Night view of Chidambaram Temple
Chidambaram ( Tamil.: சிதம்பரம் ) - is a municipal town in Tamil Nadu and the taluk headquarters of the Cuddalore district. It is located in the Kollidam River valley about 11 km from the coast, 20 km from the towns Kollidam and Sirkazhi, 60 km from Karaikal, and 240 km south of Chennai by rail . It has an average elevation of 3 metres (9 ft). Chidambaram is a major pilgrimage site for Shaivites as well as Vaishnavites, where one of the holiest and most ancient temples of Hinduism is located.
The ancient Chidambaram Temple (Tamil: சிதம்பரம் கோயில் ) is dedicated to Lord Shiva in His form of the Cosmic Dancer (Nataraja, Tamil: நடராசர்). It is one of the five Dancing Halls (Sabha) of Nataraja and the most famous one. Chidambaram is the Kanaka (Golden)Sabha. It is also one of the panchabhoota sthalams - representing five basic elements. This is the Akasa Sthalam representing 'Space' among the Pancha Bootha Sthalams. For Saivites all over the world this is the most important Siva Temple. The stand-alone word "Kovil" would automatically mean Chidambaram Temple to Saivites. The others are – Tiruvannamalai (Thejo sthalam - Fire) Kanchipuram (Prithvi sthalam - Earth) Kalahasti (Vayu sthalam - Air) Tiruvanaikaval (Trichy) (Appu sthalam - Water).
The word Chidambaram may be derived from chit, meaning "consciousness", and ambaram, meaning "sky" (from aakasam or aakayam); it refers to the chidaakasam, the sky of consciousness, which is the ultimate aim one should attain according to all the Vedas and scriptures. Another theory is that it is derived from chit + ambalam. Ambalam means a "stage" for performing arts. The chidakasam is the state of supreme bliss or aananda and Lord Natarajar is the symbolic representation of the supreme bliss or aananda natanam. Saivaites believe that a visit to Chidambaram leads to liberation. Yet another theory is that it is derived from the word chitrambalam, from chithu meaning "play or dances of God" and ambalam meaning "stage"
The Temples at Kalahasti, Kanchipuram and Chidambaram all stand on a straight line at 79' 45" East longitude - truly an engineering, astological and geographical wonder. The Chidambaram temple houses the Akasha Lingam of Shiva and is considered one of the greatest Shiva Temples of Tamil Nadu. The Govindaraja shrine adjacent to the Nataraja Shrine was constructed in 1639 C.E. by a Cholas.Nataraja in Chidambaram Temple has been sung by many Tamil Saints including the Tevaram Trio - Sambanthar, Tirunavukkarasar, Sundaramurti Swamigal. Manikkavacakar attained Mukti in Chidambaram by becoming one with Nataraja. The other Saiva Saint of importance who attained Mukti here is Nandanar. Nandanar, born in a caste of untouchables became exalted by his bhakti, that even the most conservative brahmins of Chidambaram worshipped him. Chidambaram hosts the most ancient set of the 108 Karana stone carvings, the key dance movements of Nataraja. The temple complex is spread over 40 acres (160,000 m2) in the heart of the city. Many thousands of devotees come to this auspicious temple to pay homage to the Dancing Siva.
The Temple houses the Shiva and Vishnu in the same complex,where a devotee can have darshan of Lord Shiva and Lord Govindaraja(Lord Vishnu) from a single place. The Govindaraja temple is also among the 108 dhivya desams of Vaishnavites. The famous Natyanjali festival is held in the Nataraja temple complex every year during Maha shivaratri.Bharatanatyam dancers from different parts of the world offer their prayers to Lord Nataraja and perform in the temple complex
The nearest airport to Chidambaram is at Trichy at a distance of around 160 km. It takes around three and half-hours to reach here from Trichy by road.
Chidambaram has its own railway head and lies on the Chennai- Trichy, Chennai - Rameshwaram broad gauge line. The stations are connected to most cities of Southern India and most passenger trains have a halt at Chidambaram station. Click here to check train timings
Chidambaram is well connected to all cities of Tamil Nadu with a good network of roads. State transport busses ply in and out of Chidambaram with regular frequency.
Local transportation is not a problem as lot of busses, taxis and auto-rickshaws are active inside the city.
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