Friday, June 24, 2011

Chidambaram Lord Nataraja Temple...!

LORD NATARAJA (Image Courtesy-Google)
"Avanindri oar anuvum asaiyaadhu" a popular saying in Tamil, meaning "If not for him, not an atom moves" is the description to the omnipotence of Lord Shiva. Hindu Saivaites who worship this destroyer god as the authority of Death, Rebirth and Immortality term this temple as Boologa Kailaayam "The Kailas on Earth".

Temple of Lord Nataraja is located in Chidambaram-a beautiful town in the northern part of Tamil Nadu, India.  This temple-a symbol of Dravidian Architecture stands tall for its elegant beauty by holding a very long history. It’s one of the Panchabootha Sthalams where Lord Shiva is worshiped in the form of Sky or Space (Aakaya/Aakasa) and hence it’s also described as Aakaya Sthalam.


The entire temple complex is enriched with its architectural beauty which is highly difficult to express them in words. Sculptures with various dance movements, wider Courtyards, Construction descending gradually towards the main Sanctum, Stupendous spacious designs which allow enough air and sunlight, ancient beautiful frescos on the ceiling of the shrines, Giant and Strong pillars of granites with enormous minute works, perfectly sketched drainage systems etc., are the salient architectural features of this temple. The dancing stature of Lord Nataraja here is a world famous one and regarded as a Cultural and Religious symbol of both Tamils and Hindus as well. This temple complex is located at the heart of this town over almost 40 acres (Courtesy: Wikipedia) of land. The entire landscape of the temple is squared (in fact a slightly irregular Rectangle) by the major arteries termed as Car Streets of Chidambaram on all four directions. The West Car Street is stated as the Commercial Street of Chidambaram. 


The temple has five concentric Courtyards (Prakaarams), four of which are accessible to the public, the fifth being only accessible to the priests (Dheekshitars) since it lies within the walls of the main sanctum. The first Courtyard is full of gardens. The temple has four major Gateways or Towers (Gopurams) each in all the four directions immediately after the first courtyard. Each Gopuram is having seven levels.  Among all these four, even though the Gopuram located at South is called as Raja Gopuram the one at North is slightly tallest among all. The Gopurams are sculpted with all 108 dance movements (Karanas) of Bharatnattiyam. The second courtyard which actually starts from the boundary walls that embrace these tall Gopurams has shrines of various Gods and Goddesses, ‘Hall of 1000 Pillars’ and the holy ‘Temple Tank’. The third and fourth courtyards are located inside the main temple complex where the shrine of Lord Nataraja is located. The fifth courtyard houses the Sanctum Sanctorum (Citsabhai) of main deity.  

GOLD GILDED CITSABHAI (Image Courtesy-Google)

This temple contains five Sabhais which are nothing but halls elevated or at par with the floors. Citsabhai (Hall of Consciousness) is the Sanctum Sanctorum which houses the presiding deity Lord Nataraja. Kanakasabhai is the ritual and pooja hall in front of Citsabhai.  Nrithyasabhai is located opposite to the Citsabai is the place where the dance contest between Lord Nataraja and goddess Parvathi devi was held.  Rajasabhai -The Hall of 1000 pillars is located at the North-East direction in the fourth courtyard and Devasabhai  is located in the third courtyard houses the Marriage Hall, Yagasaalai etc. The Sanctum Sanctorum is a unique and marvelous architectural piece which is built over granite stones with its roof gilded with gold. Historical prints say the gilding was done at periods of the Chola kings Aditya and Parantaka.



This temple complex also abodes shrines for Lord Govindaraja Perumal (Lord Vishnu) and his consort Pundareega valli thaayaar. It’s obviously one of the unique features of the temple to have both the shrines of Lord Shiva and Vishnu under one roof. Very few temples on the Earth have this feature.  Both the shrines of Lord Vishnu and his consort are situated in the fourth courtyard very adjacent and opposite to the Sanctum Sanctorum of main deity. The shrine of Lord Govindaraja Perumal is called as Thiruchitrakootam which was sung by Alwars (Chief devotees of Lord Vishnu). It’s one of the 108 key shrines (Divyadesams) of Lord Vishnu. Also, this temple has separate shrines for Parvathy (Sivagama Sundari), Ganesh (Mukkurni Vinayagar), Murugan (Pandiyanayakan), Navalingam, Sundareswara & Meenakshi-the presiding deities of Madurai temple. All these buildings can be found in the second courtyard.


ShivaGanga-is the Temple Tank (Theertham) situated on the north end of this temple, exactly adjacent to the hall of thousand pillars. Devotees use to take bath during morning and evening before they go for worship.  I’ve never seen this pond gone dry till today. It’s a great joy to feed fishes the puffed rice (pori) in the pond.  All the water used for cleaning the statues of gods and goddesses are drained to this pond which are the food for the fishes in this pond.

Out of six festivals (Thiruvizha) a year, the Margazhi Thiruvaadhirai and Aaani Thirumanjanam which are celebrated on December-January and June-July respectively are so special. As in other temples the festival here also starts with the flag hoist (Kodiyetram). 8 days later are the main celebrations like ‘Temple Car Processions’ (Ther Thiruvizha) & ‘The Dance of Bliss’ (Dharisanam) on consecutive days. Only during these auspicious festival days of Margazhi Thiruvaadhirai and Aaani Thirumanjanam the main deity along with other gods and goddesses like Murugan, Vinayagan and Sivagami are brought out of their Sanctum Sanctorum and placed on the separate temple cars of each deity. The East gate is the main entrance and exit through which the gods and goddesses are carried and placed on the Temple Cars. These cars which are most beautiful among all in Tamilnadu are drawn by thousands and thousands of devotees from East Car Street through South, West and finally come and land on the East where the procession actually started.


The world famous Natyanjali festival which is dedicated to the main deity Lord Nataraja has been conducted by the administration of this temple every year for 5 days during ShivaRatiri. Though Natyanjali festivals are regularly celebrated all over the world originally it was first introduced in this temple. During these five days noted and greatest performers around the world come and perform here. This festival attracts huge inflow of foreigners in to this temple town during these days.

One can have the joy of shopping in well arranged small and big series of shops which sell Spiritual Books, Beautiful Portraits of Deities, Pooja and ritual things like Coconut, Flowers, Garland, Camphor, Incense Sticks and fruits etc. There are lot many good restaurants to have and enjoy excellent, tasty South Indian Cuisines.


The South Gopuram is very near to my home and it takes in fact hardly 10 minutes of walking to reach the temple.  It renders always a divine peace while taking a walk on the corridors of this very vast temple. Now I’m recalling those golden days when I went regularly to the temple by holding hands of my parents. Those days which I enjoyed the charms of this temple and its sculptures by having delighted and jaw dropped chats with my Mom are still green in my memories. As I’ve been living out of Chidmabaram and Tamilnadu for almost 8 years, I couldn’t get the opportunity to visit the shrines quite often as I did in those days.  But still I use to go and have the enchanting feelings whenever I visit Chidambaram on my vacations. Walking on the corridors of this holy temple on yellow sunsets by hearing the mesmerizing hymns “Om Nama Shivaya” with gliding breeze will get oneself relieved from all other external things and worries.  
Just make a try to feel the same, friends…!

All the images except the Temple Car, Citsabhai  and Natyanjali festival were taken by me few years ago when i went there for my vacation. Also, while just grazing over the Youtube videos, I accidentally happened to see a footage of approximately 2 mins of length which shows this beautiful temple with a fantastic background score.  Here is the footage below.