|Location||In Chidambaram which lies 68 km south of Pondicherry on the way to Thanjavur|
|Dedicated To||Lord Nataraja or Shiva|
|Significance||Celestial Dancer form of Lord Shiva|
|Also Known as||Sabhanayaka Nataraja Temple|
This is the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva found in his famous dancing pose with one leg in the air and consisting of four arms. The temple is honoured to Lord Shiva in his aspect of Nataraja or the form of the celestial Dancer. Lord Shiva is seen in the Ananda Tandavam dancing position. The position is taken from his victory upon Goddess Kali whom he defeated in the competition at the Tillai forest judged by Lord Vishnu himself.
The temple was built during the reign of the Vira Chola Raja In the 10th century. Krishnadeva of the Vijayanagar Kingdom reconstructed it in the year 1520 AD. The deity of Lord Shiva is made of five metals and in his hands are seen the drums of creations and the flames of destructions.
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The Temple is in the northern part of the city with its outer walls about 1800 ft long. Spectacular to be viewed from outside, it consists of four Gopurams or towers measuring up to 50 meters. The north and the south Gopurams is 49m each. The Gopurams are elaborately carved with 108 classical dancing postures of the Nataraja, the most famous being the Tandava. The local Brahmans act as the Dikshitars and guides of the temple. To the western Gopuram, there is the tank of Shiva Ganga measuring 315 ft. A shrine in the name of the nine planets are positioned in front of the northern Gopurams. Also there is a 13th century temples in honour of Kartikeya to the north west part.
The temple has five halls having 1000 pillars and 340 ft in height. The pillars are intricately carved with granite monoliths. The halls are significant since the deities of Lord Shiva and the Sundari is brought to the place for Abhisheka or sacred bathing. The Nandi shrine and a deity of Ganesha decorates the southern part of the temple. The eastern side of the temple has the hall of gods or the Deva sabha.
The inner enclosure of the temple also holds a large Divya Desam Vishnu temple that dates back to the 14th century. The shrine there is dedicated to Govindaraja or Lord Vishnu seen reclining on the Ananta Sesa. The inner sanctum of Nataraja has a altar coloured with hammered silver. The roof is gold plated and the doors are of solid silver.
Daily Chores in the Temple
Worship to the Lord starts from early morning till late evening every day. The atmosphere is filled with devotion and dedication to the Celestial Dancer. Complete silence prevail in the inner sanctum which glows with the diyas and the fragrance of the incense sticks.
Two main festivals adore the temple surroundings . One held in the month of May and the other in the month of December. However the best to see is the Natyanjali festival held in February. Dancers from all over the country are seen paying their homage to lord Shiva.
How to reach
By Air: The nearest Airport is in Tiruchirappalli, 167 km south west from the place of Chidambaram.
By Rail: Chidambaram is on the main line of the Southern Railway. There are trains to Madras, Kumbakonam and Thanjore and a direct train to Tirupati.
By Road: There are buses available from Chidambaram to Thanjore, Pondicherry, Madras and Mamallapur.