Chidambaram – Nataraja swamy (Shiva) temple

Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located in Chidambaram, Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu nataraja swamy cosmic dancing chidambaram

Deities: Lord Shiva Nataraja and his consort Sivakaama Sundhari. Also Lord Govindaraja Perumal and his consort Pundareegavalli Thaayar



Meaning of Chidambaram

  • Chid+aakasam , the sky of consciousness, which is the ultimate aim one should attain according to all the Vedas and scriptures.
  • Chit+ambalam means a small “stage” for performing arts.


Lord Nataraja Dance significance:

  • Symbolic representation of the supreme bliss or aananda natanam.
  • The Cosmic Dance symbolises the motion of the universe as sustained by Lord Shiva.

Belief: Visit to Chidambaram leads to liberation.


  • Temple complex: spread over 50 acres in the heart of the city.
  • Chidambaram has Tillai Nataraja-koothan Kovil. The mangrove forests houses the ancient Tillai trees surrounding the shrine.
  • Chidambaram name comes from the Tamil word Chitrambalam (also spelled Chithambalam) meaning “small hall/stage”.
  • A unique feature of this temple is the bejeweled image of Nataraja.
  • It depicts the Lord Shiva as the Lord of the dance Bharatanatyam
  • Shiva is represented by an anthropomorphic murthi rather than the classic, anionic Lingam.
  • The temple has five courts.
  • Annamalai University, established in 1929 in Chidambaram, is one of the oldest and most prominent universities in the state.

How to reach:

  • Distance: 78 km south of Pondicherry and 235 Km from Chennai
  • The nearest airport is Trichy(195 Km) & Chennai (235Km)
  • Chidambaram is, well connected by train and bus routes from these places.

Worship hours/ Dharshan Time

  • Morning 6.00.a.m to 12.00 noon
  • Evening 5.00.p.m. to 10.00 night

ARDHAJAAMAM (night) pooja starts at 9:00pm with abhishekam and ends at 10:00pm ( Appro. Timings )

Temple architect: Viduvelvidugu Perumtaccan, respected clan of traditional Vishwakarmas

5 Holiest shiva temples (Pancha Bootha Sthalas) each representing the five natural elements;

  • Chidambaram represents akasha (aether / sky).
  • Thiruvanaikaval Jambukeswara,Trichy (water),
  • Kanchi Ekambareswara (earth) Kanchipuram,
  • Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswara (fire), Thiruvanna malai and
  • Kalahasti Nathar (wind),Kalahasti


  • The temple sculptures depicting the Thillai trees date back to the 2nd century CE
  • 1213 AD – Aragalur Udaya Iraratevan Ponparappinan (alias Vanakovaraiyan) rebuilt the Siva temple at Chidambaram. The same Bana Chief also built Tiruvannamalai temple.
  • Pallava/Chola emperors in ancient and pre-medieval periods done renovations


  • The temple has been traditionally administered by an endogamous group of shiavite brahmins called Dikshitar, who also officiate as its priest.

Temple Story
The story of Chidambaram begins with the legend of 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 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 ‘Pitchatanadar’, a simple mendicant seeking alms. He is followed by his Grace and consort who is Lord Vishnu as Mohini. 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’ (Sanskrit: Nāga) 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 shawl 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 the truth and he is beyond magic and rituals.

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 who meditated in the Himalayas during krita age 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). The story of sage Patanjali as well as his great student sage Upamanyu is narrated in both Vishnu Puranam as well as Siva Puranam. They move into the Thillai forest and worship Lord Shiva in the form of Shivalinga, a deity worshipped today as Thirumoolataneswarar (Thiru – sri, 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).

The Ananda Tandava Posture
The Ananda Tandava posture of Lord Shiva is one of the famous postures recognized around the world by many. This celestial dancing posture tells us how a Bharathanatium Dancer should dance.

The demon under Nataraja’s feet signifies that ignorance is under his feet
The Fire in this hand (power of destruction) means destroyer of evil
The raised hand signifies that he is the savior of all life.
The Ring at the back signifies the cosmos.
The drum in his hand signifies the origin of Life.

These are the main things that the Natarajar murti and the celestial dance posture depict. A rare type of thandava posture is seemed in Melakadambur temple near by 32 km from here. In this Karakoil, Nataraja dancing on a bull and deva’s rounds the structure it’s an pala art being kept in this shrine

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 appearance of Lord Nataraja, called the Sakala thirumeni.
  • The “semi-form” – the semi-anthropomorphological form as the Crystal linga of Chandramouleswarar, the Sakala nishkala thirumeni.
  • The “formless” – as the Space in Chidambara Rahasyam, an empty space within the sanctum sanctorum, the Nishkala thirumeni.


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

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.
Chidambara Ragasiyam/Rahasyam (Tamil for “secret of Chidambaram”) is a Hindu belief that there is a secret message conveyed through the embossed figure near the shrine of Shiva in Chidambaram temple.

Since ancient times, it is believed that this is the place where Lord Shiva and Parvathi are present, but are invisible to the naked eyes of normal people. In the Chidambaram temple of Lord Nataraja, Chidambara Ragasiyam is hidden by a curtain (Maya). Darshan of Chidambara Ragasiyam is possible only when priests open the curtain (or Maya) for special poojas. People who are privileged to have a darshan of Chidambara Ragasiyam can merely see golden vilva leaves (Aegle Marmelos) signifying the presence of Lord Shiva and Parvathi in front of them.


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 sabhas or diases or halls:

  • the Chit sabhai, which is the sanctum sanctorum housing Lord Nataraja, his consort Goddess Shivagamasundari
  • 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 moorthis (pancha – five, moorthis – 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 sabhais are:

  • the shrines for the original Shivalingam worshipped by Saints Patanjali and Vyagrapathar – called the Thirumoolattaneswarar 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.  This large tank is in the third corridor of the temple opposite to the shrine for Goddess Sivagami.

  • The Paramanandha koobham is the well on the eastern side of the Chitsabhai from which water is drawn for performing pooja in the temple.
  • The Kuyya theertham is situated to the north-east of Chidambaram near Killai near the Bay of Bengal and has the shore called Pasamaruthanthurai.
  • The Pulimadu is situated around a kilometer and a half to the south of Chidambaram.
  • The Vyagrapatha theertham is situated on to the west of the Chidambaram temple opposite the temple of Lord Ilamai akkinaar.
  • The Anantha theertham is to the west of Chidambaram temple in front of the Anantheswarar temple.
  • The Nagaseri is the tank to the west of the Anantha theertham.
  • The Brahma theertham is to the north-west of the Chidambaram temple at Thirukalaanjeri.
  • The Siva piriyai is a tank to the north of the Chidambaram temple and opposite the Brahma chamundeswari temple (aka the Thillai Kali temple).
  • Thiruparkadal is the tank to the south-east of the Siva piriyai.

Govindaraja Shrine
The Chidambaram temple complex houses a shrine for the Lord Govindaraja Perumal and his consort Pundareegavalli Thaayar. This shrine is claimed to be the Thillai Thiruchitrakootam and is one of the 108 divyadesas – 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 agamas 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 golden tiles are fixed using 72000 golden nails which represents the no. of nadis exists in human body. The roof is topped by a set of 9 sacred pots or kalasas, representing the 9 forms of energy. (refer Umapathy Sivam’s Kunchitaangristhavam)

Temple car
The Chidambaram temple car is, perhaps, the most beautiful example of a temple car in all of Tamil Nadu. This car, on which Lord Nataraja descends twice a year, is drawn by several thousand devotees during the festivals.


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

The Deekshithars were supposed to be 3000 ( 2999 actually, with the Lord 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 serve as the chief priest for the day. Married Deekshithars are also entitled a share of the temple’s revenue.

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. The day begins with the Lord’s footwear (padukas) being brought at 7:00am from the Palliyarai (or bedroom) to the sanctum sanctorum in a palanquin accompanied by devotees with cymbals and chimes and drums. The Priest then begins by performing the daily rituals with a yagna and a ‘ Go pujai’ (worship of a cow and her calf).

Worship (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 Shiva is anointed 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 varied and decoratively set lamps, the reciting of Vedas in Sanskrit and the Panchapuranam (a set of 5 poems from a set of 12 works in Tamil – called the panniru thirumurai). The pooja ends with the priest parting the curtains of the sanctum sanctorum to reveal the Chidambara Rahasyam.

Before the 2nd pooja, apart from the regular anointing of the crystal linga, a ruby Nataraja deity (the Rathinasabhapathy) is also anointed. The 3rd pooja is at around 12.00 noon, after which the temple closes until around 4:30pm. The 4th pooja is performed at 6.00 PM, the 5th at 8:00pm and the last pooja of the day is performed at 10:00pm, after which the Lord’s footwear is 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 anointed 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.


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 that included 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 this is not in vogue these days.

Performed every year.


Contact Info:

P Ananthakrishnan : +91 9349944261

G Sundara Deekshithar : +91 9443635280



29.04.2016 Friday CHITHIRAI ONAM 10.30.p.m. @ kanakasabhai
10.07.2016 Sunday AANITHIRUMANJANAM 6.00a.m. @ RAJASABHAI
15.09.2016 Thursday AAVANI CHATHURDHASI 10.30p.m.@ kanakasabhai
14.10.2016 Friday PURATTASI CHATHURDHASI 10.30p.m.@kanakasabhai
11.01.2017 Wednesday AARUDHRAA ABHISHEKAM 6.00a.m. @ RAJASABHAI
11.03.2017, Saturday, MAASI CHATHURDHASI 10.30p.m.@kanakasabhai

01.07.2016 Friday DHWAJAAROHANAM
02. 07.2016 Saturday GOLDEN SOORYAPRABHA
06. 07. 2016 Wednesday SILVER GAJA VAAHANAM
07. 07. 2016 Thursday GOLDEN KAILAASA VAAHANAM
10. 07. 2016 Sunday AANI THIRUMANJANA MAHAABHISHEKAM 3.30a.m., AANI DHARSANAM @ 02.00 noon

02.01.2017 Monday DHWAJAAROHANAM
03.01.2017 Tuesday GOLDEN SOORYAPRABHA
04.01.2017 Wednesday SILVER CHANDRAPARABHA
05.01.2017 Thursday BHOOTHA VAAHANAM
07.01.2017 Saturday SILVER GAJA VAAHANAM
11.01.2017 Wednesday AARDHRA MAHAABHISHEKAM 3.30a.m.,AARUDHRAA DHARSANAM @02.00 noon

18.06.2016 Monday63 NAAYANMAAR UTHSAVAM
24.02.2017 Friday MAHAA SIVA RAATHRI
09.04.2017 Sunday PANGUNI UTTARAM
PRADHOSHAM – 2016 – 2017

APRIL’16 – 19.4.216 Tuesday,
MAY’16 – 04.05.2016 Wednesday, 19.05.2016 Thursday,
JUNE’16 – 02.06.2016 Thursday, 17.06.2016 Friday,
JULY’16 – 02.07.2016 Saturday, 17.07.2016 Sunday, 31.07.2016 Sunday,
AUGUST’16 – 15.08.2016 Monday, 29.08.2016 Monday,
SEPTEMBER’16 – 14.09.2016 Wednesday, 28.09.2016 Wednesday,
OCTOBER’16 – 13.10.2016 Thursday, 28.10.2016 Friday,
NOVEMBER’16 – 12.11.2016 Saturday, 26.11.2016 Saturday,
DECEMBER’16 – 11.12.2016 Sunday, 26.12.2016 Monday,

JANAURY’17 – 10.01.2017 Tuesday, 25.01.2017 Wednesday,
FEBRAURY’17 – 08.02.2017 Wednesday, 24.02.2017 Friday,
MARCH’17 – 14.03.2017 Friday, 25.03.2017 Saturday,
APRIL’17 – 08.04.2017 Saturday.

Daily Pooja Time:

[PADHUKA (Lord’s footwear) being brought from palliyarai to sanctum santorum in a palanquin]

7.00.a.m. MAHA AARTHI

7.45 9.00.a.m. KALASANDHI POOJA ( first pooja of the day)
[During the time kalasandhi homam, spatika linga abhishekam and maha aarthi] 11.00.a.m. IRANDAAM KAALAM ( 2nd pooja of the day)
[During the time spatika linga abhishekam & Rathna sabhapathi-Rubi Natarajar abhishekam] 12.00noon UCHIKAALAM (3rd pooja of the day)
[During the time spatika linga abhishekam and aarthi and the Temple will be closed]

5.15p.m. to 6.00.p.m. SAAYARAKSHAI ( 4th pooja of the day)
[During the time spatika linga abhishekam and shotasopachaara aarthi] 8.00.p.m. IRANDAAM KAALAM (5th pooja of the day)
[During the time spatika linga abhishekam,chidambara rahasya pooja, maha aarthi]

9.00.p.m. to 10.00.p.m. ARDHAJAAMAM (6th and last pooja of the day)
[During the time spatika linga abhishekam, maha aarthi and then PADHUKA comes back
to palliyarai in a palanquin, maha aarthi at palliyarai, chandeswarar aarthi, bhairavar aarthi, Ardhajaama sundharar aarthi]

Ashtoththara sathanaama
Sammelana sahasranaama
Panchakshara Thrisathi
Pancha mukha sahasranaama
Ekasamaya Lakshaarchanaa

Chandhramouleeswara spatikalinga abishekam
Rathnasahapathy abishekam
SwarnaAakarshanaBhairava abishekam
Mahanyaasa poorvaka Rudhraabishekam
Mahaarudhrajapa yagna sahitha mahaarudhram
Athirudhrajapa yagna sahitha athirudhram

Other Kainkaryams
Annapaavaadai mahaaneivedhyam
Mokshadheepam (for ancestors)
Sahasra Bhojanam
Visit Chidambaram, enjoy the culture and traditions, classical dance perfomrances, know chidambara rahasyam and be blessed.

Live happily