Thillai Nataraja Temple – Chidambaram
The Thillai Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram is situated at Chidambaram town, East Central, Chennai. It is one of the Pancha-Bhoota-Stalams in India. Its represents the 5 Shiva temples in India, each dedicated to 5 basic elements of life which includes Air, Sky, Water, Fire and Earth. This temple represents Lords Shiva worshipped in the form of Aakasham or Sky [Aether].
- The Ekambareswarar temple at Kanchipuram [Earth]
- The Jambukeswarar temple at Thiruvanaikaval, in Tiruchirappalli [Water]
- The Annamalaiyar temple at Tiruvannamalai [Fire]
- The Kalahasti temple at Srikalahasthi [Air/Wind]
After seeking permission from Lord Vishnu Adishesha visited Lord Shiva and presented his desire to witness the divine dance. Lord Shiva asked him to visit Vyagrapuram where he promised to dance one day. Adishesha was then born on Earth as Pathanjali. He approached Vyaghrapadar and told him of his life purpose. Vyaghrapadar who was delighted to hear this as he was so devoted to Shiva and himself desired to watch the cosmic dance accompanied Pathanjali and visited the temple and started seeking the honor of witnessing the performance by praying to the Lord himself. Thus the waiting ended on a special day of the Poosam star during the Tamil month of Thai when all the celestial musicians, devas, sages, all gathered at the temple when Lord Shiva appeared beating drums and showering blessings.
Goddess Kali who was the protector of the Thillai Vanam [Forest] refused Shiva to perform his dance. Shiva challenged Kali to dance along with him and put forward a condition that the loser shall be banished from the place. Kali accepted and both the supreme powers started dancing to the rhythm of life matching each other’s every step until at a certain point Lord Shiva performed the Urdhva Tandava raising his leg over his head. Seeing the breathtaking posture of Lord Nataraja, Kali Devi [Goddess] accepted defeat and moved to the Northern end of the temple and stayed there. A shrine dedicated to Kali Devi is present at the same Northern end of the Thillai Nataraja Temple. Vyaghrapadar and Patanjali requested Shiva to stay at Chidambaram as the Lord Nataraja so that all the earthly beings could have the opportunity to witness the cosmic dance of life that is the basis of the whole world and seek blessing from the Supreme God of Gods.
Now as we move to the architecture of this huge temple, it is a medley of architectural contributions by the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas, Vijayanagara and the Chera Rulers. The Thillai Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram is the oldest example of Cholan architectural style. It houses many great features that are found in other temples which had been built after this temple. For example: the Thousand Pillared Hall and the Shiva Ganga water tank which are the prime temple features of its kind. The temple has 9 gateways symbolizing the 9 orifices in human body. Of these 9 gateways 4 are has Gopurams or temple towers each facing the 4 cardinal directions North, East, South and West. There is a Lord Govindaraja Perumal Temple close to the Nataraja Shrine, which is named as one of the 108 Divya Desams. Also, there is the Thillai Kali Temple close to the Nataraja shrine.
In the gold roofed sanctum sanctorum of the temple, the lord is worshipped in three forms:
- Nataraja, the form
- Crystal Linga, the semi form
- Empty space, the formless
There are six Maha Abhishekam celebrated throughout the year, which is dedicated to Lord Nataraja. It starts with Marghazhi Thiruvathirai in December – January, then chaturdashi of the month of Masi (February – March), followed by Chithirai Thiruvonam in April- May, the Uthiram of Aani (June – July)also known as Aani Thirumanjanam, the chaturdashi of Aavani in August – September and the final 6th ceremony, the chaturdashi of the month of Puratasi (October – November). Another famous event is Natyanjali which is celebrated during February month when many Bharata Natyam Performers all over the state visit the temple and perform Bharata Natyam as an offering to the Lord of Natyam [Dance] himself, Lord Nataraja.
How to Reach?
The nearest airport is Trichy International Airport. After getting down at the airport grab a taxi to Chidambaram. Likely a 3 hour drive will take you to Chidambaram which is 160 kms.
You can catch frequent trains from any part of the country which moves via Chidambaram.
You can catch bus to Chidambaram from any part of Tamil Nadu.