Dancing with Siva in Chidambaram
October 14, 2013 • Photography & Travel, Spiritual Adventures
The second stop on our March 2014 Spiritual Adventure will be the town of Chidambaram, famous for the grandiose Thillai Nataraja Temple, which we will be sure to fully explore. The temple expands across 40 acres of land and was rebuilt by the Chola Dynasty in the 13th century as a way to pay homage to the Hindu supreme god Siva.
The name ‘Chidambaram’ “refers to the philosophy and doctrine of the temple. Cit means consciousness or wisdom. Ambaram signifies ether in Sanskrit, but in Tamil the ambalam means hall. The name unifies two aspects of the doctrine as it means both Hall of Wisdom, as well as the place of the Ether of Consciousness.” See The Temple of Dancing Siva by Raja Deekshithar.
At the center of the temple is situated the sanctum sanctorum or Cit Sabha, where a gorgeous statue of Nataraja stands and has been worshipped for centuries. Without a doubt it is the most powerful place within the temple complex, and as one of our past spiritual adventurers remarked after worshipping here: “God truly lives here”. The Cit Sabha, Siva’s dance and Chidambaram are also prominently mentioned in the Tirumantiram of sage Tirumular (one of eight disciples of Maharishi Nandinatha – the other most widely known disciple is sage Patanjali), an important religious and philosophical text in ancient Tamil, dating about 2,200 years ago. A few centuries later the temple and its Lord are often mentioned by poets of the Tevaram, especially Appar and Sambandar (7th century) and by Manikavasakar (8th century).
The first historical kings to take credit for the gilded roof of the Cit Sabha were Chola Aditya I (871-907) and his son Parantaka I (907-955). By this time the temple had already become immensely important.
Nataraja is the dancing form of Siva. “The symbolism of Śiva Naṭarāja is religion, art and science merged as one. In God’s endless dance of creation, preservation, destruction and paired graces is hidden a deep understanding of our universe. Inside the temple we will find many different shrines dedicated to other deities such as Vishnu, Muruga and Ganesha.
The architecture of the temple is something to note: 28 pillars hold up the sanctum sanctorum in acknowledgement of the 28 formal ways to worship Siva. Looking towards the roof, we will find 21,600 pure gold tiles, matching the number of breaths a person takes in one day. There are precisely 72,000 gold nails which reflect the psychic nerve currents, or nadis, that carry energy throughout the body.
There is so much to explore inside and around the temple. Too much to describe here, which means you will have to join us and experience it for yourself. Find your own inner Nataraja as you dance through the temples, marveling at the architecture, the history, and the pure magic of this life-transforming temple.
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