TEMPLE - TEMPLES IN TAMILNADU, INDIA
Ramayana, the Hindu
epic, tells the story of Rama who declared war against
the powerful Ravana, the King of Lanka who had imprisoned
Chidambaram is one of the holiest and most venerated
temples in Tamilnadu dedicated to Lord Natarajah. When
people refer to 'koil' (the Tamil word for temple) the
word denotes the temple in Chidambaram. Chidambaram
is referred to in Hindu scriptures by other names such
as Thillai, Puliyur, Chittambalam, Vyagrapuram and Pundareekapuram.
The temple has attained such sanctity and sacredness
due to its antiquity and its association with so many
miracles mentioned in Hindu scriptures. Many sages,
saints and religious savants have sung in praise of
the presiding deity.
Chidambaram is about 250 km south
of Chennai (Madras) and is easily reached by rail and
road. The town is situated on the main railway route
between Chennai and Trichi about halfway between these
two towns. There are buses from all the major towns
of Tamilnadu to this temple town.
The Temple : The temple occupies an area of about 51 acres. Four
imposing towers rise on the four sides of the temple.
Each of these towers rises to about 135 ft and are comprised
of 7 storeys and are topped with 13 copper 'Kalasam'
(finials). The entrances at the base of these towers
are quite large rising at least to a height of 40 ft.
The outer perimeter wall is about 30 ft high enclosing
the outer 'street' (veedhi) and the inner enclosures
The shrines of Mukkuruni Vinayagar, Katpaga Vinayagar,
Subramanya, Somasundarar, Sivakamasundary and Pandyanayagar
are all built along this outer 'street'. The sacred
tank 'Sivaganga' and the thousand-pillared mandapam
- 'Raja Sabah' - are also situated along this 'street'.
The second 'praharam' (enclosure) is connected to the
outer 'veedhi' by two entrances, one on the west and
the other on the east.
On entering the second praharam you can see the shrine
of Kalasamhara moorthy, Oorthavathandava moorthy, Luxmi
and Thandayuthapani. The Flagstaff can be seen on the
southern section and the 'Nrithya sabah' houses the
idol of Oorthavathandava moorthy. The shrine of 'Pollapillaiyar
and the shrines for the four 'Nayanmars' Appar, Sundarar,
Sambanthar and Manikkavasagar are seen here. The 'Deva
Sabah' is also situated along this corridor.
entrance to the inner enclosure the golden roof
of 'Chittambalam' comes into view. It is in this
'manadapam' that Lord Nadarajah performs his dance
(the Anandathandavam) eternally.
| The Chitsabah
and the Kanakasabah are linked together and are
called 'Ponnambalam'. This is also called as 'Chittambalam'
and 'Gnanasabah'. There isa small entrance to
the right of theDancing Siva
During 'pooja' the curtain hung at the entrance
is drawn aside and 'araathi' is shown. There
are no images inside but only a garland of golden
'vilva' leaves is seen. This represents the
'Chidambara Rahasyam' representing the Lord
in the form of space. Chidambaram thus represents
one of the five elements (ether) and is called
'Aakasa sthalam'.As you stand in front of the
'Chitsabah' at the entrance to the inner circuit
you can see the South facing Nadarajah and the
East facing Govidaraja Perumal (Vishnu). There
is no other temple in the south where you can
see both the Saivite god Shiva and the Vaishnavite
god Vishnu from the same spot.
Legends : Rishi Madyandinar had a son. He,
under the direction of his father, came to the forest
of Thillai and worshipped the 'Lingam', which had appeared
there. He usually got up early before daybreak to collect
flowers with which to perform his pooja. One morning
he could not collect the flowers early as it was dark
and cloudy and he could not see the flowers. After daybreak
he went to collect the flowers and found that the flowers
had been polluted by the bees and was grief stricken.
Lord Shiva on seeing his devotee grief stricken took
pity on him and gave him the eyes and limbs of a tiger
so that he could see in the dark and climb trees easily
to collect the flowers. Thus he came to be known as
'Vyagrapadar' and the forest where he lived as 'Vyagrapuram'
or 'Puliyoor'. During this time the rishis living in
the forest known as 'Tharukavanam' became very arrogant
as they had mastered all the 'Vedas', 'Agamas' and 'Shastras'
and could raise powerful creatures from the sacrificial
fires to do their bidding. Lord Shiva wished to show
these rishis their limitations and appeared as a handsome
mendicant with Vishnu as his wife 'Mohini'. This created
chaos in 'Tharukavanam' as the wives of the rishis fell
under the spell of this charming, handsome mendicant
while the youthful rishis fell for the allure of Mohini.
The older rishis became very angry and wanted to destroy
the pair. They raised a sacrificial fire ('Homam') from
which appeared a tiger which was directed at the pair.
Lord Shiva killed the tiger, peeled off its skin and
tied it around his waist. Then the rishis produced a
poisonous serpent, which Lord Shiva caught and wore
around his neck. The rishis also sent a demon 'Muyalakan'
against Lord Shiva whom he crushed under his feet. Then
the rishis sent the sacrificial fire against him which
he put on his left hand. The rishis having lost the
fire sent the vedic 'mantras' which the Lord wore around
his ankles. At this the rishis conceded defeat and the
Lord revealed himself by dancing the 'Oorthava thandavam'
with his matted hair unfurling in all eight directions
and the world reverberating to his steps.Lord Vishnu
described this incident to Adishesa, the serpent on
which Lord Vishnu reposes. Adishesha wished to see this
dance and taking leave of Lord Vishnu went and prayed
to Lord Shiva to grant him the honour of witnessing
his dance. Lord Shiva advised Adhishesha to go to Vyagrapuram
where he would one day perform this dance. Adishesha
was then born on this land and was given the name Pathanjali.
Pathanjali approached Vyagrapadar and told him of his
quest. As Vyagrapadar himself was eager to see the Lord's
dance he was delighted to receive Pathanjali and accompanied
him to the temple of Lord Shiva and prayed for the Lord's appearance. On an auspicious day the celestial beings
arrived at Thillai along with other Rishis, and sages
and assembled where Vyagrapadar had his temple. The
heavenly musicians too arrived. Then Lord Shiva appeared
with one of His right hands beating the drums and the
other hand bestowing grace. With His left hand holding
the fire and the other pointing to his right leg trampling
Muyalakan under the foot, He appeared with His left
leg raised in a dancing pose.
The guardian of the forest in Thillai, Goddess Kali,
refused to allow Lord Shiva to dance in Her domain.
Lord Shiva therefore challenged Her to a dance competition
on condition that if He won then She would be banished
from that area. The competition began. While Naradha
played the veena, Nandikeswara played the drums and
other celestial musicians accompanied with their instruments
Lord Shiva danced with his hair flung in all directions.
With the 'vedas' as his anklets, the serpent as his
waist band, the tiger skin as his attire with Ganga
and the crescent moon on his crest, He performed the
'Ananda thandavam'. At one stage Lord Shiva took a pose
with His left foot raised above His head but modesty
prevented Goddess Kali matching the same pose. Thus
She lost the competition and had taken residence in
the northern end of Chidambaram in the Thillaiamman
temple. Every devotee who comes to Chidambaram after
worshipping at the Natarajar temple visits this temple
too. Pathanjali and Vyagrapadar prayed to Lord Shiva
to remain at Thillai as the eternally dancing god 'Lord
Natarajar' so that all the earthly beings could witness
his dance and receive his grace and blessing.
Opening Times:sThe temple is open from 6 am
to 12 noon and then from 5 pm to 10 pm