Chidhambaram - Nataraja Temple





Sacred Chidambaram is the most important pilgrimage centre for Hindus where Shiva is believed to have performed his cosmic dance, the tandava nritya, is a traditional temple town where history merges with mythology to create a deeply religious ambience.  Chidhambaram- "Chid" (Knowledge) and Ambaram (without limit). All ancient Hindu beliefs and practices are zealously observed here, manifested in an endless cycle of rites and rituals.




Nataraja Temple


The focal point of the town is the awe-inspiring Nataraja Temple, located 16 km east of Chidambaram built by the Cholas in the 9th century to honour their patron deity, Shiva as Nataraja, the “Lord of Dance” . The temple has an unusual hut-like sanc tum with a gold-plated roof, the huge, colonnaded Shiva ganga Tank, and four colourful gopuras. The most interesting is the eastern gopura which features detailed sculptures of the 108 hand and feet movements of Bharat Natyam , and is considered a veritable encyclopaedia of this classical temple dance. 

Within the temple's three enormous enclosures are five major halls (sabbas), each conceived for a special purpose. In the outer enclosure, next to the Shiva ganga Tank, is the Raja Sabha ("Royal Hall"), a beautiful thousand-pillared hall built as a venue for temple rituals and festivals.




Divine Hall


Many Chola kings were crowned here in the presence of the deity. In the central enclosure is the Deva Sabha (“Divine Hall"), where the temple bronzes are housed, and administrative functions performed. The adjacent Nritya Sabha (“Dance Hall”) has a superb collection of sculptures, the finest being the Urdhava Tandava. The innermost enclosure, the holiest part of the complex, contains the Chit Sabha or Chitambalam (“Hall of Bliss”) from which the town derives its name. This is the main sanctum, housing one of the five elemental lingas of Shiva, the akasha linga which represents either the all-pervading element central to human existence. The inner sanctum containing the linga is hidden behind a black curtain, symbolizing ignorance, which is removed only during prayer time. There is a certain aura of mystery to this veiled sanctum and it is often called the Sacred Secret of Chidambaram (Chidambara Rahasyam). Finally, the fifth hall, in front of the Chit Sabha, is the Kanaka Sabha (“Golden Hall”), where Shiva is supposed to have performed his cosmic dance.



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