Thillai Natarajar Temple

Thillai Natarajar Temple, Chidambaram

Thillai Natarajar Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located in the heart of the temple town of Chidambaram,Tamil Nadu. Thillai Natarajar Temple is 78 km south of Pondicherry and 235 Km from Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state of southeastern India. Thillai Nataraja Temple is one of the most magnificent signatures of Indian architecture and spirituality amalgamating with the cityscape. Lord Shiva is worshipped here as Chidambaram, the iconic bronze Nataraja form. The town derived its name from the deity. The Chidambaram temple is an incredible space. The newer part of the temple is around a thousand years old but no one knows how old the older part of the temple is. People say it is 3,500 years or more. Shiva is also worshipped in the “formless form” of the Chidambara Rahasyam, while the temple is known for its Akasa Lingam, an embodiment of Shiva as the formless Space. The word “Koyil” or temple in the Tamil Saivite tradition refers to none other than the Thillai Natarajar Temple.

The complex has a rectangular shape and is orientated on the cardinal directions. It is structured as five concentric courtyards or prakaras, four of which are accessible to the public, the fifth being only accessible to the priests as it lies within the walls of the main sanctum. The prakaras are separated by approximately 10 meter high granite walls . 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. The other deity of this temple is Lord Ganesh, Lord Murugan, Lord Vishnu worshipped as Govindaraja Perumal. The roof of the temple is made of golden tiles of 72000 spikes which represents the number of Nadis exists in our body. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple contains 28 pillars which represents the 28 ethics or methods of worshipping Lord Shiva. The temple has five courts.Aragalur Udaya Iraratevan Ponparappinan (alias Vanakovaraiyan) rebuilt the Siva 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.

Thillai Natarajar Temple

History and Legend of Thillai Natarajar Temple

  • Lord Shiva wandered deep into South India till he reached the Thillai Natarajar Temple in the present day Chidambaram. He took the form of a hermitage called ‘Pitchatanadar’ and settled here when he was satisfied with the alms offered by the locals. He blessed the thillai forests and other hermits with reassuring peace and calm.
  • Lord Vishnu is believed to have followed him in the form of a heavenly nymph, Mohini.It is at this forest that he transformed from his ash-ridden personality to a more polished and refined deity. He decorated himself with dhatura flowers and sandalwood paste He adorned the serpents in the form of necklace, waist lace and as hair band. He also took the fur of a tiger to tie around the waist.
  • When a demon named Mulyakan tried to disturb his looks, Lord Shiva overrode him and performed Ananda Tandav over his body. He also crushed an elephant named Gajasamharamurthy as a symbol of overcoming wandering senses.
  • The Nataraja form of his Urdhuva Tandav posture connects the incompatibility of Devi Kali to match the steps with Lord Shiva. When she could not perform the steps satisfactorily, she was relegated in status. It is depicted in the Nritya Sabha of the temple.
  • Although the earliest historical references to the temple go back to the 6th century, there is now nothing within the complex that can be dated to before the 12th century with any certainty, except for the main sanctum, the Cit Sabha (Hall of Consciousness).
  • 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.
  • Gold and wealth to the temple were donated by Kundavai II, the daughter of Rajaraja Chola while Vikrama Chola made donations for the conduct of the daily rituals. The temple has been renovated several times since the reign of Pallavas and Cholas. Several parts of the temple were rebuilt by Aragalur Udaya Iraratevan Ponparappinan, in 1213 AD.
  • Donations to the temple were made later by various kings during various periods of time, including the Maharaja of Pudukottai, Sethupathy and the British. The emerald jewel donated by Sethupathy still adorns the deity.

Significance of the Thillai Natarajar Temple

The Ananda Tandava posture of Lord Shiva is one of the famous postures recognized around the world by many. This celestial dancing posture tells us how a Bharathanatium Dancer should dance. 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 one of the Panchabootha Sthalas, where the Lord 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.

There are 5 ambalams or sabhas (halls) inside the temple.

  • Chit Ambalam or Chit Sabhai, which is the sanctum sanctorum housing Lord Nataraja and his consort Sivakami Sundari, and gave the temple town its name.
  • Pon Ambalam or Kanaka Sabhai – the golden hall in front of the Chit Ambalam, from where the daily rituals are conducted.
  • Nrithya sabhai or Natya sabhai, a 56-pillared hall lies to the south of the temple flag mast where Nataraja outdanced Kali and established his supremacy
  • Raja sabhai or the 1000-pillared hall which symbolizes the yogic chakra of thousand pillared lotus of Sahasraram at the crown of the head and is a seat where the soul unites with God. This chakra is represented as a 1000-petalled lotus. Meditating by concentrating at the Sahasrara Chakra is said to lead to a state of union with The Divine Force and is the pinnacle of yogic practice. The hall is open only on festive days
  • Deva Sabhai, which houses the Pancha moorthis (pancha – five, moorthis – deities, namely the deities of Ganesh, Somaskanda (seated posture of Lord Shiva with Pavarthi and Skanda), Sivananda Nayaki, Muruga and the image of Chandikeswarar.

Thillai Natarajar Temple Timings

The temple is open from 6.00 AM to 12.30 PM in the morning and from 4.30 PM to 10.00 PM in the evening.

Festivals celebrated at the Thillai Natarajar Temple

Two annual Bhrammotsavams at Chidambaram are of great significance, as they involve colorful processions of festival deities in the car streets. The grandest of these occurs in the month of Margazhi (Dec 15 – Jan 15). The second of the Bhrammotsavams happens in the month of Aani, and it concludes with Aani Tirumanjanam on the tenth day, in a manner similar to Arudra Darisanam in Margazhi. Live dance performances have been introduced to the temple recently, in the form of annual dance festivals.

Arudra Darisanam: Arudhra Darshan is observed in the Tamil month of Margazhi (December – January). It is essentially a Shaivite festival and celebrates the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva, which is represented by the Nataraja form. The most important Arudhra Darshan festival takes place at the Chidambaram Shiva Temple in Tamil Nadu. The cosmic dance of Lord Shiva is enacted on the day. It is the procession of the Pancha Murthy which is inaugurated by hoisting of corresponding flags. Elephant procession is taken out on the sixth day.

Brahma Utsava Marzhagi: Street processions for the deities are organized. Street cars, elephants and horses are ornamented in Hindu decor with rich colors and sparkling setting. Elaborate preparations are made during the month of December to celebrate the Brahma Utsava of Marzaghi.

Mahashivratri: Shivaratri is celebrated on the 6th night of the dark Phalgun (Feb or March) every year. On the auspicious day, devotees observe fast and keep vigil all night. Mahashivaratri marks the night when Lord Shiva performed the ′Tandava′. It is also believed that on this day Lord Shiva was married to Parvati Ma. On this day Shiva devotees observe fast and offer fruits, flowers and bel leaves on Shiva Linga. The fifth day of Tamil month i.e Massi coincides with Mahashivratri. Milk and water are offered to the shiva lingam and the nataraja is worshipped in his calm posture.

Poojas and Rituals of Thillai Natarajar Temple

  • This temple has 6 time Pooja format everyday. Before every Pooja, anointment is performed for the Spatika Lingam[Crystal Lingam].
  • Along with Spatika Lingam , a special Abishekam is performed to the very special The Ruby Nataraja called as Rathna Sababathy. The one foot replica of Nataraja beautifully made out of highly expensive Gem- Ruby.
  • The speciality of this Ruby Nataraja is that, when the Harathi [Deepam/light] is shown from the front it’s view is dark. Whereas, when the Harathi [Deepam/light] is shown from behind the replica it glows.
  • It displays a mesmeric and awesome exhibit of the workmanship and devotees, on witnessing this spectacle. One completely get immersed in Bhakti of Nataraja.

How to reach: Road, Rail and Air

By Air: The Nearest Airport is Pondicherry Airport.

By Train: The Nearest Railway Station is Chidambaram Railway Station.

By Road: Chidambaram is well connected to various places. There are many private buses and vehicles that can hired to reach the temple. It is well connected with Chennai by a host of train and bus services. By road it is only 235 kilometers South of Chennai. Thanjavur is only about 100 kilometers away from Chidambaram.

Where to stay at Thillai Natarajar Temple

There is no temple guesthouse but there are many hotels available near the temple.

  • Hotel Akshaya Darshan Contact: East Sannathi Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu.
  • Heavens Land Hotel Contact: 26/1, Cuddalore Main Road, Vandigate Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu 608001 (04144 232 888).
  • The Grand Park (RK Group of Hotels) Contact: The Grand Park 59, East Car Street, Near Natarajar Temple Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu 608001 (04144 225 859).

Where to eat in Thillai Natarajar Temple

There are many restaurants and hotels near the temple that serves delicious food.

  • Sri Krishna Vilas Contact:  No.95/129,East Car Street, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu 608001
  • Palagaram Contact: Palagaram.com, 156, W Car St, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu 608001
  • Udupi Sri Krishna Vilas Contact: B2,13, S Car St, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu 608001
  • Marrybrown Contact: 3, S.P Kovil Street, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu 608001
  • New Moorthy Cafe Contact: Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu 608001
  • Olive Restaurant Contact: O P Main Road, Annmalai Nagar, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu 608002
  • Dubai Restaurant Contact: O.P. Road, Chakkra Ave, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu 608002

Nearby Temples

Govindaraja Perumal Temple: Out of the 108 divya desam, it lies in the 40th place. It is located inside the Sri Nataraja Temple which is famous Shiva Temple. Out of the Panch Bhooda Sthalas, Sri Nataraja Temple belongs to the Akash. The main speciality of this temple is that this Perumal has his sannathi in the premises of the Lord Shiva’s temple itself. That too near the Natarajar sannathi itself. Lord Govindaraja can be seen in three different postures: standing, sitting and lying down.  Mother Pundarikavalli Mahalakshmi has a separate shrine. The padukas (sandals) of the Lord are in a shrine in the prakara, ensuring salvation to the devotees. Garuda is mounted by Lord Gajendra Varadar, the Lord who saved the elephant king.

Annamalaiyar Temple: The temple at Tiruvannamalai is one of the biggest and grandest temples in South India. The Temple is situated east at the bottom of the hill half a mile west of the Railway Station. It faces East. It has got four stately towers on all the four sides and four high stone walls just like the rampart walls of a fort. Of the five elements earth,water,fire,air and ether, fire is considered important as being in the middle. Adding Sun, Moon and Soul to these it is said that God exposes Himself in eight forms “Ashtamurthams”. So the Vedas, Agamas and Puranas extol God as Rudragni Sivajothi and Paramjudar.

READ ALSO  Mahakaleshwar Ujjain Temple