In Tamil, Temples are known better as “Kovil”. In turn we can split it as Kovil = KO + IL. Ko refers to king, and Il refers to Home. In short, Kovil can be translated as House of King.
For a shivite, Kovil always refers to Chidambaram Nataraja Temple. Had an unexpected trip to Chidambaram Nataraja after more than 15 years recently. Since it happened when I was planning to start this blog, I preferred to pen it down first.
In Shivism, there are only 2 Rajas, Chidambaram Nataraja, and Thiruvarur Thiyagaraja. Both temples have very rich value, heritage and tradition.
Significance of Chidambaram:
Chidambaram figures in two important lists in hinduism:
1) Aagaya sthalam(sky) in pancha bhootha sthalams (dedicated to five elements of fire, earth, sky, air and water)
2) Por sabhai (Golden sabha), in the list of pancha sabhas of shiva.
History of Chidambaram and Adalvallan Shrine:
In olden times, there was a dense forest of Thillai trees, and the forest belonged to Godess Kali. Once, dance combat broke out between Shiva and Kali, to find out the superior among them. Brahma and Vishnu were appointed judges to witness the dance and pronounce judgement. After long dances, since Kali was equal in dance, Shiva finally made his Ear-ring fall from his Right ear, took it again while dancing with his Right leg, and wore it with his leg itself. This particular thandavam is Urthuva Thandavam, and there is a separate shrine inside the Nataraja temple campus.
Poor Godess Kali, she was not like our modern day womenhood. Feeling shy to lift her leg above neck before two male judges, one being her brother (Vishnu), and other being His son (Brahma was created by Vishnu, say puranas), she conceded defeat, left Thillai Vanam, and went to the corner of the forest. Even today, we can see Thillai Kali temple. I will write about it in next blog.
Now that Kali was defeated, Nataraja gave his Thandava darshan to two great maharishis, Pathanjali and Vyakrapadha. This is in the mail sanctum, Known as Anandha Thandavam. This is excellent to see in lamps lit inside. Awesome !!! Nataraja stands on his Right leg and has his left leg tossed up ! Nearby Nataraja, we have Godess in his left hand side, called by name Sivagami Ambal. And to his right, is the famous Chidambara Rahasyam!
Chidambara Rahasyam: Though its called Rahasyam, the Deekshithar who did poojas to the Moolava and Ambal, explained it as “The God Nataraja’s yantra has been made pradhishtai here in Mantra roopa, behind the golden bilva leaves. Actually there is no physical form for the yantra. And Nataraja is believed to dance behind this Bilva leaves Eternally !!!” The complete rahasyam of Chidambaram, though pronounced by many scholars in different ways, is not known to any human, is my humble opinion. It should have been coded by Maharishis in Vedas and Puranas, and no human would have understood it properly.
Photo Courtesy : http://www.thiruchitrambalam.org
The Gold plating of this complete shrine is a feast to our eyes.
In the temple: Reached the temple around 5.45 in the evening. As per the normal procedure, I first went to the Sivagangai Theertham and fed puffed rice to the fishes in temple pond. Photos below.
Photo Courtesy : http://www.thiruchitrambalam.org
Urthuva thandavam was depicted in one pillar, and Kali on the other.
When I slowly walked towards the Nataraja shrine, Mahishasura Mardhini on the compound caught my eyes. Very good sculpture to see and pray. And then this rishi caught my eye. Seemed to be like Agasthya, but couldn’t identify, since the left hand was broken. Dutifully I offered him a banana, and walked towards the Nataraja Shrine.
When I entered, there were two seperate queues. One before the main sanctum, and other was on the left side of the deity. And, when I watched the second queue, Wow !!! The chief priest of the day, a person around 25, was doing Abhishegam to a small, elegant Spatika linga, Chandramouleeswara. It was around 6 pm. So, possibly Sayaratcha pooja. When I joined the queue, they closed the door, and opened it again in a couple of minutes. The next abhishegam was of plain white Rice, “Annabhishegam”! This is only done on Aippasi month Full moon day across Tamil nadu. Seems the ritual is daily affair there in Chidambaram.
After some poojas, they kept the Lingam in a silver box and took it inside. Sayaratcha started for Nataraja. You will need a thousand eyes to see the beauty of the deity in the lamps. The pooja went on for 15-20 mins. Slowly I went around the praharam, and offered prayers to other lords there.
Just in the same campus, opposite Nataraja sanctum, we have Govindharaja Shrine. Palli konda perumal / Vishnu in laying posture resides here. Its one of the 108 Divya desams of Vaishnavites, I was told. On the way out in the praharam, I saw “Nritta Sabha”, to remind us of the dancing combat, and a seperate shrine for Urthuva thandavam. After a satisfactory darshan in all shrines in this praharam, came out of Nataraja campus. It was almost 7pm.
Inquired quickly on Goshala and went there to feed cows with bananas. Was very happy to see a Deekshithar there also. Being a doctor by profession, he has taken incharge of the Goshala, and he is maintaining it. I could see a distinct affection in his voice, when he called out cows by names, and surprisingly, the cow he called stepped out, got the banana, and went inside. Military discipline 🙂
Since it was getting late, went to the Sivagama sundari shrine. Offered my prayers, and came out. Between, there are excellent shrines for Mukkuruni Vinayagar, Swarnagarshana Bhairava, Muruga with his consorts, nava veerargal in Muruga shrine, with Agasthiya Rishi and many others. I did feel, one whole day is necessary for praying in this temple !
Came back to the Nataraja Shrine around 8pm. It was time for complete Ardhajama pooja, closing prayers of the day. Crowd was also less. Had a complete darshan of the pooja, and slowly walked out at 8.30pm.
Note: There are good accomodations available, and vegetarian food which are excellent available. Plan your trip 🙂
Preparations: Buy flowers (Nataraja + Sivagama sundari + Vishnu Shrine), bilva leaves (Nataraja), bananas for cows in Goshala (15+) and puffed rice for fishes in temple pond. Interested may buy ghee and give it in the sannidhis. Deekshithars will accept it.