- TAMIL NADU
temple town of Chidambaram, 58 km south of Pondicherry greets
the visitors, with a beautiful temple, dedicated to Lord Nataraja
- Lord Shiva in the enthralling form of a Cosmic Dancer. This
is one of the few temples, where Shiva and Vishnu are enshrined
under one roof. Chidambaram is also called Thillai, since
the place was originally a forest of Thillai shrubs. It is
one of the five Shaivite mukti sthalams, the other four being
Kalahasti, Kanchipuram, Tiruvannamalai and Tiruvanaikaval.
A unique feature of Chidambaram is that a person of any race
or religion can visit the shrine and pray.
What to See
The Nataraja Temple: The Nataraja
temple at the heart of the town, covering an area of 40 acres,
is one of the ancient temples in Tamil Nadu. It has a gold
plated roof, towering over the presiding deity, Akasa Lingam
- the Lingam of Space. The Lord is worshipped in different
temples as representing the five elements - earth, water,
wfire, wind and ether. Chidambaram is unique in that, there
is no lingam made of stone in the sanctum of this temple,
for here Shiva was seen in His formless form.
One of the main features of this temple is a magnificent bejewelled
Nataraja image. Details of the Natya Sastra are carved on
one of the four tall gopurams, each rising to 40.8 metres.
108 Bharatanatyam dance poses also can be seen on each tower.Another
fascinating morsel about the temple is the Chidambara Rahasyam,
the secret of Chidamabaram. The union of the Lord and his
consort forms a chakra, which is invisible. To symbolise this
chakra, a garland of Bilva leaves is hung in the sanctum sanctorum.
The Sivakamiamman temple, the Sivaganga tank, the thousand
pillar hall are the other important features of the temple.
Kali Temple: This temple is situated
on the northern end of the town. It was built by Kopperunjingan,
who ruled between 1229 AD and 1278 AD.
Annamalai University: On the
eastern outskirts of the town is this residential University,
founded by Raja Sir Annamalai Chettiar. A great centre of
Tamil learning and carnatic music, it offers educational facilities
in various disciplines including Medicine, Engineering etc.
Seerkazhi: 20 kms from Chidambaram,
Seerkazhi has three shrines - Sree Brahmapureeswarar, Sattanathar
and Thoniappar shrines; the Goddess Tirunilai Nayaki shrine
and; the shrine of God Child, Gnanasambandar.
Pichavaram: Pichavaram, 16 kms
east of Chidambaram, ranks among the most exquisite scenic
spots, with islands rich in mangroves and avianfauna, dotting
the back waters. The back waters which are interconnected
by the Vellar and Coleroon system, offer abundant scope for
water sports - parasailing, rowing and canoeing. The mangroves,
here, are considered to be the healthiest mangrove occurrence
in the world. The area is about 2800 acres, and is separated
from the sea by a sand bar, which is a patch of extraordinary
Poompuhar: About 40 kms from
Chidambaram in Tanjavur district, is Poompuhar, once the biggest
port on the east coast. This is the place where the Tamil
classic, 'Silappathikaram', has been created to the immense
pleasure of the Tamils. The Cauvery, merging with the bellowing
sea, was known as Puhar, but due to the exquisite beauty of
the port town, it came to be called Poompuhar. Another name
of Poompuhar was Kaveripoompattinam. The greatness of this
city is brought out in some of the poems in Sangam literature,
and also by Silapathikaram and Manimekalai, among the epics.
In order to conjure up the divine scenic beauty of Poompuhar,
the art gallery, here, exudes a 2nd century AD ambience, with
the creation of ilanji Manram, Pavai Manram, the Buddhist
School, Arugan Kottam, Tirumal Kottam and Murugu Kottam etc.
The Natyanjali festival, which brings all the prominent dancers
of India, together on the same platform, opens on the auspicious
occasion of Mahasivaratri, in the month of February. It is
performed at the 'Prakara' of the temple, and the dancers,
full of intense bliss and devotion, with their evocative abhinaya,
offer their dance to the great divinity, Lord Nataraja.
How to get there
Chidambaram is connected by road to all major towns. Rail
connections to Trichy, Madurai and Madras. Nearest airport