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Shiv Temple at Chidaambaram
Read also   Chidaambaram-2
There are stories of two saints linked to Arunaachal Hill and Chidaambaram Temple of Shiv - Guhai Namashiavaaya and Guru Namashivaaya.

Location - Chidaambaram (Tamilnaadu, India)
Name of Shiv - Ambalavaanar, Nataraaj
Name of Shakti - Shivakaamee
Teerth (Water tank) - Shiv Gangaa Tank
Patikam (devotional songs) sang by saints :  Sambandar, Appar, Sundarar

Chidaambaram or more correctly to call it Chittaambalam (the atmosphere of wisdom) is about 150 miles south of Madraas and seven miles west from the coast. It is in the South Arcot district. It is a Railway station on Southern Railway on the main line. It is chiefly noted for the most sacred and celebrated temple of Lord Nataraaj.

The Temple is in the midway between the Vellar river on the north and the Coleroon on the South, the sea on the East and the Viranam lake on the West. In days of yore the Paandya Kings, the Chol Kings and the Pallav Kings patronized the temple. All the Tamil saints have sung praised of the Lord. The temple was the chosen abode of saints and poets.

There is Aakaash lingam in Chidaambaram. Lord Nataraaj, the presiding Deity of the temple, is in dancing pose. His left leg is raised. The idol of Nataraaj is enshrined in the Holy Sanctum, known as the Chitta Sabhaa. There is a curtain behind the idol of Nataraaj. This is removed on special occasions of worship. There is mere space which represents Nir-Gun Brahm, devoid of all names and forms. This is the Chidaambar Rahasya. Lord Nataraaj has come out of the attributeless Brahm. There is a Chakra (Chidaambar Chakra) which contains the Panchaakshar or five-letters of Lord Shiv "Namah Shivaaya" on the wall to the back of this idol.

Its Structure
There are five courts or Sabhaa in the temple viz.,
(1) the Chitta Sabhaa - Lord Nataraaj danced in the Chitta Sabhaa or the Hall of Consciousness within the temple. From this Chitta Sabhaa this town derives the name - Chittaambaram
(2) the Kanak Sabhaa (Golden Hall) - The five steps from the Chitta Sabhaa lead to the Golden pillared hall or Kanak Sabhaa represent the five letters "Namah Shivaaya".
(3) the Raaj Sabhaa or Darbaar - The Raaj Sabhaa is located within the thousand-pillared Hall.
(4) the Nritya Sabhaa (the Dance court) - The Nritya Sabhaa is the place where Shiv and Kaalee dance contest took place. It demonstrates the Oordhwa Taandav dance of Nataraaj at which point Kaalee got defeated. It is in the second Prakhar. There is also the Ling Shrine  (Mool Sthaan) that faces East and antecedes the other Halls. This was the original temple before Nataraaj came to here to perform the Dance of Bliss (Aanand Taandav). Govindaraaj, the presiding deity of a Vishnu Temple also dwells within this temple. The image of Nandanaar, the Pariah saint is in a corner near the Nritya Sabhaa.
(5) the Dev Sabhaa.

Some count the five courts like this - The dance of bliss, or the Aanand Taandav of Shiv is said to symbolize the five divine acts (Panch Kritya) of creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealment and bestowment of grace. The dance of Shiv has been frozen in metal and held in worships in Nataraaj Sabhaa, in virtually all of the Shaivite temples in Tamilnaadu. Five of the foremost Sabhaa (Panch Sabhaa) are at Chidaambaram (Kanak Sabhaa - the hall of gold), Madurai (Rajat Sabhaa - the hall of Silver), Tiruvalangadu near Chennai (Ratna Sabhaa - the hall of rubies), Tirunelvelee (Taamra Sabhaa - the hall of copper) and Kutralam near Tirunelvelee (Chitra Sabhaa the hall of pictures). Other dance halls of significance are Adri Sabhaa (the Himalayas), Aadi Chitsabhai (Tiruvenkaadu near Chidambaram) and Peroor Kanak Sabhaa (Patteeshwar temple at Peroor near Coimbatore).

The Deekshatar Braahman do worship in the temple. There are 250 families of Deekshatar Braahman.
Darshan of Lord Nataraaj with intense Bhaav (devotion) gives Mukti.
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The most magnificent structures in the temple are the four lofty Gopuram or towers in the four cardinal directions, piercing the walls of the outermost Parikramaa. Each is a gigantic masterpiece in itself - about 250 feet in height, with seven tiers. The Western tower is the oldest one. In the towers, on either side of the gateways there are representations of the 108 poses of the classical Bharat Naatyam. Tradition as enunciated in the Classic Naatya Shaastra. The towers are embellished with images from Hindu mythology. From the second tier onward, on each of the Gopuram, are seen images of various manifestations of Shiv such as Bhikshaatan, Kankaal (both being ascetic forms), Kalyaan Sundar, Somaskandar etc (bestower of prosperity). There are no representations of Nataraaj on the temple towers, as this image is reserved for the innermost shrine alone.

These 108 Karan of Nataraaj have been carved at Kadavul Hindu Temple also, on Kauai, Hawaii, USA. It is one of the few complete collections in existence, commissioned by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami in the 1980s. Each sculpture is about 12 inches tall.

Legends Associated with This Temple
Aadi Shesh, the serpent on Vishnu rests, heard from Vishnu the grandeur of Shiv's cosmic dance. Filled with ir-repressable desire to witness this dance in person at Chidaambaram, Shesh Jee descended to the earth as Patanjali (the one who descended). Vyaaghrapaad, another devotee of Shiv prayed to obtain the tiger's claws so that he could obtain with ease the sacred Bilva leaves meant for Shiv's worship at Chidaambaram. At the appointed hour, Shiv (with Shivakaamee) granted to Patanjali and Vyaghrapaadar, a visual treat in the form of his Cosmic Dance of Bliss, to the accompaniments of music played by several divine personalities in the Hindu pantheon. This Dance of Bliss is said to have been witnessed by Vishnu, and there is a Govindaraaj shrine in the Nataraaj Temple commemorating this. The dance of bliss of Shiv, is also said to have been enacted upon Shiv's victory over the married ascetics of Daaruk Van.

Yet another legend - commemorating the dance duel between the doyens of dance Shiv and Kaalee is associated with Chidaambaram. Shiv is said to have lifted his left foot towards the sky in the Oordhwa Taandav posture, a definite male gesture, which out of adherence to protocol, Kaali could not reciprocate, thereby causing Shiv to emerge victorious, delegating Kaalee to the status of a primary deity in another temple in the outskirts of Chidaambaram. This legend is portrayed in the Nritya Sabhaa, one of the halls within the Chidaambaram temple.

Nataraaj Temple at Sataaraa is called Uttar Chidaambaram. Its each side is financed by each state Tamilnaadu, Karnaatak, Andhra Pradesh and Mahaaraashtra. The Maraatha Ling is a must see wonder.



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Created and Maintained by Sushma Gupta
Created on March 15, 2003 and Updated on February 12, 2013