The next temple I always enjoy visiting is the famous Chidambaram Temple, also known as the Thillai Nataraja Temple. The Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in the dancing form as ‘Nataraja’ and is located in the town of Chidambaram in the
South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The temple is considered to be one of the five major Shiva temples in South India, and is known for its unique architecture and rich history.
The temple is believed to have been built during the Chola dynasty in the 9th century AD, and is known for its intricate carvings and sculptures. Chidambaram Nataraja Temple is also known for its association with the ancient Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam, which is said to have
originated in this temple.
The main sanctum of the temple is the “Sabha Mandapam” which houses the “Chith Sabhai” (eternal cosmic dance hall) which is a golden roofed hall which has the idol of Lord Nataraja (Shiva as a cosmic dancer) and His consort Goddess Sivagama Sundari (Parvati) is also enshrined in the same hall. The temple also has several other shrines, including shrines dedicated to the deities Vishnu and Ganesha, as well as a number of smaller shrines.
I love the unique architectural style of this temple, which combines elements of the Dravidian and the Indo-Saracenic styles. The temple complex is divided into four main courtyards, each of which has its own significance. This unique temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva in the form of “Akasha Lingam” or the “Sky Lingam” which represents the cosmic space. The Chith Sabhai houses the “Akasha Lingam”, which is a representation of Shiva in the form of a column of light and is considered to be one of the most sacred shrines in the temple.
This temple has a ‘Thousand Pillared Hall’ which is adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures. The hall is considered to be one of the finest examples of Chola architecture and is a popular spot for tourists and photographers.
Chidambaram temple is a major pilgrimage site for Hindus and is visited by thousands of devotees every year. The temple also hosts several festivals and ceremonies throughout the year, including the annual Chidambaram Dance Festival, which is a celebration of classical dance and music.
The temple also hosts the “Natyanjali” festival, which is a five-day festival where classical dancers from around the world come to perform at the temple. I am fortunate to have performed Bharathanatyam in this very festival thrice in the past years and again this year (2023).