Thillai Nataraja Temple (Chola Nadu - North of Kaveri):Names of God : Sri Natarajar, Sri Ambalakoothhar, Sri Chirtrambalmudayavar, Sri Ambalavaanar.
Name of Goddess : Sri Sivakami, Sri Sivakamsundari.
Holy water (Theertham) : Shivaganga, Paramananda Koopam, Vyakrapada Theertham, Anantha Theertham, Nagacheri, Brahmma Theertham, Shivapriyai,Pulimedu, Kuyya Theertham, Tiruparkadal.
Sacred Tree (Sthala Vriksham) : Thillai (Excoecaria agallocha).
Thevaram : Thirugyana Sambandar, Tirunavukkarasar, Sundarar.
District : Cuddalore.
Location : Chidambaram.
Timings : 06:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 04:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
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Chidambaram Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located in the heart of the temple town of Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu. The temple, 78 km south of Pondicherry and 235 Km from Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state of southeastern India. The Sangam classics refer to Viduvelvidugu Perumtaccan, respected clan of traditional Vishwakarmas, as being the chief architect of the temple renovation. There have been several renovations in its history, particularly during the days of Pallava/Chola emperors in ancient and pre-medieval periods.
Chidambaram is one of the five holiest Shiva temples, each representing one of the five natural elements; Chidambaram represents akasha (aether). The other four temples in this category are: Thiruvanaikaval Jambukeswara, Trichy (water), Kanchi Ekambareswara (earth) Kanchipuram, Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswara (fire), Thiruvanna malai and Kalahasti Nathar (wind), Kalahasti.
Significance:Chidambaram is also referred to in various works such as Thillai (after the Thillai forest of yore in which the temple is now located), Perumpatrapuliyur or Vyagrapuram (in honour of Saint Vyagrapathar). The temple is supposed to be located at the Lotus heart of the Universe": Virat hridaya padma sthalam. On the spot where the Lord displayed his dance of bliss, the Ananda Thaandavam - a spot exactly south of the "Thirumoolataaneswar temple", today is the Ponnambalam/ Porsabai (Pon meaning gold, Ambalam/Sabai meaning stage) housing the Lord Shiva in his dancing form. The Lord is also hence referred to as the Sabhanayakar, meaning the Lord of the Stage.
This gold-roofed stage is the sanctum sanctorum of the Chidambaram temple and houses the Lord in three forms:
the "form" - the anthromorphological form as an appearance of Lord Nataraja, called the Sakala thirumeni.
the "semi-form" – the semi-anthropomorphological form as the Crystal linga of Chandramouleswarar, the Sakala nishkala thirumeni.
the "formless" – as the Space in Chidambara Rahasyam, an empty space within the sanctum sanctorum, the Nishkala thirumeni.
The temple complex spread over 50 acres in the heart of the city. It is an ancient and historic temple dedicated to Lord Shiva Nataraja and Lord Govindaraja Perumal, one of the few temples where both the Shaivite and Vaishnavite deities are enshrined in one place.To the followers of Shaivism (Saivism) or the saivaite, the very word koil refers to Chidambaram. In the same way, to the followers of Vaishnavism it refers to Srirangam or Thiruvarangam.
The word Chidambaram may be derived from chit, meaning "consciousness", and ambaram, meaning "sky" (from aakasam or aakayam); it refers to the chidaakasam, the sky of consciousness, which is the ultimate aim one should attain according to all the Vedas and scriptures.Another theory is that it is derived from chit + ambalam. Ambalam means a "stage" for performing arts. The chidakasam is the state of supreme bliss or aananda and Lord Natarajar is the symbolic representation of the supreme bliss or aananda natanam. Saivaites believe that a visit to Chidambaram leads to liberation.Yet another theory is that it is derived from the word chitrambalam, from chithu meaning "play or dances of God" and ambalam meaning "stage"
Legends has it that Aadi Sesha, learning from Vishnu the grandeur of Shiva's cosmic dance was filled with irrepressible desire to witness this dance in person at Chidambaram. He descended to the earth as Patanjali - meaning one who descended. Vyagrapaadar another devotee of Siva, who obtained the tiger's claws so that he could collect with ease the sacred Vilva leaves meant for Siva's worship, was also at Chidambaram. At the appointed hour, Siva (with Parvati - Sivakami) granted to Patanjali and Vyagrapaadar, 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 also said to have been witnessed by Vishnu. Commemorating this there is a shrine for Vishnu - Govindaraja in the Natarajar temple, and the Naalayira Divya Prabandam of the Vaishnavite Azhwars sing the glory of this image. Adi Sankara is said to have presented a Spatika Lingam, which is still under worship in this temple. The dance of bliss, or the Ananda Tandavam of Siva – popularly called Nataraja - is said to symbolize the five divine acts (pancha krityas) of creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealment and bestowment of grace. The dance of Siva is reverentially held in worships in Nataraja Sabhas, in all of the Saivite temples in Tamilnadu. Importance is given to five of the foremost Sabhas called “Pancha Sabhai”. They are located at Chidmbaram (Kanaka Sabhai - the hall of gold), Madurai (Rajata Sabhai - the hall of Silver), Tiruvalangadu near Arakonam (Ratnasabhai - the hall of rubies), Tirunelveli (Tamrasabhai - the hall of copper) and Kutralam (Chitrasabhai - the hall of pictures).
Other dance halls of significance are Adri Sabhai in the Himalayas, Aadi Chitsabhai at Tiruvenkaadu near Chidambaram, and Perur Kanakasabhai in the Patteeswarar temple at Perur near Coimbatore. The innermost sanctum of the temple, houses the grand images of
Siva (Nataraja) and Parvati (Sivakami) in the ChitSabha or the hall of consciousness The Chitsabha, the holiest shrine in the temple, is a wooden structure supported with wooden pillars, with a hut shaped roof. It is in this hall, that the images of Nataraja and Sivakami are housed, in front of a set of two curtains, the inner (invisible) one being red in color, the outer one being black in color. To the right of Siva, is the revered Chidambara rahasyam - or a representation of emptiness garlanded with golden vilva leaves. The curtain in front of the Chidambara Rahasyam, representing Siva (and Parvati) in the formless form (Aroopam) is lifted ceremoniously during worship services, with offerings of lamps.
The outermost prakaram is home to the grand Sivakami Amman temple, the Sivaganga tank and the 1000-pillared hall or the Raja Sabha, where Nataraja is brought during two annual festivals. The vast Sivakami Amman shrine is a temple on the right. Ceilings on the mukhamandapam of this temple have paintings from the Nayaka period. There are friezes of dancers, drummers and musicians all along the enclosing walls of this temple. The thousand-pillared hall has witnessed several grand events in history. This hall is also designed in the form of a chariot. Its entrance features two elephants, and on the basement there is a frieze of dancing figures. Perhaps the most magnificent structures in the temple are the four lofty gopurams or towers in the four cardinal directions, piercing the walls of the outermost prakaram. 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 Bharata Natyam Tradition as enunciated in the Classic Natya Sastra.
The Saiva Agama system of temple rituals followed in almost all of the Saivite temples in Tamilnadu is not followed at Chidambaram. It is a unique worship protocol said to have been prescribed by Patanjali, and is being followed at this temple. When the images of the Trinity Saints were brought in procession to the temple by Raja Raja Chola, the ruler at that time, it is believed that the sacred Tamil works of the Nayanmaars - rich in musical content, which were missing for several years, were recovered in a dilapidated state in one of the chambers in this vast temple. The bulk of Manikkavacakar's work is in praise of Siva at Chidambaram.
Two annual Brahmotsavams at Chidambaram are of great significance, as they involve colorful processions of festival deities. The grandest of these occurs in the month of Margazhi, concluding on the full moon day corresponding to the Arudra Darisanam festival. The second Brahmotsavam happens in the month of Aani, and it concludes with Aani Tirumanjanam on the tenth day, in a manner similar to Arudra Darisanam in Margazhi.
Six worship services are offered in this temple each day at the shrine of Nataraja - the last of which is the ArdhaJaama Puja (the most special one), where the padukas (footwear) of Nataraja are ceremoniously taken to the Palliarai (night chamber) of Shiva and Parvati after elaborate rituals. It is believed that the entire pantheon of divine figures in the Hindu system of beliefs is present during this occasion. The first puja in the morning involves the waking up of Shiva, and a transport of the padukas back to the main shrine, followed by fire rituals and ablutions to the crystal Shivalingam. The worship services that follow at about 9:30, and then at noon, and at 5 in the evening and at 7 pm involve a combination of rituals involving ablutions to the Crystal Lingam and the ceremonial show of lamps to Nataraja and Sivakami amidst the chanting of Vedic and Tamil hymns.
History:Chidambaram Lord Nataraja probably is the first social reformer. Nandanar, a dalit farm worker was a staunch Shiva devotee. He desired to have the darshan of Lord but could not secure a holiday from his upper caste boss who said that as a low born he was not entitled for the privilege. Nandanar did not lose hope. Naalai Pohalam – Let me go tomorrow – was his hope. After many tomorrows, he finally reached Chidambaram but could not enter the temple due to his community problem. He tried to have the glimpse of Lord, but Nandhi the bull vehicle of Lord Shiva blocked the view. Lord asked Nandhi to move and enabled Nandanar to have his darshan. Nandanar attained salvation here and merged with Lord to the shock and surprise of the upper class.
It is said that the four Saivite Saints entered the temple through the four entrances of the temple, Manickavasagar through the east, Gnanasambandar from south, Appar from west and Sundarar from the north. Appar-Tirunavukkarasar did his Angapradakshina in the car streets (Ratha Veedhi) of Chidambaram.
Saint Manickavasagar cured the dumb daughter of the Buddhist king of Lanka with the blessings of Lord in the temple. There are five Sabhas in the temple – Chittrambalam, Ponnambalam, Perambalam, Niruddha Sabha and Rajatha Sabha. The shrines of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu are so structured that the devotee can have twin darshan from one spot in the temple. This is a temple where Brahmma, Vishnu and Rudra grace the devotees together.
Saint Arunagirinathar had praised Lord Muruga of this temple in ten of his Tirupugazh hymns.
Many believe that Lord Nataraja is the presiding deity of this temple. The presiding deity is Adhimoola Nathar in the Linga form. Sages Patanjali and Vyakrapada wished that people of this earth too should have the chance to view and enjoy the great dance of Lord Shiva performed at Mount Kailash. They came to earth and sat in penance on Adhimoolanathar for the purpose. Responding to their selfless penance for the common people, Lord Shiva along with Tri Sahasra Muniswaras – 3000 sages came to this place and granted His dance darshan in Thai month (January-February) on Poosam Star day at 12.00 a.m. These 3000 Muniswaras then came to known as Thillai Moovayiravar.
Chidambaram is a holy place that ensures total salvation to the souls. For salvation, one should have his/her birth at Tiruvarur or live in Kanchi or think of Tiruvannamalai or die in Kasi. If one worships Lords Tirumoolanathar and Nataraja at Chidambaram at least once in life time, salvation is reserved for the soul. Despite strong opposition to Nandanar to enter the temple due to community reasons, he entered the temple with all honours and merged with the Lord. His bhakti-devotion was too deep and true that transcended all blockades of caste discriminations.
Every one in the world, irrespective of race, colour, country, language, religion throng the temple for Lord Nataraja darshan and also participate in pulling the car-rath.
Lord Brahmma organized a yajna and invited the 3000 Muniswaras to join in the pujas. They simply replied that no great soulful gain could be achieved by attending the yajna than the darshan of Nataraja at Thillai Chidambaram. Lord advised them to go and attend the yajna and promised to appear there at the end of the yajna. That form of His appearance in the Brahmma Loka is praised as Rathna Sabapathy. This idol is under the Nataraja idol. Every day, between 10.00 a.m and 11.00 a.m. Arati is shown to Lord Rathna Sabapathi, both at front and back.
There is a similarity in the design of Nataraja shrine and the human body, it is said. The 21,600 golden tiles engraved with the Na Ma Shi Va Ya mantra represent the number of times one breathes each day. The 72,000 nails used in the Ponnambalam represent the number of nerves of the human body. The 9 entrances represent the nine conveniences in the body activating our movements. Five steps to Ponnambalam represent the five letters of Na Ma Shi Va Ya Mantra. Wooden supports numbering 64 represent 64 arts, 96 windows the 96 philosophies, the pillars the 4 Vedas, 6 Sastras and Panchaboodas.
Sri Chakra installed by Acharya Adi Sankara is in the Ambica shrine. The Arthajama puja in the temple has its own significance when, it is believed that all other Gods assemble here for worship. Great Saivite poet Sekkizhar released His magnum Opus Periapuranam in this temple.
Sage Vasishta, revered as leader of Rishis had a relative Madyandinar by name. He had a son named Maadyandinar (the first name is short in sound, the next longer – spelling differs). Sage Vasishta advised that the boy should worship the Swayambulinga in Thillai Vanam forests for gaining complete spiritual wisdom. Son Maadyandinar reached this place. He was sad that he lost his puja time in picking up flowers after sunrise and these flowers were not pure as the honey in the same are taken away by the bees. He appealed to Lord Shiva saying that he was unable to pick the flowers in darkness due to lack of light and the flowers become unfit if picked after sunrise.
Lord granted him hands and legs as that of a tiger to climb the tree and a bright vision to the eyes functioning well even in utter darkness. Lord also said that he would be known henceforth as Vyakrapada as had the legs as a tiger. Vyakrapada was too happy with the boon and name and continued his worship in Thillai.
Praying to Lord Nataraja, the first benefit the devotee gains is mental peace. The prayer frees the devotee from any and every health problem. Many pray deeply to gain excellence in arts and a bright future in the field. They also pray for child boon and prosperity.
Devotees perform abisheks with oil, cosmetic powders, milk, curd, fruit juices, green coconut, panchamirtha, sandal, rosewater and sacred ashes. They also offer fresh and clean vastras. Gangabishekam and Kalasabishekam are also offered to Lord. For Mother Sivakama Sundari, abisheks are performed with turmeric powder offering sari. Some place contributions in the Hundi and arrange Annadhana-feeding. Devotees also contribute for the renovation of the temple.
Location: Chidambaram, 50 km from Cuddalore is linked with bus services from all important places in Tamilnadu. The temple is in the heart of the city.
Temple Address & Contact Details:Sri Thillai Natarajar Temple,
P Ananthakrishnan : +91 9349944261
G Sundara Deekshithar : +91 9443635280