Thillai Natarajah Temple, Chidambaram or Chidambaram temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located in the town of Chidambaram, East-Central Tamil Nadu, South India.
It is one of the five holiest Shiva temples, each representing one of the five natural elements; Chidambaram represents akasha (aether). The other four temples in this category are: Thiruvanaikaval Jambukeswara,Trichy (water), Kanchi Ekambareswara (earth)Kanchipuram, Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswara (fire),Thiruvanna malai and Kalahasti Nathar (wind),Kalahasti.
The story of Chidambaram begins with Lord Shiva strolling into the Thillai Vanam (vanam meaning forest and thillai trees – botanical name Exocoeria agallocha, a species of mangrove trees – which currently grows in the Pichavaram wetlands near Chidambaram). In the Thillai forests resided a group of sages or ‘rishis’ who believed in the supremacy of magic and that God can be controlled by rituals and mantras or magical words. Lord Shiva strolled in the forest with resplendent beauty and brilliance, assuming the form of Bhikshatana, a simple mendicant seeking alms. He was followed by His consort, Vishnu as Mohini. The sages and their wives were enchanted by the brilliance and the beauty of The handsome mendicant and His consort. On seeing their womenfolk enchanted, the rishis got enraged and invoked scores of serpents (nāgas) by performing magical rituals. Lord Shiva lifted the serpents and donned them as ornaments on His matted locks, neck and waist. Further enraged, the sages invoked a fierce tiger, whose skins and dons were used by Lord Shiva as a shawl around His waist and then followed by a fierce elephant, which was devoured and ripped to death by Lord Shiva (Gajasamharamurthy).
The rishis gathered all their spiritual strength and invoked a powerful demon Muyalakan – a symbol of complete arrogance and ignorance. Lord Shiva wore a gentle smile, stepped on the demon’s back, immobilized him and performed the Ánanda Tandava (the dance of eternal bliss) and disclosed his true form. The sages surrender, realizing that Lord Shiva is the truth and He is beyond magic and rituals.
This temple spread over an area of 40 acres with magnificent gopurams on each side. The temple is also distinguished by five sabhas or courts.
The eastern tower of the temple rises to a height of 40.8 metres. There are a 108 Bharatha Natyam dance poses can be seen on the Eastern tower as well as on Western tower. The Northern tower rises to a height of 42.4 metres is the tallest. This temple is also noted for its Gold Plated roof that adorn the sanctum sanctorum other wise called as kanakasab hall.
The place where temple located is the center point of world’s magnetic equator.
How to Reach?
Chidambaram is well connected by road with several towns in the state. There are bus services to Pondicherry, Chennai, Nagapattinam and Madurai. The railways also serve Chidambaram. The Chennai-Tiruchi (main) metre gauge line has rail connections to Chennai, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur, Thiruchi and Rameswaram. The nearest airport is Thiruchi from where flight connections are available to Chennai, Madurai and Sri Lanka.