pm to 10 pm in the night.
  • At 6:30 am takes place the Pal Nivedhyam where the Lord’s footwear is brought in a palanquin.
  • At 7 am takes place the Maha-arati.
  • At 7:45 am takes place the first pooja of the day that is Kalashandhi pooja. This continues till 9:45 am.
  • From 10.00a.m.to 11.00am takes place the Irandam Kalaam that is the second pooja of the day.
  • From 11:30 to 12 in the afternoon takes place the Uchhikalam that is the third pooja of the day.
  • In the evening from 5 pm to 6 pm takes place the Saayarakhshai.
  • From 7 pm to 8 pm again the Irandam Kalaam takes place.
  • From 9 pm to 10 pm takes place the sixth and the last pooja of the day which is known as Ardhajanam.

Festivals celebrated at Chidambaram Nataraja Temple

  • The 10 day Margazhi festival in December-January is one of the most important festivals that begin on the day prior to Tiruvadhirai star day with flag hoisting. The importance of the festival is that it is dedicated to Saivite Saint Manickavasagar.
  • The Vidayathi festival is celebrated both for the Lord and the saint.
  • The 10 day Aani Tirumanjanam festival begins with flag hoisting. It takes place 10 days earlier of Uthira star day. From day one to the eighth day of the festival, procession of deities like Somaskanda, Shivananda Nayaki, Vinayaka, Subramania and Chandeswararm (panchamurthis) are taken in procession in silver and gold vahans.
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How to reach Chidambaram Nataraja Temple

  • By air: The nearest airport is Trichy that is 195km away and Chennai that is 235 km away. The Chidambaram area is well connected by bus and taxis from these places.
  • By rail: Chidambaram is well connected to Trichy and other major cities of Tamil Nadu via local trains.
  • By road: if you are taking the road then you can get frequent buses that travel from Andhra, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu to Chidambaram. Locally auto rickshaw is the best mode of transport.

Hotels nearby Chidambaram Nataraja Temple

  • Hotel Akhshaya at Gandhi Nagar, Chidambaram has comfortable accommodations for tourists visiting Chidambaram. It is 1.8km away from the Chidambaram railway station. It has a wide range of comfort delicacies.
  • Hotel Lakshmi Vilas Heritage at T Neduncheri, Chidambaram is well known for its grand sprawling complex. The hotel is designed to give the tourists a chance to enjoy living in pollution free atmosphere. It is only 12 km away from the Chidambaram railway station.

Places to visit nearby the Chidambaram Nataraja Temple

  • If you are a nature lover then you should definitely visit the Pichavaram Mangrove forest. It offers boat rides in the midst of tranquil forest environment.
  • The Thillai Kali Amman Temple is famous for its presiding deity who is Goddess Parvathi in the form of Kali. The idol is truly lively and magnificent to look at.
  • The Tiruvetkalam temple is situated adjoining the Anamalai university complex. It is a great place to visit for its peaceful and resplendent structure.
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