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Natarajar Temple | History, Architecture, Facts of Natarajar Temple

Go on a Spiritual Tour Enjoying Every Bit of Art at Splendid Natarajar Temple

Located in Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu, the Natarajar temple is one of the prominent Shiva temples, where he is represented as Nataraja, which means the ‘lord of dance’. The significance of the temple lies in the mythical roots, where there was a temple of Lord Shiva when Chidambaram was earlier known as Thillai. The connotation of the word “Chidambaram” in a literary sense is “atmosphere of wisdom”.

The Chidambaram Natarajar temple is situated 78 km south of Pondicherry, while from Chennai it is about 238 km. The temple is so constructed that it epitomizes the divinity with arts, spirituality, and creativity. On observation of the carvings on the wall, one can find the 108 karanas of Natya Shastra formed by Bharata Muni.

The Natarajar temple has its origin in the 10th century when the Cholas ruled the place. Renovations happened during the time and later to make it one of the best-maintained structures in India. It is also one among the holiest temples, representing the ether or sky, one of the five natural elements. The other elements are the earth, fire, air and water represented by the other Shiva temples in South India.

Natarajar Temple

Natarajar Temple | Image Resource : jothishi.com

Marvelous History of Natarajar Temple

There is textual evidence of the existence of the temple in the 5th century showing its ancient roots. However, the town was not called Chidambaram during the time of Sangam tradition. It was in the 6th and early 7th century that the Chidambaram Natarajar was mentioned in the texts of Appar and Sambadar. The Natarajar temple of Chidambaram is however connected to the early Chola dynasty, where Natarajar was the family deity of Cholas.

The temple gained a lot of prominence owing to the ‘dance of bliss’ performed by Lord Shiva according to the Hindu mythology. Various texts throw light on the dance types like ‘Tatva Nidhi’ and dance forms like ‘Kashyapa Silpa’. There is also reference to Bharata Muni’s ancient treatise of Natya Shastra. Thus, Lord Shiva in a dancing form was found across the country, where they dated back to the 6th century or earlier.

The earliest origin of the Chidambaram Shiva temple is found in the 10th century during the reign of Aditya Chola I, as well as Parantaka I, who is characterized as the “bee at the lotus feet of Shiva”. His copper plate inscriptions detail that Parantaka I built a golden house have pillared-halls, (mandapam) such as Chit-sabha, Hema-sabha, Hiranya-sabha and Kanaka-sabha. A lot of temples were reconstructed and built during the periods of these two Chola kings for they greatly supported art.

It was Raja Raja Chola who recovered the hymns of 63 Nayanmars, in the presence of the temple priest Nambiyandar Nambi in the second precinct of Thillai Nataraja temple. This one version, while another version had the Chola king dreamt Lord Shiva asking him to recover the hymns from the temple, which he did by consecrating the idols of 63 Nayanmars brought through a procession and opened the chamber to find the hymns.

The Chidambaram Natarajar temple was taken care of even during the 13th century; nevertheless, several additions were made after that.

Impressive Architecture of Natarajar Temple

This temple in Chidambaram is known for the Dravidian style of architecture. The ‘garbhagriha’ or the sanctum sanctorum is built to resemble the style of structures in Kerala. The Vesara architecture is much seen in the roof, which has an apsidal shape. You can see the temple located on the 40 acres of land. The courtyards showcase concentric layers, with the garbhagriha and pillared-halls or mandapams in squared forms. The temple complex has nine gopurams or towers. There are several shrines dedicated to Vishnu, Devi, Subrahmanian Ganesha, Nandi, Amman, Surya and others.

The gopurams are so artistically designed that they look unique in one way or the other. The art on them depict the stories from Hindu mythology. The ‘anthropomorphic figure panels’ are the highlights of sculpted structures and they are seen on all the gopurams. Some of the panels portray Shiva-Parvati wedding, with other gods and goddesses attending it, Lord Shiva in various forms, dancing Ganesh, and so on. Pandya king has also constructed a gopuram and it is identified by the symbol of two fish facing each other.

Other than the sculptures of scenes in Hindu mythology, there is the eastern gopuram that depicts 108 reliefs of Natya Shastra.

Amazing Facts about Nataraja Temple

It is essential to learn some facts about Natarajar temple.

  • There are texts claiming that the Chidambaram Natarajar temple is built with nine entrances based on the human body, which has nine openings.

  • The temple roof is made using 21600 gold sheets, which shows the number of breaths humans take on a day.

  • There are 72000 gold nails used to fix 21600 sheets and this depicts 72000 nerves in the human body.

  • The 28 pillars in the main temple show the 28 ways of worshipping Lord Shiva.

  • The pillars have 64 plus 64 beams representing 64 arts. These beams denote the blood vessels in the human body.

Festivals of Chidambaram Natarajar Temple

The Natarajar temple has a series of festivals and some of the popular ones are Marghazhi Thiruvaadhira, which is held in December and January. The second pooja is done in the Masi month in February and March. The other special poojas are Chithirai Thiruvonam, Aani Thirumanjanam, and so on.

During the Marghazhi Thiruvaadhira, a procession of the deity is held. Devotees throng the temple and offer prayers.

Get to Know Natarajar Temple Timings

The temple opens at 6 a.m. and closes at 12 p.m. In the morning, there are daily poojas and some of the popular ones are the maha aarti, kalasandhi pooja and irandam kaalam. The temple reopens at 5 p.m. and closes at 10 p.m., after the ardha jamam pooja. You can book for archanas and abhishekams on special days.

How to Reach Chidambaram Natarajar Temple?

There are various means of transport to help you reach Chidambaram Natarajar. Where you are traveling by flight, the nearest airports are the Trichy International Airport and Chennai International Airport at the distance of 195 km and 235 km respectively. From the airport, you can find trains, buses and cabs that take you to the temple.

There are trains from Chennai and other cities that connect Chidambaram. They take 4.30 to 5 hours to reach the town. Other than these, there are regular buses operated by public and private operators, which offer easy connectivity.

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