The word Chidambaram is derived from two words ‘Chit’ meaning ‘consciousness’ and ‘ambaram’ meaning ‘sky’ (akasha) and signifies the sky of consciousness, which is the ultimate state one should attempt to attain. 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 Nataraja is the symbolic representation of the supreme bliss or aananda thandavam. Saivaites believe that a visit to Chidambaram leads to liberation.
Built during the 10th century AD by Chola Kings, Chidambaram temple has a very old history. The temple has been renovated by several dynasties. The notable contributions were by the Pallava, Chola, Pandya, Chera and Vijayanagara rulers during the periods of ancient and medieval history. The Sangam classics refer to Viduvelvidugu Perumtaccan, respected clan of traditional Vishwakarmas, was the chief architect of the temple renovation. The present structure of the temple has its roots in the 12th and 13th centuries AD.
This ancient temple of the Cholas is unique as it is one of the rare temples where Shiva is represented by an idol rather than the customary lingam. According to the legend, Aadi Sesha, the serpent god, heard about the grandeur of Shiva’s cosmic dance from Lord Vishnu. Filled with irrepressible desire to witness the dance in person at Chidambaram, Seshan descended to the earth as Patanjali. At the appointed hour, Shiva granted to Patanjali, a visual treat in the form of his Cosmic Dance of Bliss, to the accompaniments of music played by several divine personalities in the Hindu pantheon. This Dance of Bliss is said to have been witnessed by Lord Vishnu, and there is a Govindaraja shrine in the Natarajar Temple commemorating this.
There are five main principle sabhas in this temple, which are known as Chit Sabha, Kanaka Sabha, Deva Sabha, Nritya Sabha and Raja Sabha. The main idol of Lord Shiva or Nataraja resides in the Chit Sabha. The second is the Kanaka Sabha – in front of the Chit Sabha, from where the daily rituals are conducted. The Kanaka Sabha is adorned by gold plated roof. The golden roof is made of 22600 tiles representing the number of breaths of a human being on a day, and fixed with 72,000 golden nails representing the 72,000 visible and invisible nerves of a human body! The roof is having 9 ornamental conic heads (Kalasas), representing the nine gateways or holes in a human body. There are five courtyards, representing five sheaths of a human body, kosas.
Chidambaram Temple is also associated with Chidambara Ragasiyam which is a belief that there is a secret message conveyed through the embossed figure near the shrine of Shiva here. Since ancient times, it is believed that this is the place where Lord Shiva and Parvathi are present, but are invisible to the naked eyes of normal people. In the Chidambaram temple of Lord Nataraja, Chidambara Ragasiyam is hidden by a curtain. Darshan of Chidambara Ragasiyam is possible only when priests open the curtain for special poojas. People who are fortunate to have a darshan of Chidambara Ragasiyam can merely see golden vilva leaves signifying the presence of Lord Shiva and Parvathi in front of them.
Chidambaram Nataraja Temple is a Hindu temple situated in the heart of Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Chidambaram Temple is one of the ancient temples of Tamil Nadu. Also known as Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram is one of the Pancha Bhootha Sthalams of Lord Shiva, represents akasha (ether). The other four temples are Thiruvanaikovil Jambukeswara (water), Kanchi Ekambareswara (earth), Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswara (fire), and Kalahasteeswara Temple (wind).
Marghazhi Thiruvaadhirai and the Aani Thirumanjanam are the most important festivals of the temple. During these festivals, the main deity being brought outside the sanctum sanctorum in a procession that included a temple car procession followed by a long anointing ceremony.
The Chidambram temple has always followed both Vedic and Tamil version of worships, chanting of Rudram and singing of Tevaram and Tiruvachakam. The temple is a privately owned property run by a Trust and it is not under government control.
Thousands of domestic and international pilgrims visit the temple each day, worshipping wholeheartedly at the sanctum sanctorum and leaving the temple as a changed person. Thillai Kaliamman Temple, Pichavaram, Gangai Konda Cholapuram, Thirukkadaiyur, and Mayiladuthurai are the other Places to visit in Chidambaram.