Natarajar (Siva) Temple, Chidambaram

Have you seen this image? I am sure you did, this is the famous celestial dancing posture  "Ananda Thandava" of lord Siva having its roots in Natarajar Temple of Chidambaram. Temple is one of the panchbootha sthalam (five elements location) of lord Siva representing "Akasha" (Sky) manifestation. 
Others Being 

  1. Ekambareswarar temple at Kanchipuram, where the Lord is worshiped in his manifestation as Earth 
  2. The Jambukeswarar temple at Thiruvanaikaval, in Tiruchirapalli, where the Lord is worshipped in his manifestation as Water
  3. The Annamalaiyar Temple at Tiruvannamalai, where the Lord is worshiped in his manifestation as Fire 
  4. The Kalahasti temple at Srikalahasthi, where the Lord is worshiped in his manifestation as air/wind.
It was an unplanned trip to Trichy via Cuddlore-Chidambaram & Karaikal. and it was my long wish to visit Ranganathar Swamy temple, Srirangam. This time all plan fell in right place and I got a chance to visit not one, two but three most revered temples of south in the following sequence

  1. Natrajar Temple, Chidambaram
  2. Thirukadaiyur, Nagapattinum
  3. Ranaganathur Swamy, Srirangam, Trichy

This is the only place where Siva is worshiped in the form other than Lingam, though the swyambhu image found here is Lingam, rest of the image(Idols) are consecrated by erstwhile Raja's. Another uniqueness of this temple is, it houses Perumal(Lord Vishnu) Idol in his reclining repose as well, which make this temple at most reverence for both Vaishnavit and Saviat followers. Interestingly the tamil word "Kovil" (temple) for Siva refers to this temple and for Lord Vishnu it's Srirangam.

Temple History (some excerpts from web)

 "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 rituals."

          Chidambaram was our first halt, the temple lies just off the Chinnai-Nagapattinum  highway (you need to skip the bypass and continue inside the city).

   This is the main entrance   (left) and its not un-usaual to see pawnshops alongside the road. You across this gopuram to enter big open area with main shrine at the center.  You cross the next entrance (right) to reach main Shrine. 

Chidambaram Rahasiyam

The sanctum-sanctorum houses three images (basically two, one is formless), the main Natrajar Idol, Shiv Lingam and a formless image (covered by dark curtain, opened for few seconds every after aarti for devotees to see), refer the below image from web

 Image on left is what we have in Sanctum-Sanctorum, center gold plated idol is of Lord Siva in the form of Natrajar (in celestial dancing posture, its not a complete Natrajar posture as seen in the first pic top), on his left is his consort (Paravathi-Sivakami Amman) and on his right (i.e. extreme left in the image) is the formless form of Lord Siva, since you can't see any formless image so it has the hanging golden Bilva leaves to give a visual look to devotees and reminding them the the presence of God in the space and it's permeates everywhere, this portion is covered by curtain and is opened to be viewed only for few seconds every after the aarti of main Idol (center one). Devotees wont be having a full view of this formless image directly but through the net like door having 108 square openings in it. This number 108 has some philosophical meanings which I will disclose shortly.

This Sanctum-Sanctorum and the Shrine is build on raised surface with flight of five steps  (This 5 also has some philosophical meaning), this sbhai is called "Chit Sabhai". One need to pay Rs 100 per person(this includes pooja materials) to step up-stairs to have a close darshan of Natrajar and the formless image and yes men have to be topless before stepping up. There are several priest who will assist you for darshan, the mods-oprundi is, you will pay the darshan fee to one of the priest, he will take the aarti materials to the main priest inside the sanctum-sanctorum, who after the aarti will return it back to your priest. As main priest perform the aarti to the main idol (Natrajar) then he shows the aarti to the formless form for few seconds, this is viewed by devotees through the net like door (with 108 square openings in it). It was Saturday and i didn't found any rush in there. Also they have the provision to courier the vibhuti on monthly basis to your home for which they would charge some amount (though I didn't opted it). I deliberately listened to what the priest explained but alas my Tamil and his version of Brahminical Tamil didn't matched and it went over my head :-(

Main Shrine Architecture

Above pic is the gold plated gopuram of Sanctum-Sanctorum shot from the back side. Some philosophical facts as stated by one of the priest there.
  1. Central Shrine symbolizes the human heart
  2. The 5 steps which reaches the podium of Sanctum-Sanctorum symbolizes syllables – "SI VA YA NA MA"
  3. Golden roof made up of 21600 golden tiles inscribed with "SIVAYANAMA" symbolizes number of breaths
  4. 72000 golden nails used to pin the tiles represents number of naadis human body contains.
  5. 9 sacred Kalasam on the top symbolizes 9 forms of energy (or nav graha as some calls it).

Some pics around this Shrine.

Vishnu Shabai -Govindraja (Shrine) 
As stated earlier one of the uniqueness of this temple is it houses Shrine of Lord Vishnu in reclining repose. This is one among the 108 Diya Deysams and is just in front of the Natrajar shrine on his right i.e if you are facing Natrajar then Vishnu's Shrine will be on your left, this Shrine is the extension of the main Siva's shrine in inverted L shape and thus one can see both the Idols. It is said that Lord Vishnu watch Lord Siva's celestial dance and thus facing this way. 

You walk opposite to Natrajar Shrine, and will reach the Kodi Maram or Dhwaja Stambh in the outer hall, adjacent to which is Nitya Sbhai, a very place where Lord Siva competed with Goddess Kali to establish his dance supremacy, its here where Siva wear earrings using his feet. Such as the remarkable feat which concludes his victory. There is a shrine opposite to Dhwaja Stambh to commemorate his victory, Idol there depicts the posture of Siva with one leg above his head. 

Some more pics

Kodi Maram or Dhwaja Stambh
Nitya Sbhai Kovil
Hall left to Dhwaja Stambh
Entering Central Shrine

Some outside pics
Non Functioning Temple
Water tank, non-functioning

water tank beyond this wall

Side view of non-functional temple

Temple Car
I must say this is an exemplary work of art and so intricate that it will make you glued to it. It seems this is recently polished.

Panoramic view

You can take your camera inside, take pics of the outer area of central shrine but not inside, though I secretly shot some
We offered our prayer, got a glimpse of formless form of Lord Siva and then moved to our next destination i.e. Thirukadayur. guide-favorite blog 2010 Related Posts with Thumbnails