Cidambaram Temple in South India played important role
in the lives of many saints and poets. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu also
visited this place during His travels 500 years ago. "Cid" means "human
thinking" or "consciousness" and "ambaram" means "expanding skies".
"Cidambaram" means something like "expanding consciousness".
Cidambaram is a home of famous Sabhanayaka Nataraja, Shiva as
the „Celestial Dancer”. The temple was built by Vira Chola Raj
also known as Simhavarman in 10th century. Before he became crowned
king, he suffered prolonged disease. While touring the country,
he came to a hunter who told him about self-manifested Shiva-linga
in Tallai forest - Cidambaram.
went there and met Vyaghrapad and Patanjali sages. They told him
to bathe in sacred lake Shivagangi (presently the large tank on
the north side of the temple) and to worship Shiva-linga to get
rid of the disease. He did so and his disease was immediately cured.
His body complexion also became golden yellow and from this time
on he was also known as Himayavarman. After coronation he returned
to this forest and with great wealth built a temple for Lord Shiva
and other Gods who witnessed Shiva's dance in past ages.
His successors continued the worship and additional construction
of the area. King Krishnadev Raj from Vijayanagar for instance
reconstructed the whole complex in 1520.
But the history of this holy place is much older...
Kali was once the patron of the goddess of the Tallai Forest
and she didn't like Shiva's presence in the forest. Therefore
she challenged him for dancing conquest and the loser had to leave
the forest. Lord Vishnu was the judge. Kali was dancing beautifully,
but only to the point when Shiva began his ananda-tandavam dance.
When she saw it, she didn't wait for the decision, turned red
and left. Vishnu declared Shiva to be the best dancer in the universe.
Nataraja is Lord Shiva as "Master of Celestial Dancers" and his
dance form "ananda-tandava" with one leg up and four arms became
the model for many other Deities and statues all over the world
||Cidambaram is according to Puranas the place where Shiva manifested his joyful form of the dancer (paramanantha) many centuries ago.
||The temple is monumental
and attractive also because of its almost 50 m high gopurams (temple
towers or domes).
||East and West gopurams are decorated with 108 Shiva statues in classical dancing postures. Shiva is said to invent 108 dancing styles and "tandava" is the most famous.
The Cidambaram Temple is unique because from one place in the
sanctum one can have darshan of Nataraja and Vishnu at the same
time. Near the main Shiva's temple there is a smaller Govindaraj
(Vishnu) Temple and Deities of Partha Sarathi are also worshipped
From this we can see that Vaishnavas can offer respect to Lord Shiva and Shaivities can respect Lord Vishnu and both communities can live peacefully next to each other.
The temple complex covers 13 hectares and it is located in the
center of the city. One can see also a hall of 1000 monolith granite
pillars, which is opened only at certain times of the year. The
priests worship also another aspects of Lord Shiva including his
angry form; there is sanctum of Nandi, Shiva's bull carrier, and
one of the biggest Deities of Ganesh, Shiva's son.
||We can see also sculptures
of two Shiva's devotees: sage Patanjali in snake body and Vyaghrapada
in human body with tiger's legs and the svayambhu-linga, which they
worshipped. On their request Shiva agreed to accept worship in this
form for the benefit of the world and his devotees.
In Cidambaram we can see practically how local people can live
in peace and harmony in today's world of changes. 300 families
are employed in the temple to help with its functioning. Puja
(worship) is done strictly according the Vedic rites and brahmanas
(priests) receive no salary for their service. The temple holds
several festivals a year, but most important is, of course, Shiva
ratri, lasting 10 days.
Western visitors can watch ceremonies and take pictures of almost
everything except the Deities, but entrance to inner sanctum is
granted to born Hindus only. But some devotees from the West managed
to make friends with the priest and see it. The priest also serves
as a guides and it may be beneficial hire one.
||Each Friday Nataraja takes
a ride on the palanquin around the temple along the procession with
torches and tridents. This is taking place in the evening just before
||Cidambaram is 68 km from