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Natarajar Temple
About Shiva  -  Shiva Image Gallery
Pooja Cost : US$ 9.00 Leadtime : 7 Days
Location : Chidambaram.
Main Deity : Natarajar.
Nearest Town : Chidambaram District : Cuddalore State : Tamil Nadu
Encircled by four wide Mada Streets, where Navukkarasar rolled in ecstasy, with lofty gopurams piercing the sky in four directions, the big temple enshrines the Lord of Dance-Nataraja.

The 140ft high north tower was erected by the Vijiayanagara ruler Krishna Deva Raya, in commemoration of his northern victories. The East tower was built by the Chola King Kulottunga II. It is not a mere tower, but a gallery of art too. Indira astride his Iravadha, Agasthya with Kamandala, Narada with his veena, Asvin Devas, Thirumular, Ragu and Kethu are some of the superb sculptures. Besides all the 108 Karanas of Dances are sculpted.
In the west, a circumbulatory passage is there which is called as Rajakkal Thambiran Thiruveedhi. In north, the Svasti Sri Vikrama Cholan 100 pillared mandapam is there. Opposite to this hall to the east is Hema Pushkarani, the waters of which healed the leprosy of Simha Varman. It was improved by Naraloka Vira, Commander in the army of Vikrama Chola.31 slokas in Granda Script and 36 poems in Tamil had to be inscribed on the walls of the temple.

Moving further north, we stand before the Kamakottam. This is the shrine of Thiru Kamakottam udaya Sivakami. It is not easy to describe the Goddess. In the front hall, Bhiksadanar and Mohini are painted in the ceiling. Further north is the Pandia Nayagan built by Maravarman Sundara Pandian. This is the shrine of Murga. The faces of Shanmuga are six and his height is also six feet.

The Thousand Pillared Hall is in the northeast of the outer corridor. The favorite and most loved title of Raja Raja I is Sivapada Sekara. And this title was bestowed on him in his hall. Kulottunga III renovated this hall to enable Sekkilar to compose Peria Puranam. After passing the Thousand Pillared Hall, we enter the east corridor known as Kulottunga Cholan Kanda Thiru Veedthi with east gopuram in the middle, facing it. Similarly, there is another entrance in the west also called Akalangam Thiruvasal leading into the inner west circuit. In front is the Vinayaka who showed the storeroom where the Thirumrais were kept; and hence he is called Thirumurai Kanda Vinayagar. Circumambulating in a clockwise manner, we reach through the east the Prakara-Vikrama Cholan Thiru Veedhi. At the very threshold, our eyes greet the glistening Kanakasabai with 9 golden spires, 21,600 golden tiles engraved with the Mantra 'Sivaya Namah', supported by 18 pillars, adorned with 96 silver atties, this Ponnambalam dazzles like the golden Meru. This Thillai is also called Meru. Let us enter the Ardha Mandapam through the Panchakshara steps.
A luminous body, hand thrown out, raised leg, shock of hair where nestles a Cobra, a Crescent and Ganga, bow like eye brows, spear like eyes, pearl like smile, - as it is impossible to describe his charm, we have to steal from Koil puranam. Goddess Sivakami is standing by his side witnessing the perennial dance. A sphatika linga is also kept here. The peculiarity in the Linga is that when Camphor Arati is performed before and behind it, a sparkling reddish hue emanates from it. Ratna Sabapathi, Svarna Kala Bairavar also are cushioned here.

It is behind the idol of Nataraja that the very essence of Thillai is seen. A curtain conceals the mystery. During every Arati, the curtain is raised three times by the priest and lo! A dazzling brilliance; call it streak of lightning a cluster of stars, anything you feel; still it will be short of Truth. This is the Chidambara Rahasyam - Supreme secret.

Just front of the Kanakasabhai and facing east is a sub-shrine dedicated to Govindarajaperumal. Another peculiarity is that one can station oneself before the sanctum of Nataraja and also before that of Govindaraja. It is said that Appayya Ditshitar the court-scholar of the Vijayanagara King Venkatapathi stood here and composed a famous sloka:

"What if He dances in frenzy!
What if He sleeps in Yoga Nidra!
The Truth is the same."

And with that he fainted on his disciple's shoulder only to merge with the Dancer. The temple is dedicated to a Divine Dancer and as such dance themes fill the East gopuram with 108 Karanas, all exquisitely executed.
The most artistic structure in this temple complex is the Nrittya Mandapa-a hall looking like a chariot drawn by horses - midway between the south gopura and Kanakasabai. In Chidambaram temple, every hall is called a Sabha. The sanctum, which enshrines the Nataraja, is Chit Sabha (Chitrambalam). The Ardha Mandapa where devotees stand for darshan is Kanakasabha, the place where festival idols are kept is Deva Sabha, the thousand pillared hall is Raja Sabha and the dancing hall in the south is Nrittya Sabha (Natya Ambalam). Two huge pillars with eight inner pillars form a fitting frontispiece to this Ambalam.

A fine piece of art is Rishabanga Murthi here. Standing with Uma, reclining a little on his bull, caressing its forehead, he is worshipped by the Sun, Moon and Devas, Nritya Sabha, as its very name signifies contains numerous dance poses. Every bit of it deserves a close look. Their attire, coiffure, ornaments, their pose, has been sculpted in a masterly mode. A multi-armed Gandarva is playing the Kudamuzha.

In the western gopura, we see Surya on a Lion mount, which is indeed rare. In the east gopura, a Somaskanda adorns the wall. Nowhere else can we find a Somaskanda in a temple tower. A wonder awaits one on the north west corner of the same tower. The right side is Siva, with all its accomplishments. But the left half is that of a female. This is Ardanari-half male and half female - a fusion of Siva and Sakti.