town in Tamil Nadu, India

Chidambaram is a town and municipality in Cuddalore district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is the headquarters of the Chidambaram taluk. The town is believed to be of significant antiquity and has been ruled, at different times, by the Pallavas until 9th century, Medieval Cholas, Later Cholas, Later Pandyas, Vijayanagar Empire, Marathas and the British. The town is known for the Thillai Nataraja Temple, and the annual chariot festival held in the months of December–January (In the Tamil month of Marghazhi known as "Margazhi Urchavam") and June to July (In the Tamil month of Aani known as "Aani Thirumanjanam").


  • Sages such as Sri Aurobindo who have meditated on Hindu iconography, and savants such as Ananda Coomara-swamy, Stella Kramrisch, and Alice Boner who have studied the subject, assure us that the forms and features of Hindu icons have a source higher than the normal reaches of the human mind. The icons are no photocopies of any human or animal forms as we find them in their physical frames. They are in fact crystallizations of the abstract into the concrete, of the infinite into the finite. They always point beyond themselves, and a contemplation of them always draws us from the outer to the inner. Hindu Šilpašãstras lay down not only technical formulas for carving holy icons in stone, and metal, and other materials. They also lay down elaborate rules about how the artist is to fast, and pray, and otherwise purify himself for long periods before he is permitted, if at all, to have a psychic image of the God or Goddess whom he wants to incarnate in a physical form. It is this sublime source of the Šilpašãstras which alone can explain a Sarnath Buddha, or a Chidambram Natarãja, or a Vidisha Varãha, to name only a few of the large assembly of divine images inhabiting the earth. It is because this sublime source is not accessible to modern sculptors that we have to be content with poor copies which look like parodies of the original marvels.
    • S.R. Goel, Defence of Hindu Society, Chapter 5
  • The Chidambaram temple is dedicated to Nataraja, dancing Shiva. It is also one of the five important places of pilgrimage that represents one of the five elements. Chidambaram represents space. This is why when we enter the inner temple for darshan we can see that to the right of the image of Nataraja in the sanctum is a circular arch under which there is no image but from which hangs a string of golden vilva leaves which represents Shiva as akasha, or the element of air or ether... According to the Puranas, this temple is where Lord Shiva exhibited his cosmic (Paramanantha, very joyful) dance to many demigods and sages thousands of years ago. After the dance, the sages Patanjali and Vyagrapada requested him to accept worship and exhibit his dance forever in this place for the good of his devotees. Thus, Shiva granted their request for the benefit of the world. Though the present temple was built in the 10th century C.E., the history of this place dates back much further.
    • Knapp Stephen, Spiritual India Handbook (2011)
  • This temple has played a great part in the lives of many saints and poets of the past. Sri Chaitanya also visited this temple nearly 500 years ago. Chidambaram is where you can see how the people of India find harmony and peace in a world full of changes. The people are usually friendly and enthusiastic for sharing what they get in their abandonment for the soul. Here, or in any holy city of India, the people know why they are in this world, how they fit into it, and who they are. They may have much less than most Westerners have, materially speaking, but they have much less to worry about as well and are often happier. I actually felt quite at home here.
    • Knapp Stephen, Spiritual India Handbook (2011)
  • Here he heard that in Brahmastpuri there was a golden idol, round which many elephants wore stabled. The Malik started on a night expedition against this place, and in the morning seized no less then two hundred and fifty elephants. He then determined on razing the beautiful temple to the ground – ‘you might say that it was the Paradise of Shaddad which, after being lost, those hellites had found, and that it was the golden Lanka of Ram,’ – ‘the roof was covered with rubies and emeralds’, - ‘in short, it was the holy place of the Hindus, which the Malik dug up from its foundations with the greatest care… and heads of the Brahmans and idolaters danced from their necks and fell to the ground at their feet,’ and blood flowed in torrents. ‘The stone idol called Ling Mahadeo which had been a long time established at that place and on which the women of the infidels rubbed their vaginas for [sexual] satisfaction, these, up to this time, the kick of the horse of Islam had not attempted to break.’ The Musalmans destroyed all the lings, ‘and Deo Narain fell down, and the other gods who had fixed their seats there raised their feet, and jumped so high, that at one leap they reached the fort of Lanka, and in that affright the lings themselves would have fled had they had any legs to stand on.’ Much gold and valuable jewels fell into the hands of the Musalmans, who returned to the royal canopy, after executing their holy project, on the 13th of Zi-l Ka’da, AH 710 (April 1311 AD)...

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