Pilgrimages

CHIDAMBARAM - TAMIL NADU

ChidambaramThe 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.

Around Chidambaram

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 loveliness.

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.

Festivals

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 is Trichy.


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