Spread over forty acres of land in the town of Chidambaram, Tamilnadu, Chidambaram Temple is dedicated to Lord Nataraj, the dancing form of Shiva. Chidambaram temple history stretches over several centuries. Hindu scriptures herald this temple as one among the Panchabhuta sthalas (the five popular Shiva temples, each one visualizing Shiva as one of the five elements).
Chidambaram temple represents Shiva as Akash or ether. Therefore the central sanctum sanctorum is void and does not have any image. This is called Chidambara Rahasya (the secret of Chidambaram).
Chidambaram temple has a very old history since classical period. Every major ruling dynasty of the Tamil kingdom has contributed to the renovations, additions and enhancements of the temple during different times in history. The notable contributions were by the Pallava, Chola, Pandya, Chera and Vijayanagara rulers during the periods of ancient and medieval history. The present day structure of the temple has its roots in the 12th and 13th centuries.
Chidambaram temple is highly reputed for its inimitable sculptures, architecture, bronze images from very old times, fresco paintings and the unique representation of Shiva in his dancing form. The court where Shiva dances is called as Ponnambalam (golden court) and the roof of this court in the temple is laid with golden tiles by a Chola king called Parantaka.
The sculptures of the temple have inspired the different postures of Bharata Natyam (Tamil classical dance). The temple is also famous for its five halls called in Tamil as Sabhai or Ambalam. The thousand pillared hall of this temple had been the seat of learned scholars amidst whom several accomplished literary works were launched by Tamil scholars down the history.
The Golden Roof
The golden roof of the temple has 21,600 golden tiles with the name SIVAYANAMA etched on each of them representing 21600 breaths. They are fixed with 72,000 golden nails that symbolically represent the number of Nadis (pulses) that exist in human body.
Legend of Natraja form
The land where the temple is built had been a part of a dense mangrove forest since very old times. This forest was occupied by several sages who had been practicing occult form of worship believing that they could imprison god through their magical spells. Once, Lord Siva had a stroll in the forests accompanied by Vishnu posing as his consort Mohini.
Legend of Natraja form
The alluring form of Shiva tantalized the consorts of the sages. The sages grew angry and threw magical spells on Shiva taking the form of snakes, tiger, wild elephant and a demon. Shiva wore snakes as ornaments, tore the tiger and elephant and wore their skins, humbled the demon and started dancing in ecstasy. This cosmic dance got the Lord the name Nataraja.
The Three forms of Shiva
The sanctum sanctorum of the Chidambaram temple depicts Shiva in his three forms. Nataraj or the dancing form is the anthropomorphic representation of Shiva in human form (Sakala). The semi-anthropomorphic form of Shiva is shown by the crystal linga called as Chandramaulishwara (Sakala – Nishkala).
Lastly, the formless aspect of Shiva is depicted by the void (Nishkala). Thus, philosophically, the Chidambaram temple concept embraces several ideologies associated with religious worship.
Our ancient Tamil Scholar Thirumoolar has proved this Five thousand years ago! His treatise Thirumandiram is a wonderful Scientific guide for the whole world.
To understand his studies, it may need a 100 years for us.
Chidambaram temple embodies the following characteristics :
1) This temple is located at the Center Point of world ‘s Magnetic Equator.
2) Of the “Pancha bootha” i.e. 5 temples, Chidambaram denotes the Skies. Kalahasthi denotes Wind. Kanchi Ekambareswar denotes land. All these 3 temples are located in a straight line at 79 degrees 41 minutes Longitude. This can be verified using Google. An amazing fact & astronomical miracle !
3) Chidambaram temple is based on the Human having 9 Entrances denoting 9 Entrances or Openings of the body.
4) Temple roof is made of 21600 gold sheets which denotes the 21600 breaths taken by a human being every day (15 x 60 x 24 = 21600)
5) These 21600 gold sheets are fixed on the Gopuram using 72000 gold nails which denote the total no. of Nadis (Nerves) in the human body. These transfer energy to certain body parts that are invisible.
6) Thirumoolar states that man represents the shape of Shivalingam, which represents Chidambaram which represents Sadashivam which represents HIS dance !
7) “Ponnambalam ” is placed slightly tilted towards the left. This represents our Heart. To reach this, we need to climb 5 steps called “Panchatshara padi ”
“Si, Va, Ya, Na, Ma ” are the 5 Panchatshara mantras.
There are 4 pillars holding the Kanagasabha representing the 4 Vedas.
8) Ponnambalam has 28 pillars denoting the 28 “Ahamas “as well as the 28 methods to worship Lord Shiva. These 28 pillars support 64 +64 Roof Beams which denote the 64 Arts. The cross beams represent the Blood Vessels running across the Human body.
9) 9 Kalasas on the Golden Roof represent the 9 types of Sakthi or Energies.
The 6 pillars at the Artha Mantapa represent the 6 types of Sashtras.
The 18 pillars in the adjacant Mantapa represents 18 Puranams.
10) The dance of Lord Nataraja is described as Cosmic Dance by Western Scientists.
Whatever Science is propounding now has been stated by Hinduism thousands of years ago !
Hinduism is not just religion. Its a way of living….