Chidambaram Lord Nataraja Temple Architecture

Chidambaram Temple Architecture

Chidambaram Temple Architecture

Architecture of Chidambaram Temple Architecture

The Gopurams

The temple has 9 gateways, and four of these have towers or gopurams each with 7 levels in the East, South, West and North. The eastern gopuram has all the 108 "kinetic units" (karanas) of Indian classical dance – 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 Thiru Aadhimoolanathar and his consort Umaiyammai (உமையம்மை) or Umaiya parvathi

  • The shrines for the 63 prime devotees of Lord Siva – or the Arubaththu moovar

  • The shrines for Sivagami – an embodiment of knowledge or Gyanashakthi

  • 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 (160,000 m2) houses the temple tank – called the Sivaganga (சிவகங்கை). 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.

Significance of the temple design

The layout and architecture of the temple is replete with philosophical meanings.

  • The place where temple located is the center point of world's magnetic equator.

  • Three of the five Panchaboothasthala Temples, those at Kalahasti, Kanchipuram and Chidambaram all stand on a straight line exactly at 79' 43" East longitude - truly an engineering, astrological and geographical wonder. Of the other two Temples, Tiruvanaikkaval is located at around 3 degrees to the south and exactly 1 degree to the west of the northern tip of this divine axis, while Tiruvannamalai is around midway( 1.5 degree to the south and 0.5 degree to the west ).

  • 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)

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