About the Temple
Chidambaram sky temple is nestled in the town of Chidambaram in East-Central Tamil Nadu. The primary deity here is Thillai Koothan (Thillai Nataraja - Shiva, The Lord of Dance). The consort deity is Sivakami Amman. The temple represents two other forms of Lord Shiva in the inner sanctum of the temple. One form is a crystallised lingam, which is the most common representation of Lord Shiva, and another is the aether space classical element, represented with a garland of fifty one golden bilvam leaves. Here, Lord Shiva is captured as Nataraja performing the Ananda Tandava.
The idol of Chidambaram has inspired the postures of Bharatha Natyam. The temple also contains the shrines of Shivakami Amman, Ganesh, Murugan and Vishnu. Among the Pancha boothas (five super powers), this temple represents the sky and hence named Chidambaram sky temple. The belief is that the Lord Shiva mingled with the sky cannot be seen.
The Shiva here danced with Kali who defeated Tharagan. On the north of Chidambaram temple there is a shrine of Kali, also known as Thillai kaliamman Temple. The temple has four Raja Gopurams or big towers. The temple tower of primary deity is gold plated. The temple is spread over 40 acres of land.
The story begins with Lord Shiva strolling into the Thillai forests. A group of sages used to reside in Thillai forests who believed that God can be controlled by rituals, magic and mantras. Lord Shiva wandered in the forest assuming the form of Bhikshatana, seeking alms. He was accompanied by his consort, Vishnu as Mohini. The sages and their wives were fascinated by the brilliance and the beauty of the mendicant and his consort. On seeing their women fascinated, the sages agitated and evoked serpents by performing magic. Lord Shiva hold the serpents and wore them as ornaments on his locks, neck and waist. Further, the sages invoked a tiger, whose skins and dons were wore by Lord Shiva as a shawl around his waist. The sages evoked a powerful demon Muyalakan. Lord Shiva stepped on the demon's back, blocked him and performed the Ánanda Tandava. He revealed his true appearance. The sages surrender as they realized that Lord Shiva is an eternal truth.
Festivals and celebrations
The Marghazhi Thiruvaadhirai (in December - January) and the Aani Thirumanjanam (in June - July ) are the most important pujas. The pujas are conducted as the grand festivals. The main deity is brought outside the sanctum sanctorum in a procession along with a temple car procession followed by a long anointing ceremony. Thousands of people flock the temple to see this ceremony and the ritualistic dance of Lord Shiva.
Lord Shiva, in his incarnation of Nataraja, is believed to have born on full moon day of Ardra. Here, Lord Shiva is bathed only 6 times a year. On the previous night of Ardra, the bath rituals are performed on a large scale. Pots full of milk, pomegranate juices, coconut water, ghee, sandal paste, curds, holy ashes, and other sacred liquids and solids are used for the sacred investiture.
Natyanjali is a prominent festival which is celebrated during February every year when Bharat-natyam dancers from all over the country present dance offering to Nataraja.
How to reach
By Road: Chidambaram town is located at a distance of 223 km from Chennai and 335 km from Madurai. The main bus stand is located in the heart of the Chidambaram town.
By Train: The nearby Railway Station is Chidambaram.
By Air: Pondicherry airport is a nearest airport located around 66 km away from Chidambaram town. Tiruchirapalli airport is 165 km and Chennai airport is 215 km from Chidambaram.