Chidambaram Temple

Infobox Mandir


creator =
proper_name = Thillai Nataraja Perumal Kovil or Chidambaram Natarajar Koil
date_built =
primary_deity = Nataraja (Shiva)
architecture = Dravidian architecture
location = Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu

Chidambaram Temple (Tamil: சிதம்பரம் கோயில்) is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located in the heart of the temple town of Chidambaram, 58 km south of Pondicherry in Cuddalore District, the east-central part of the Tamil Nadu state of southeastern India.Chidambram temple surpasses the limits of architectural wonders and the Vishwakarma Brahmin stapathis should be eulozized in sculpting this architectural master piece.

In Hindu literature, Chidambaram is one of five holiest Shiva temples representing one of the five natural elements - space. The other four temples in this category are: Thiruvanaikaval Jambukeswara (water), Kanchi Ekambareswara (earth), Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswara (fire) and Kalahasti Nathar (wind).

Temple

The Chidambaram Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva (Siva) in His form of the Cosmic Dancer, Nataraja (நடராசர)், is a temple complex spread over 40 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. [cite web
url=http://www.indialine.com/travel/tamilnadu/chidambaram/
title=Chidambaram temple
publisher=
accessdate=2006-09-11
]

The Pallava king Swetavarman,who is built this famous temple. He also known as Hiranyavarman who lives in 5th century A.D. After his reign, the temple reached its current structure in the days of his son Simmavarman. Now his descendants live in the nearby village as Zamindar of Pichavaram. It is one of the few examples of Dravidian architectural and sculptural styles built up over the centuries including that built by the Cholas.

To the follower of Shaivism (Saivism) or the saivaite, the very word "koil" (Tamil: கோயில், "temple") refers to Chidambaram. In the same way, to the followers of Vaishnavism it refers to Srirangam or "Thiruvarangam".

Etymology

The word "Chidambaram" may be derived from "chit", meaning "consciousness", and "ambaram", meaning "sky" (from "aakasam" or "aakayam"); thus it refers to the "chidaakasam", the sky of consciousness, which is the ultimate aim one should attain as mentioned by all the Vedas and scriptures.

Another theory is that it is derived from "chit" + "ambalam". "Ambalam" means "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 dance of God" and "ambalam" meaning "stage".

Special feature

One of the special features of this temple is the bejeweled image of Nataraja. It depicts the Lord Shiva as the Lord of the dance Bharatanatyam and is one of the few temples where Shiva is represented by an idol rather than a Lingam. The Cosmic Dance of Lord Nataraja symbolises the motion of the universe is sustained by Lord Shiva. The temple has five courts.

Aragalur udaya Iraratevan Ponparappinan alias Vanakovaraiyan rebuilt the Siva temple at Chidambaram around 1213 AD. The same Bana Chief also built Tiruvannamalai temple.

Inside the premises, only qualified persons are permitted to recite the vedas and mantras in Sanskrit, and no outsider or recitation in any other language including Tamil, is entertained. This currently, is a subject of great controversy. The temple belongs to the Deekshitars.

In 2008, the much controversial case of singing 'Devaram' has been completed and the court has provided the judgement as "Tamil Devaram could be sung within the temple premises". Following this judgement, the tamil saivaites have started singing Devaram (with considerable opposition from the Deekshitars) within the temple premises.

The Legend of Chidambaram and its significance

The Legend

The story of Chidambaram begins with the legend of Lord Siva strolling into the Thillai Vanam (தில்லைவனம்) ("Vanam" meaning forest and "thillai" trees - botanical name "Exocoeria agallocha", a species of mangrove trees - which currently grows in the Pichavaram wetlands near Chidambaram. The temple sculptures depicting the Thillai trees date back to the 2nd century AD).

The subjugation of ignorance

In the Thillai forests resided a group of saints or 'rishis' who believed in the supremacy of magic and that God can be controlled by rituals and 'mantras' or magical words. The Lord strolls in the forest with resplendent beauty and brilliance, assuming the form of 'Pitchanadar', a nude mendicant seeking alms. He is followed by his Grace and consort. The rishis and their wives are enchanted by the brilliance and the beauty of the handsome mendicant and His consort.

On seeing their womenfolk enchanted, the rishis get enraged and invoke scores of serpents by performing magical rituals. The Lord as the mendicant, lifts the serpents and dons them as ornaments on his matted locks, neck and waist. Further enraged, the rishis invoke a fierce tiger, which the Lord skins and dons as a garment around his waist.

Thoroughly frustrated, the rishis gather all their spiritual strength and invoke a powerful demon "Muyalakan" - a symbol of complete arrogance and ignorance. The Lord wearing a gentle smile, steps on the demon's back, immobilizes him and performs the "Ánanda thaandava" (the dance of eternal bliss) and discloses his true form. The rishis surrender, realizing that this Lord is beyond magic and rituals.

The Ananda Tandava Posture

The Ananda Tandava posture of Lord Shiva is one of the famous postures recognized around the world by many (even people belonging to other religions having a liking towards Hinduism). This celestial dancing posture tells us how a Bharathanatium Dancer should dance.
* The demon under Nataraja's feet and Ganga devi (power to create life) on his head signifies that if a dancer dances on a man with a vessel of water on her head even then her balance should not be lost.
* The Fire in this hand (power of destruction) signifies the intensity with which the dancer should express angry expressions.
* The raised hand signifies that he is the savior of all life.
* The Ring at the back signifies that all the moves of the dancer should be in control within an imaginary circle around the dancer.These are the main things that the famous natarajar idol and the celestial dance posture depict.

The Ananda Thaandava

Adhisesha, the serpent who serves as a bed for the Lord in his manifestation as Vishnu, hears about the Änanda thaandava and yearns to see and enjoy it. The Lord blesses him, beckons him to assume the saintly form of 'Patanjali' and sends him to the Thillai forest, informing him that he will display the dance in due course.

Patanjali joins another saint, Vyagrapathar / Pulikaalmuni ("Vyagra" / "Puli" meaning "Tiger" and "patha" / "kaal" meaning "feet" – referring to the story of how he sought and got the feet and eyesight of a tiger to help climb trees well before dawn to pick flowers for the Lord before the bees visit them). They move into the Thillai forest and worship Lord Shiva in the form of Shivalinga, a deity worshiped today as Thirumoolataneswarar ("Thiru" - respectful, "Moolatanam" - primordial or in the nature of a foundation, "Eswarar"- the Lord). Legends say that Lord Shiva displayed his dance of bliss (the Aananda Thaandavam) - as Nataraja to these two saints on the day of the "poosam" star in the Tamil month of "Thai" (Jan – Feb).

Significance

Chidambaram is also referred to in various works such as Thillai (தில்லை) (after the Thillai forest of yore in which the temple is now located), "Perumpatrapuliyur" (பெரும்பற்றப் புலியூர்) or "Vyagrapuram" (வியாக்கிரபுரம)் (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 Änanda 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 idol of Lord Nataraja, called the Sakala (சகளம்) thirumeni.
* the "semi-form" – the semi-anthropomorphological form as the Crystal linga of Chandramouleswarar, the Sakala nishkala (சகள நிஷ்களம்) thirumeni.
* the "formless" – as the Space in Chidambara Rahasyam, an empty space within the sanctum sanctorum, the Nishkala (நிஷ்களம்) thirumeni.

Pancha Bootha Sthalas

Chidambaram is thus one of the panchabootha sthalas ("pancha" – meaning five, "bootha" – meaning the elements: earth, water, fire, wind and space and "sthala" meaning location).

The others are:
* the Ekambareswarar temple at Kanchipuram, where the Lord is worshiped in his manifestation as Earth
* the Jambukeswarar temple at Thiruvanaikaval, in Tiruchirapalli, where the Lord is worshipped in his manifestation as Water
* the Annamalaiyar Temple at Tiruvannamalai, where the Lord is worshiped in his manifestation as Fire
* the Kalahasti temple at Srikalahasthi, where the Lord is worshiped in his manifestation as air/wind.

Chidambaram also is one of the five places where Lord Shiva is said to have displayed his dance and all these places have stages/ "sabhai"s . Apart from Chidambaram which has the "Por sabhai", the others are the "Rathina sabhai" at Thiruvaalangadu ("rathinam" – ruby / red) , the "Chitra sabhai" at Courtallam ("chitra" – painting), the "Rajatha sabhai" or the "Velli ambalam" at Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple ("rajatha" / "velli" – silver) and the "Thaamira sabhai" at Nellaiappar Temple, Tirunelveli ("thaamiram" – copper).

The temple's devotees

Dikshitar, the priests of the temple are also called the 'Thillaivaazh Andhanar' (தில்லைவாழ் அந்தணர்). Dikshitar, meaning the priests who reside in Thillai and administer and manage the Chidambaram temple, are considered the foremost amongst the devotees of the Lord Siva. Saint Sundarar commences his "Thiruthondar thogai" (திருத்தொண்டத்தொகை) (the sacred list of Lord Siva's 63 devotees) paying his respects to the priests of the Thillai temple.

"To the devotees of the priests at Thillai, I am a devotee"."தில்லைவாழ் அந்தணர்தம் அடியார்க்கும் அடியேன்".

The temple and the Lord were also immortalized in poetry by four poet Saints - Thirugnana Sambanthar (திருஞானசம்பந்த சுவாமிகள்), Thirunavukkarasar (திருநாவுக்கரசு சுவாமிகள)், Sundaramoorthy Nayanar (சுந்தரமூர்த்தி நாயனார)், and Manikkavasagar (மாணிக்கவாசக சுவாமிகள)். The collected works of the first three are called the Devarams.

Thirugnana Sambanthar has composed 2 devarams in praise of the Lord at Chidambaram , Thirunavukkarasar aka Appar 8 devarams in praise of Nataraja, and Sundarar 1 devaram in praise of Lord Nataraja.

Manikkavasagar has written two works, the first called Tiruvasakam (The sacred utterances) which largely has been sung in Chidambaram and the "Thiruchitrambalakkovaiyar" (aka Thirukovaiyar), which has been sung entirely in Chidambaram. Manikkavasagar is said to have attained spiritual bliss at Chidambaram.

The works of these saints were stored as palm leaf manuscripts in the temple and were recovered by the Chola King "Arunmozhivarman", more famously called Rajaraja Chola under the guidance of Nambiandarnambi.

Temple Architecture and Significance

The Gopurams

The temple has 9 gateways and four of these have towering pagodas or "gopurams" each with 7 levels in the East, South, West and North. The eastern pagoda has all the 108 postures ("karnams") of the Indian dance form – Bharathanatyam sculpted on it.

The Five Sabhais

There are 5 "sabha"s or diases or halls:
* the "Chit sabhai", which is the sanctum sanctorum housing Lord Nataraja, his consort Goddess Shivagamasundari (சிவகாமசுந்தரி)
* the "Kanaka sabhai" – in front of the Chitsabhai, from which the daily rituals are conducted
* the "Nrithya sabhai" or "Natya sabhai", to the south of the temple's flag mast (or "kodi maram" or "dwaja sthambam") where the Lord is said to have danced with Goddess Kali – an embodiment energy and established His supremacy
* the "Raja sabhai" or the 1000-pillared hall which symbolizes the "yogic chakra" of thousand pillared lotus or "Sahasraram" (which in yoga is a 'chakra' at the crown of the head and is a seat where the soul unites with God. This chakra is represented as a 1000-petalled lotus. Meditating by concentrating at the Sahasrara Chakra is said to lead to a state of union with the Divine force and is the pinnacle of yogic practice)
* the "Deva sabhai", which houses the "Pancha moorthi"s ("pancha" - five, "moorthi"s - deities, namely the deities of Lord Ganesh - the remover of hurdles, Lord Somaskanda, a form where the Lord is in a seated posture with his grace and consort, the Lord's consort "Sivananda nayaki", the Lord Muruga and the deity of "Chandikeswarar" - the principal and chief of the devotees of the Lord).

Other shrines

Apart from the five "sabhai"s are:
* the shrines for the original Shivalinga worshiped by Saints Patanjali and Vyagrapathar – called the "Thirumoolattaneswarar" (திருமூலத்தானமுடையார்) and his consort "Umaiyammai" (உமையம்மை) or "Umaiya parvathi"
* the shrines for the 63 prime devotees of Lord Siva – or the "Arubathu moovar"
* the shrines for "Sivagami" – an embodiment of knowledge or "Gyanasakthi"
* for Lord Ganesha – in his manifestation of one who removes hurdles
* for Lord Muruga or "Pandiya nayakan" – in his manifestation of one who holds the three forms of energy – "Itchai" or "desire" represented by his consort Valli, "Kriya" or "action" represented by his consort Deivayanai and "Gnana" or "Knowledge" represented by the spear He carries to destroy ignorance.

There are also several smaller shrines in the temple complex.

Water bodies in and around the temple

"Moorthi" (Idol), "Sthalam" (Place) and "Theertham" (Waterbodies) signify the holiness of a temple. The Chidambaram temple is well endowed with several water bodies within and around it.

* The temple complex on 40 acres houses the temple tank – called the "Sivaganga" (சிவகங்கை). This large tank is in the third corridor of the temple opposite to the shrine for Goddess Sivagami.
* The "Paramanandha koobham" (பரமானந்த கூபம்) is the well on the eastern side of the Chitsabhai from which water is drawn for performing pooja in the temple.
* The "Kuyya theertham" (குய்ய தீர்த்தம்) is situated to the north-east of Chidambaram near Killai near the Bay of Bengal and has the shore called Pasamaruthanthurai (பாசமறுத்தான்துறை).
* The "Pulimadu" (புலிமடு) is situated around a kilometer and a half to the south of Chidambaram.
* The "Vyagrapatha theertham" (வியாக்கிரபாத தீர்த்தம்) is situated on to the west of the Chidambaram temple opposite the temple of Lord "Ilamai akkinaar".
* The "Anantha theertham" (அனந்த தீர்த்தம்) is to the west of Chidambaram temple in front of the Anantheswarar temple.
* The "Nagaseri" (நாகச்சேரி) is the tank to the west of the Anantha theertham.
* The "Brahma theertham" (பிரம தீர்த்தம்) is to the north-west of the Chidambaram temple at "Thirukalaanjeri".
* The "Siva piriyai" (சிவப் பிரியை) is a tank to the north of the Chidambaram temple and opposite the "Brahma chamundeswari" temple (aka the Thillai Kali temple).
* "Thiruparkadal" (திருப் பாற்கடல்) is the tank to the south-east of the Siva piriyai.

Govindaraja Shrine

The Chidambaram temple complex houses a shrine for the God "Govindaraja Perumal" and his consort "Pundareegavalli Thaayar". This shrine is called the Thillai Thiruchitrakoodam and is one of the 108 "divyadesa"s – or the key shrines of Vishnu, which have been sanctified (mangala saasanam) by hymns (the Naalayira divya prabantham) sung by the chief devotees of Lord Vishnu (called the "Aalwars") .

Significance of the temple design

The layout and architecture of the temple is replete with philosophical meanings.

* The 9 gateways signify the 9 orifices in the human body.
* The Chitsabai or Ponnambalam, the sanctum sanctorum represents the heart which is reached by a flight of 5 stairs called the Panchaatchara padi - "pancha" meaning 5, "achhara" – indestructible syllables – "SI VA YA NA MA", from a raised anterior dias - the Kanakasabai. The access to the Sabhai is through the sides of the stage (and not from the front as in most temples).
* The "Ponnambalam" or the Sanctum sanctorum is held by 28 pillars – representing the 28 "agama"s or set methodologies for the worship of Lord Shiva. The roof is held by a set of 64 beams representing the 64 forms of art and is held by several cross-beams representing the innumerable blood vessels. The roof has been laid by 21600 golden tiles with the word "SIVAYANAMA" inscribed on them representing 21600 breaths. The roof is topped by a set of 9 sacred pots or "kalasa"s, representing the 9 forms of energy. (refer Umapathy Sivam’s Kunchitaangristhavam)

Temple car

The Chidambaram temple car is probably one of the most beautiful examples available in Tamil Nadu. This car, on which Lord Nataraja descends twice a year, is drawn by several thousands of devotees during the festivals.

The Chidambara Rahasyam

The Lord Shiva in his manifestation of formlessness is worshiped in Chidambaram. The Lord is said to continuously dance in a state of eternal bliss "Aananda thaandava", with his consort Sakthi or energy called "Sivagami" and is diagrammatically represented by a "Yantra" on the wall of an empty space in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. A curtain covers this space which when drawn reveals strands of golden ‘Vilva’ leaves hung to indicate the Lord’s presence. The curtain is dark in the exterior (indicating ignorance) and bright red in the interior (indicating wisdom and bliss).

During the daily rituals, the Chief priest of the day, himself in a state of Godliness - Shivahambhava ("Shiva" - the Lord, "hum" – me / us, "bhava" - state of mind), withdraws the curtain indicating the withdrawal of ignorance and reveals the space, and the Lord’s presence.

The Chidambara Rahasya, is hence that when in total surrender, one lets God intervene and remove ignorance, one gets to see and experience his presence and hence bliss.

Temple administration and daily rituals

The temple is managed and administered hereditarily by the Chidambaram Dikshitar – a class of Vaideeka Brahmins , who Legends say were brought from Mt Kailas by Saint Patanjali, specifically for performance of the daily rituals and maintenance of the Chidambaram temple.

The Deekshithars were supposed to be 3000 ( 2999 and the Lord himself totaling 3000 ) and were called the Tillai Moovayaram . Today they number around 360. These Deekshithars follow the Vedic rituals , unlike the Sivachariyars or Adhisaivars – who follow the agamic rituals for the worship of Lord Shiva . The rituals for the temple were collated from the Vedas and set by Patanjali, who is said to have inducted the Deekshithars into the worship of Lord Shiva as Nataraja.

In general , every married male member of the Deekshithar family gets a turn to perform the rituals at the temple and can as the chief priest for the day . The married Deekshithar is also entitled share of the temple revenue. Though the temple is said to have been given endowments of almost convert|5000|acre|km2|0 of fertile land – having been patronized by various rulers for several centuries, today, it is managed almost entirely by privately run endowments.

The day begins with the Chief priest of the day, performing required rituals to purify himself and assume the Shivoham bhava , after which he enters the temple to do the daily rituals of the temple. The day commence with the Lord’s footwear ( padukas) being brought at 7.00 AM from the Palliyarai ( or bedroom) to the sanctum sanctorum in a palanquin accompanied by devotees with cymbals and chimes and drums. The Priest then performs commences the daily rituals with a yagna and a ' Go pujai' or worship of a cow and her calf .

Worship or Pooja is done 6 times in a day . Before each pooja, the Spadika linga (Crystal linga)– the 'aru uruva' or the semi form state of Lord is ointed with ghee, milk, curds, rice, sandal paste and holy ash. This is followed by presenting the neivedhyam or offering of freshly prepared food and sweets to the Lord and the deeparaadhana , a ritual of showing variedly and decoratively set lamps , reciting of Vedas in Sanskrit and the Panchapuranam ( a set of 5 poetry from a set of 12 works in Tamil – called the panniru thirumurai ). The pooja ends with the priest parting the curtain of in the sanctum sanctorum to reveal the Chidambara Rahasyam.

Before the 2nd pooja, apart from the regular anointing the crystal linga, a ruby Nataraja deity (the Rathinasabhapathy) is also ointed. The 3rd pooja is at around 12.00 Noon , after which the temple closes to open again at around 4.30. The 4th pooja is performed at 6.00 PM , the 5th at 8.00 PM and the last pooja of the day is performed at 10.00 PM after which the Lord’s footwear are taken in a procession for Him to ‘retire’ for the night. Before the 5th pooja at night , the priest performs special rituals at the Chidambara Rahasya , where he oints the yantra with aromatic substances and offers 'neivedhyam'.

The last pooja, called the Arthajaama pooja in Chidambaram is done with special fervor. It is believed that the entire divine force of the universe retires into the Lord , when he retires for the night.

Festivals

A whole year for men is said to be a single day for the Gods. Just as six poojas are performed in a day at the sanctum sanctorum, six anointing ceremonies are performed for the principal deity - Lord Nataraja in a year. They are the Marghazhi Thiruvaadhirai (in December - January ) indicating the first pooja , the fourteenth day after the new moon ( chaturdasi) of the month of Masi ( February - March) indicating the second pooja, the Chittirai Thiruvonam ( in April- May), indicating the third pooja or uchi kaalam , the Uthiram of Aani (June- July) also called the Aani Thirumanjanam indicating the evening or the fourth pooja , the chaturdasi of Aavani (August-September) indicating the fifth pooja and the chaturdasi of the month of Puratasi ( October - November) indicating the sixth pooja or Arthajama.

Of these the Marghazhi Thiruvaadhirai ( in December-January) and the Aani Thirumanjanam ( in June-July ) are the most important. These are conducted as the key festivals with the main deity being brought outside the sanctum sanctorum in a procession and include a temple car procession followed by a long anointing ceremony. Several hundreds of thousands of people flock the temple to see the anointing ceremony and the ritualistic dance of the Lord when He is taken back to the sanctum sanctorum. There are references in Umapathy Sivam's 'Kunchithaangristhavam' that the Maasi festival also had the Lord being carried out in procession. However, the same is not in vogue these days.

Historical references

Origins

Most temples in South India are 'live' monuments, in the sense, these are places where prayers continue to be conducted since inception, visited regularly by devotees and are also regularly maintained.

The "purana"s (history passed on verbally and later written down) mentions that Saint Pulikaalmunivar had directed significant amount of temple works through a King Simmavarman. Among the Pallava kings, there have been three kings by the name Simmavarman (in 275-300 CE, 436-460 CE, 550-560 CE ). As the temple was already prominent during the period of Poet-saint Thirunavukkarasar (whose time period has been estimated more or less accurately 6 th century), Simmavarman should have lived around AD 430-458, i.e. Simmavarama II. The "pattayam" or declaration made out on copper plates in Kottravankudi insists this. However the "Thandanthotta pattayam" and other pattayams of the Pallava period refer to the Simmavarman in association with the Chidambaram temple. It is hence believed that Simmavarman should have been a prince of the Pallava dynasty who renounced his royal rights and came to live in Chidambaram. As Pulikaalmunivar and Simmavarman are reported to have been contemporaries, it is thought that the temple should have come into existence at that period.

However, the fact that the Poet-saint Manikkavasagar lived and attained bliss at Chidambaram long before the Poet-saint Thirunavukkarasar and as the deity of Lord Nataraja and its unique posture and representation do not seem to compare well with other Pallava works of that period, it is probable that there would have existed a later saint also called Pulikaalmunivar and that the temple existed from Simmavarman.

At periodical intervals (12 years in general), major repairs and renovation works are carried out, new facilities added and consecrated. Most old temples have also 'grown' over periods of time with additional facilities, more outer corridors and new "gopuram"s (or pagodas) were added by the rulers who patronized the temple. While this process has helped to keep temples 'alive' as places of worship, from a purely archeological or historical perspective these renovations have unintentionally lead to destruction of the past works - which were not in sync with the latter and are usually grander temple plans.

To this general trend, Chidambaram temple is no exception. The origins and developments of the temple are hence largely deduced from allied references in works of literature and poetry, the verbal information passed over generations by the Dikshithar community and from whatever little inscriptions and manuscripts that are available today.

We know from the sangam literature that the Cholas were great devotees of this ancient shrine. The Chola King Kochengannan was said to have born after the King Subhadevan and Kamaladevi worshipped in the Thillai golden hall. Hence the temple with golden hall should have existed thousands of years before the present era.

The temple architecture - particularly of the sanctum sanctorum does not conform to any of the other temple forms of the Cholas, Pandyas or the Pallavas. To an extent, this form has certain similarities with the temple forms of the Cheras but the earliest known links with the Chera dynasty is during the period of Poet-saint Sundarar (circa 12 Century ). Works in and referring to the Chidambaram temple are unfortunately available from the 10 Century onwards only.

Inscriptions

There are several inscriptions available in the temple and referring to the Chidambaram temple in neighbouring areas.

Most inscriptions available pertain to the periods of:

the later Chola Kings

* Rajaraja Chola I (முதலாம் இராஜராஜ சோழன்) 985-1014 CE, who constructed the Big temple at Tanjore
* Rajendra Chola I (முதலாம் இராஜேந்திர சோழன்) 1012-1044 CE, who constructed the Gangaikondacholapuram temple at Jayamkondam
* Kulothunga Chola I (முதற் குலோத்துங்க சோழன்) 1070-1120 CE
* Vikrama Chola (விக்கிரம சோழன்) 1118-1135 CE
* Rajathiraja Chola II (இரண்டாம் இராஜாதிராஜ சோழ தேவன்) 1163 -1178 CE
* Kulothunga Chola III (மூன்றாம் குலோத்துங்க சோழ தேவன்) 1178-1218 CE
* Rajaraja Chola III (மூன்றாம் இராஜராஜ சோழன்) 1216-1256 CE

Pandya Kings

* Thribhuvana Chakravarthi Veerapandiya thevan (திரிபுவனச்சக்கரவர்த்தி வீரபாண்டிய தேவன்)
* Jataavarman Thribhuvana Chakravarthi Sundarapaandiya thevan (சடாவர்மன் திரிபுவனச்சக்கரவர்த்தி சுந்தரபாண்டிய தேவன்) 1251-1268 CE
* Maaravarman Thribhuvana Chakravarthi Veerakeralanaagiya Kulashekara thevan (மாறவர்மன் திரிபுவனச்சக்கரவர்த்தி வீரகேரளனாகிய குலசேகரதேவன்) 1268-1308 CE

Pallava Kings

* Avani aala pirandhaan Ko-pperum-singha thevan (அவனி ஆளப்பிறந்தான் கோப்பெருஞ்சிங்க தேவன்) 1216-1242 CE(Born to rule the world, Great-Royal-Lion Lord)

Vijayanagara Kings

* Veeraprathaapa Kiruttina theva mahaaraayar (வீரப்பிரதாப கிருட்டிண தேவ மகாராயர்) 1509-1529 CE
* Veeraprathaapa Venkata deva mahaaraayar (வீரப்பிரதாப வேங்கட தேவ மகாராயர்)
* Sri Ranga theva mahaaraayar (ஷ்ரீ ரெங்க தேவ மகாராயர்)
* Atchyutha deva mahaaraayar (அச்சுத தேவ மகாராயர்) (1529-1542 CE)
* Veera Bhooopathiraayar (வீர பூபதிராயர்)

Cheras

* Descendant of Cheramaan Perumal nayanar, Ramavarma Maharaja (சேரமான் பெருமாள் நாயனாரின் வழித் தோன்றிய இராமவர்ம மகாராசா).

The Gopurams

The South Gopuram was constructed by a Pandya King. This is evidenced by the presence of the fish emblem of the Pandyas that have been sculpted on the ceiling. Historically, the Pandyas are known to have sculpted two fishes facing each other when they complete the Gopuram (and leave it with one fish, in case it is incomplete). The South gopuram bears the two-fish insigna of the Pandyas.

Subsequently, the Gopuram appears to have been redone by the Pallava King Koperunsingan I (முதலாம் கோப்பெருஞ்சிங்கன்) 1216-1242 CE, after retaining the first level. This Gopuram is called the "Sokkaseeyan Thirunilai Ezhugopuram" (சொக்கச்சீயன் திருநிலை எழுகோபுரம்).

The West Gopuram was constructed by Jadavarman Sundara Pandyan I (முதலாம் ஜடாவர்மன் சுந்தர பாண்டியன்) 1251-1268 CE.

The North Gopuram was constructed by the Vijayanagara King Krishnadevarayar (கிருஷ்ணதேவ மகாராயர்) 1509-1529 CE.

The East Gopuram was first constructed by the Pallava King Koperunsingan II (இரண்டாம் கோப்பெருஞ்சிங்கன்) 1243-1279 CE.

Subsequent repairs were carried out by "Subbammal" (சுப்பம்மாள்), who was the mother-in-law of the famous philanthrophist Pachaiappa Mudaliar (திரு பச்சையப்ப முதலியார்). The idols of Pachaiappa Mudaliar and his wife "Iyalammal" (ஐயாளம்மாள்) have been scuplted on the eastern gopuram. The Pachaiappa trust to date has been responsible for various functions in the temple and also maintain the temple car.

The golden tiled roof for the "Chitsabha" is said to have been laid by the Chola King Parantaka I (907-950 CE) "("Thillaiyambalathhukku pon koorai veiyntha thevan")". King Paranthaka II, Rajaraja Chola I, Kulothunga Chola I are reported to have made significant donations to the temple. Rajaraja Chola's daughter Kundavai II is also said to have donated gold and riches to the temple. Later Chola kings Vikrama Chola (AD 1118-1135) is also reported to have made donations for conduct of the daily rituals.

There have been donations of gold and jewels made by various kings, rulers and patrons to the temple - including the Maharaja of Pudukottai, Shri Sethupathy (the emrald jewel still adorns the deity), the British, etc.

Invasions

Unlike several of the temples in North India, which were vandalized by several foreign invaders, the temples of South India had a relatively peaceful existence through the ages. This is often attributed to be a reason for temples to flourish in South India. However, this peaceful history is not without blemishes. There are some references (oral and passed on through the generations of the Dikshithars) to an event when the Dikshithars of the temple apprehended attack and plundering of the temple by Malik Kafur in 1312 A.D. Several Dikshithars are said to have jumped down from the tall pagodas and ended their lives, preferring death than to see their sacred and much loved temple from being run over by Malik Kafur. Some other Dikshithars are said to have locked up the temple and carried the deities with a lot of protection to Alapuzha in Kerala. They returned soon after the fear of invasion receded.

References, Notes, Related Links

* References to the philosophical meaning and detailed architecture are drawn from the Sri Umapathy Sivam's 'Kunchithangristhavam', as detailed in 'Natarajasthvamanjari'a collection of elite works on Chidambaram and Lord Nataraja
* References to history and details of the Lord Shiva as the cosmic dancer at Chidambaram are from 'Adalvallan - Encyclopaedia of Adalvallan in Puranas, - Yantras, Poojas- Silpa and Natya Sastras, compiled by Adheena Mahavidhvan Sri S Dhandapani Desikar , and published by The Thrivavaduthurai Adheenam, Saraswathi Mahal Library and Research Centre, Thiruvavaduthurai , Tamil Nadu, India 609803

External links

* [http://85.1911encyclopedia.org/C/CH/CHIDAMBARAM.htm Cited and adapted from "Chidambaram", "Encyclopedia Britannica" (1911).]
* [http://www.tamilnadutourism.org/ "Enchanting Tamil Nadu" see Places --> Chidambaram]
* cited from [http://www.templenet.com/Tamilnadu/s122.html "122. Koyil (Chidambaram), Abodes of Shiva," "TempleNet"]
* [http://www.templenet.com/Tamilnadu/chidambaram.html "Temples of Tamil Nadu, Chidambaram", "TempleNet"]
* [http://www.templenet.com/Tamilnadu/chidchid.html "Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram", "TempleNet"]
* [http://www.pop.ac/india_2004-2005.html Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, India]
* [http://www.templenet.com/Tamilnadu/chidchid.html Temple at Chidambaram] [http://www.shrichidambaramtemple.org Shri Nataraja Temple with video tours]


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