Chidambaram is home to what is perhaps the most iconic Shiva temple in India. With several other important temples dotting the landscape, beautiful beaches, rivers, canals, backwaters and widespread mangroves, Chidambaram is so much more than just a temple town. In terms of its antiquity, richness in terms of worship & festival traditions, in architectural & sculptural splendour, in its association with music & dance, Chidambaram is a center second to none in representing the rich cultural heritage of India. Several rich legends are associated with Chidambaram. The best known, are those describing the Cosmic Dance of Shiva, the dance duel between Shiva and Kaali and the more recent one describing the re-discovery of the Tevaram hymns.
Another prominent temple amongst the many others dotted around Tamil Nadu is the Sattainathar Temple, also known as Sirkali Brahmapureeswarar, at Sirkali, 20 km away from Chidambaram. Nature lovers can rejoice as well, the Pichavaram wetland is a large system of mangroves, backwaters, and attendant flora and fauna that make this region unique. In fact, the Pichavaram is the second largest mangrove in the world and is densely overgrown with the ancient Thillai trees that have even found expression in the temple architecture at Chidambaram.
Sightseeing Points In Chidambaram
Nataraja Temple also referred to as the Chidambaram Nataraja temple or Thillai Nataraja temple, is a Hindu temple dedicated to Nataraja. The temple has mythical roots and a Shiva shrine existed at the site when the town was known as Thillai. The temple wall carvings display all the 108 karanas from the Natya Shastra by Bharata Muni, and these postures form a foundation of Bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance. The present temple was built in the 10th century when Chidambaram was the capital of the Chola dynasty, making it one of the oldest surviving active temple complexes in South India.
The Chidambaram temple legend is contained in the 12th-century text Chidambara-mahatmya. The central episode states that Shiva visits sages in the mythical Pine Forest in the form of a beggar accompanied by Mohini, none other than Vishnu in the avatar of a beautiful woman. Mohini triggers lustful interest of the sages, while Shiva performs Tandava dance that triggers the carnal interest of the wives of these sages. The sages ultimately realise how superficial their austerities have been. The episode becomes widely known. Two sages named Patanjali (also called Sesha-bodied in the south for his connection to Vishnu) and Vyaghrapada (also called Tiger-footed sage) want to see the repeat performance of this “dance of bliss” in the Thaillai forest, Chidambaram. They set up a Shivalinga, pray, meditate and wait. Their asceticism impresses Shiva who appeared before them in Chidambaram and performed “the dance” against “the wall, in the blessed hall of consciousness”. This is how this temple started, according to the mahatmya embedded in the Tamil Sthala Purana. According to Kulke, the late medieval text Chidambara Mahatmyam may reflect a process of Sanskritization, where these North Indian named sages with Vedic links became incorporated into regional temple mythology.
Thillai Kali graces the devotees with four faces from a separate shrine. A debate arose between Lord Shiva and Mother Parvati as to who was more powerful among them. Shiva claimed he was. But Shakti was too voracious in her defence on the debate to establish Her claim. Angry Shiva cursed Her to become an Ugra Kali. Realizing Her haste and violent argument, Shakti begged Shiva for a remedy. Lord Said, “Devas and men will be subjected to the atrocities of demons shortly. You, as Ugra Kali will destroy the demons and protect Devas and men. Then, You come to Thillai (now Chidambaram) and perform penance on me. I shall be there to grant Ananda dance darshan to Sages Patanjali and Vyaghrapada. Thillai Kali is also known as Ellai Kali – Ellai means border.
In order to resolve this, they performed a dance program at Chidambaram in front of Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma and other deities. While they were playing dance, Lord Siva was about to be defeated. But knowing fully well Siva played “Urdhva Tandava” i.e. raising one leg above his head. This “Urdhva Tandava” is one of the posture in the dance. It could not be played by the women folk due to their modesty and shyness. In this Parvathi could not play equally well to this posture and agreed her defeat. She had to go outside the borders of the town in order to contain her haughtiness and to teach a lesson that Shiva and Shakti are both equally important in our life. ‘Thillai Kali’ is a deity in anger. This anger was pacified by Brahma by Chanting Veda and also praising her. Because of the penance of Lord Brahma ‘Kali’ became cool. So that Goddess ‘Thillai Amman’ in this temple seems with four faces. There are two main shrines in this temple. In the first west facing one the goddess is in her benign form called Brahma Chamundeswari and she has four faces like god Brahma.In the east facing shrine she is in her ferocious form called Thillai Kali. The other important shrines are for goddess Saraswathi in the form called Veena Vidyambigai and for Dakshinamurthy where he has a female form called Kadamba Vana Dakshina Rupini.
As Lord Narayana poses as Nilathingal Thundam perumal having inside the Ekambareswarar temple premises in Kanchipuram, here at Chidambaram one of the very big Shiva temple he poses as Sri Govindaraja Perumal Temple near Lord Nataraja Sannadhi.
The Mountain “Chitra Kooda Malai” was in North India near the Prayagai. In this very place only Lord Rama Stayed while he was sent to the forest and left his pregnant wife Sita Devi.
While he came searching for his wife who was taken away by Ravana, Lord Rama found this place in South India and compared it’s beauty to Chitra Kooda in North India. Thus it got its name.
As this place largely represents Sri Rama, Kulasekhara Alwar considers Govinda rajan as Sri Kalyana Rama and composed all his 11 Paasurams posing Govindarajan as Sri Rama only.
Thirumangai alwar found Govindarajan to be still like a portrait or picture enchanting himself in the stunning dance of Lord Nataraja here at Ponnambalam – Chidambaram. So among the 32 Paasurams he composed, the first 10 are of the (“Shankarabharanam Ragam”) “Raga: Shankarabharanam” the favourite raga of Lord Shiva.
It’s been said that the 3000 Brahmins of Thinai, Panini, Patanjali and Vyakrapadha Maharishi had the vision of Lord Shiva’s dance along with Lord Govindaraja and got both the lords blessings.
As Parashakti (wife of Lord Shiva) danced with Lord Shiva transforming her as Thillai kali, this place is known as Thillai Nagar.
Pundarikakshan means Vishnu, so his wife is called Pundaregavalli and the Pushkarani pundarika Pushkarani.
As the perumal Govindarajan lays still and soft relishing the dance the Vimanam is called “Sathi Vega Vimanam” where Sathvika literally means soft nature.
Moolavar has Sangu and Chakram in his hands. He’s attended by his wives Periya Piratti, Bhoomi piratti and Neela devi at his feet. The celestial persons ie devas surround him. And he is in the sleeping posture.
It’s been said that while repairing the Nataraja temple, Anabaya cholan also known as Second Kulothunga ordered his men to remove Govindaraja idol and throw it into the sea.
Late the great social reformer Acharya Ramanuja took great effort in finding Govindaraja under the sea and found him and replaced him in his original place.
During the lifetime of Alwars, Govindaraja Poojas was done by the thillai Brahmins ie Shaivites only. But during 1539 A.D, king Krishnadevaraya’s brother Aachudharayar employed Bhattacharya’s (Priests following Vaishnavam) and made them to render pooja’s under the Vaikhanasa Agamam (One type of rites and rituals).
Though there are lots of difference of Opinions between the Shaivites and Vaishnavites dating back from the period of Alwars, at least let us unite together to stop these meaningless fights and accept the unity between the lords.
Tiruvetkalam Pasupatheeswarar Temple presiding deity is Shiva. He is called as Pasupatheeswarar. His consort is known as Satgunambal and Nalla Nayaki. The temple is located inside the Annamalai University complex. The temple complex covers an area of two acres and all its shrines are enclosed with concentric rectangular walls. The temple has a number of shrines, with those of Pasupatheeswarar being the most prominent. The temple has many yearly festivals on its calendar. The original complex is believed to have been built by Cholas.
Arjuna, the Pandava prince from Mahabharatha was asked to perform penance to obtained divine grace of Shiva. He performed severe penance at this place. One day, he spotted a wild boar speeding to attack him. While he shot the pig with an arrow, another hunter also claimed that he was the first to shoot the pig. A fight of superiority started between the two. Arjuna attacked the hunter with an arrow, the impact of which was felt by all beings in the world. The hunter then tossed Arjuna with his toe, who fell in Krupa Samudram. It took Arjuna time to realise that it was Shiva in the form of the hunter who attacked him. Parvathi, the consort of Shiva was angry at Arjuna for hitting her husband, but Shiva pacified her. They both granted boons to Arjuna, a weapon named Pasupatham. Since Shiva granted Pasupatham at this place, he came to be known as Paasupatheeswarar.
Sivapuri Uchi Nathar Temple is located at Sivapuri in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, India. The place is also known as Thirunelvayil. The presiding deity is Shiva. He is called as Uchinathar. His consort is known as Uchinayagi. The presiding deity is revered in the 7th century Tamil Saiva canonical work, the Tevaram, written by Tamil saint poets known as the nayanmars and classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam. The temple complex covers an area of one acre and all its shrines are enclosed with concentric rectangular walls. The temple has a number of shrines, with those of Uchinathar and his consort Uchinayagi being the most prominent. The temple has three daily rituals at various times from 6:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and four yearly festivals on its calendar.
As per legend, Shiva and Parvathi appeared to sage Agastya at this place. The place is called Thirunelvayil as it is believed that it was surrounded by fresh rice fields during the time (nel in Tamil indicates paddy grain). As per another legend, saint poet Sambandar, who was born in Sirkali, was fed by Parvathi with divine milk. The child grew up and visited various temples and sung praised of god. At the age of twelve, his marriage was arranged to be held at Achalpuram. The marriage party visited the place on the way to Achalpuram. The party was hungry and on account of divine intervention, food was offered. Sambandar started praising Shiva as Uchinathar (Madhyaneeswarar in Sanskrit).
Tirukkazhippalai Palvanna Nathar Temple is having three tier Rajagopuram and is facing east. This is a reconstructed / relocated temple. Earlier, the place was called as Karaimedu, was on the northern bank of Coloroon-Kollidam river, it was named Kazhipalai. Due to floods in Kollidam, the temple was heavily ravaged. Then this temple was built with Kazhipalai Lord and Mother. The original temple was 13 Kms from the present place on the banks of Kollidam river. The temple is a small one enshrining a small Shiva Lingam that is white in color. Lord Shiva in the temple is a Swayambhu Murti. Presiding Deity is called as Palvannanathar and Mother is called as Vedha Nayaki. Moolavar is small in size with a small “Kuzhi” on top, in which abisheka milk is collected.
Other abhishekams are for Avudayar only. Moolavar is in square shape and looks like Thulasi maadam. The Linga is split due to the hit by a horse leg. Pujas are performed for this Linga only. Lord Shiva and Mother Parvati grace in their wedding posture behind the Linga. Lord Bhairava in the temple Does Not Have his dog As vehicle as in Kasi. Instead He appears with 27 skulls, wearing the sacred thread and a serpent as belt around his waist and with turf and lion’s teeth. It is said that the same sculptor who designed Bhairava idol in Kasi did it here too. According to scriptures, worshipping Bhairava in this temple equals the prayer at Kasi. The temple is known more as Bhairava temple. The 8th day after full moon day is (Ashtami in the new moon fortnight) observed with special pujas.
Lord Nataraja appears with his turf roughly tied over. Mother Sivakami graces with her friends (Thozhi) Vijaya and Saraswathi. Adhikara Nandhi with his consort occupies both sides of the entrance. Lord Vinayaka, Lord Muruga with his consorts Valli and Deivanai, Mother Gajalakshmi, Lords Vishnu, Surya, Chandra, Brahma, Bhairava, Agoramurthy, Dakshinamurthy, Kirathamoorthy, Nayanmars, Mothers Chatura Durga, Bhuvaneswari grace from their shrines in the prakara. Inscriptions from the Imperial Chola period are seen in this temple.
Achalpuram Shivalokathyagar Temple stands majestically facing east with a five tier Rajagopuram. Nanda Mandapam and 100 pillared Mandapam is next to the tower. Saint Sambandar graces in the 100 pillar Mandapam with Stotra Poornambikai in wedding posture. Next to this are the shrines of Lord Shiva Loka Thiagarajar and Mother Tiruvennetru Umai Ammai, both are facing east. Lord Vishnu, Sages Kaka, Vasishta, Parasara, Bhrigu and Jamadagni had worshipped Lord Shiva in this temple. He is called as Shivalokathyagar. His consort is Tiruvennetru Umaiammai also known as Suvedha Vibhuti Nayaki. Thala Vriksham is Mango Tree. Panchakkara, Ashwa, Vasishta, Athiri Jamadagni and Vyasa Mrigandu Theerthams are the Theerthams associated with this Temple.
The marriage of Tirugnanasambandar with Sthothra Poornambikai was held at this Shiva Sthalam. There is a separate shrine for Sambandar and his wife inside the temple. The history of Saint Thirugnana Sambandar is the very history of Shaivism philosophy stressing the ultimate truth that reaching the Lotus feet of Shiva should be purpose of a meaningful human life. Father Shivapada Hrudayara asked the Saint Son to marry which though he refused first but gave in reluctantly thinking it to be the will of Lord. Shivapada Hrudayara chose Poompavai, daughter of Sivanesan Chettiar as his bride. But she died of a snake bite. Thirugnanasambandar restored her to life with the grace of Lord and simply accepted her as his daughter only. Shivapada Hrudayara then chose Mangai Natal daughter of Nambiyandar Nambi of Nallur. The wedding took place at Achalpuram. Tiruneelanakka Nayanar conducted the rituals. Circumambulating the wedding fire pit with his bride, Gnanasambandar prayed to Lord Shiva to protect him from the problems of a marital life and praised him with Kallur Perumanam hymn. Lord Shiva appeared in the form of Jyothi and advised the saint to join him along with all gathered there. Losing himself completely to the Lord, Sambandar sang his last Pathigam (10 verses) highlighting the glory of Panchakshara Mantra – Na Ma Shi Va ya. All merged with the Lord collectively the same time. This event is celebrated each year in the temple on the Moola Star day in the month of Vaikasi that is May to June.
Pichavaram Mangrove Forest is spread over 1,100 hectares and joins the Bay of Bengal, where it’s separated by a lengthy sand bank. Apparently, the forest has more than 50 islands of various sizes, and 4,400 big and small canals. Astonishing! The small canals are sun-flecked tunnels of roots and branches, Except for the swish of paddles, sound of birds and roar of the sea in the distance, all is silent and still. Students and scientists from across India come to study the mangrove forest and its incredible biodiversity. Approximately 200 species of birds have been recorded, along with many varieties of seaweed, fish, prawns, crabs, oysters, turtles, and otters. There are around 20 different varieties of trees in the mangrove forest as well.
The trees grow in water that’s 3 to 10 feet deep in different places. The conditions are quite hostile, as the sea’s tides bring salt water in and out twice a day, changing the salinity. Hence, the trees have unique root systems, with membranes that only allow fresh water to enter. They also have breathing roots that grow up from the water, with pores that can take in oxygen.
Unfortunately, the mangrove forest was damaged by the devastating 2004 cyclone that hit Tamil Nadu. However, if it wasn’t for the forest acting as a buffer for the water, the destruction inland would’ve been severe. The water from the tsunami has affected its growth, requiring protective measures to be put into place. Previously, villagers cut the tree roots to use for firewood. This has now been banned.
Pichavaram mangrove forest was originally known as Thillai Vana and has a significant role in the area’s heritage. It’s said that Lord Shiva entered the forest, where a group of rishis (sages) lived and practiced magic, in the form of a handsome but simple merchant. He was accompanied by Lord Vishnu in his alluring female avatar, Mohini. The rishis were enraged when their women became enchanted with Lord Shiva. They invoked snakes, tigers and demons to destroy him. Of course, it didn’t work. In the end, Lord Shiva disclosed who he really was and performed the Ananda Tandava (the blissful cosmic dance) in his form of Nataraja. This made the rishis realize that god could not be controlled by magic rituals, and they fell to shiva’s feet.
Tour Packages Offered From Chidambaram
2 Nights 3 Days Chennai | Chidambaram | Karaikal Tour Package.
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2 Nights 3 Days Chennai | Chidambaram | Kumbakonam | Thanjavur Tour Package.
3 Nights 4 Days Chennai | Chidambaram | Kumbakonam | Thanjavur | Trichy Tour Package.
3 Nights 4 Days Chennai | Chidambaram | Thanjavur | Madurai | Trichy Tour Package.
3 Nights 4 Days Chennai | Pondicherry | Chidambaram | Karaikal Tour Package.
4 Nights 5 Days Chennai | Kanchipuram | Tiruvannamalai | Chidambaram | Mahabalipuram Tour Package.
4 Nights 5 Days Chennai | Chidambaram | Thanjavur | Madurai | Rameswaram | Trichy Tour Package.
4 Nights 5 Days Chennai | Chidambaram | Kumbakonam | Thanjavur | Madurai | Trichy Tour Package.
5 Nights 6 Days Chennai | Kanchipuram | Chidambaram | Kumbakonam | Thanjavur | Trichy Tour Package.
5 Nights 6 Days Chennai | Kanchipuram | Chidambaram | Thiruvannamalai Tour Package.
6 Nights 7 Days Chidambaram | Thanjavur | Madurai | Rameswaram | Trichy | Mahabalipuram Tour Package.
6 Nights 7 Days Chidambaram | Thanjavur | Madurai | Rameswaram | Trichy | Mahabalipuram | Kanchipuram Tour Package.
7 Nights 8 Days Chidambaram | Kumbakonam | Thanjavur | Madurai | Rameswaram | Trichy | Mahabalipuram | Kanchipuram Tour Package.
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FAQs About Chidambaram
Pichavaram Mangrove Forest.
Thillai Nataraja Temple.
Thillai Kali Amman Temple.
No the Chidambaram temple is not the center point of earth magnetic field. It is located where the magnetic equator passed please note it is not geographical equator and also at 11 degree latitude. It is located where the magnetic equator passes which means magnetic dip is zero at this location.
Chidambaram is an important Chola temple site in Tamil Nadu, southern India. Most of the temples at Chidambaram were built in the 12th and 13th centuries CE. The site was chosen because according to mythology it was the precise spot where the Hindu god Shiva had once danced in a grove of thillai trees.
You could buy brass and bronze lamps, bells and idols and artificial dance jewellery sets and gold-coated ornaments. Chidambaram Nataraja idol is a must buy souvenir from the temple town. You could find a good bargain in handlooms and textiles, silk and cotton saris.
The walls and east gopura (gateway) may be ascribed with greater certainty, and were probably built by Kulottunga III, who reigned from 1178 to 1218 CE. The Nataraja temple was constructed between c. 1175 and c. 1200 CE.
king Kulothunga Chola ‘I’ Naralokaviran, the general of king Kulothunga Chola ‘I’ was responsible for building the steps that lead to Sivaganga water pool, a goddess shrine, a shrine for child saint Thirugnana Sambanthar, temple gardens and a pilgrim road network in and around Chidambaram.
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