Cidambaram - Shiva temple
This is the original temple dedicated to the Nataraja form of Lord Siva (the Celestial Dancer), where Lord Siva is found in his famous Ananda Tandavam dancing pose, with one leg in the air and having four arms. He defeated goddess Kali in a dance contest.
It is a huge temple, which takes up an area of about 40 acres. It is said that there has been a temple here for thousands of years. A Kashmiri king, Simhavarman II (550-575 AD), came here in the 6th century in the hope that by bathing in the tank near the ancient Nataraja Temple he would be cured of leprosy.
After bathing in the tank, he quickly became cured. He then arranged to have the temple enlarged and the 3,000 priest who had come with him from Kashmir stayed to serve in the temple. The priests are known as Dikshitars and they have a knot of hair in the front of their heads. They marry amongst themselves. The present 10th century temple was begun during the reign of Vira Chola Raja. The temple was expanded over the next 500 years.
The western gopuram, which has 108 dance poses on it, dates from the 12th century. The eastern gopuram, which is covered with elaborate sculptures, dates from the 13th century. Raja Krishnadeva Raya of Vijayanagar reconstructed the temple in 1520. The outer wall is 550m (1800 ft) long and 450m (1480 ft) east to west.
The temple is spectacular with four huge gopurams towering almost 50m (165 ft) high. The north and south gopurams are 49 metres high. The east and west temple gopurams are elaborately carved with the 108 classical dancing postures of Nataraja. Siva is believed to have invented 108 different dances out of which the most famous is the “Tandava.”
Non-Hindus are technically not allowed in the inner sanctum. The Dikshitars act as the guides for the temple. It may be a good idea to hire one because they can enable you to bypass the ban on temple entry. The temple is in the northern part of the city. It takes at least an hour to see it.
The temple is open from 4 am to 12 noon and 4.30 pm to 9 pm. The evening 6 pm puja is the most interesting. On Friday nights, Nataraja is carried on a palanquin in procession, with priests triumphantly carrying tridents and torches. Temple Story The story of the temple is that Kali (Parvati) was once the patron goddess of the Tillai Forest (what is now the city of Chidambaram).