Chidambaram Natarajar Temple (Cuddalore - Tamil Nadu)

As I said in my last post, I recently went to Chidambaram for a friend's wedding. The evening of the wedding, I went to the place where everyone else would go and also went to another place where no one else would go. 
Ok, first the place where everyone would go - Thillai Natarajar Temple
Named Thillai after the plant Thillai which grows excessively at Pichavaram. This place is also called Perumbatra Puliyur. Remember Karur Thevar Samadhi from one of my previous posts? He had referred to this place as 'Enbellam urugum anbartham kootatthu ennaiyum punarppavan koil', which means 'This is the temple where the Lord embraces all his devotees who pray his with ultimate devotion, including me'. 
The main deity here is Lord Shiva at his dancing best as Lord Nataraja. The Goddess here is Sivakami Amman. This place as a sacred place ever since time immemorial, however the actual temple construction took over a long period from Pallava, Pandya, Chola, Vijayanagara and Nayaks. It is said to have been begun to built by Simhaverma aka Iranyaverma. Later on during the Chola dynasty, this temple was further developed by 2nd Kulothunga Chola, Vikrama Chola, 3rd Kulothunga Chola, during 11th to 13th C AD.

The temple is in an area of 51 acres. Yeah, its a sprawling space, which is well lit and in that space during evenings I spotted several school and college kids with their books, studying!!!
Like most other temples, this too has 4 entrances with a towering Raja Gopurams upon all 4. Each of those are 135 ft tall with 7 stories. Each entrance itself is 40 feet high. I entered this temple always from the Eastern Entrance, thanks to the location of my hotel! 
As I walked to the in, I couldn't help but notice the gorgeous 108 karanas (poses) of Bharathanayam sculpted on either sides as reliefs. It was marvellous! That was not all, just above each karana was an inscription of 2 lines, explaining that karana!!!
The karana above is called Adhikrantham and the one below is called Viruchikakuthitham!!! 
This one is Vishnukrantham, the 100th pose. Yeah, I know - But its neither Greek nor Latin, its Sanskrit!!!
Another specialty here is the amazing murals at the ceiling of the Maha Mandapam of Sivakami Amman Shrine. The central part of the ceiling has new paintings. The old must have been mindlessly lost!!! But then, on either sides (the ceiling is divided in 3 equal parts), the Nayak period paintings of 16th & 17th Century, still survive with all glory. I couldn't help but observe the apparel of the women depicted. Sorry, the designer in me pops up often. Women wore transparent outfits with beautiful prints & amazing borders on them!!! Pics weren't allowed inside, so I couldn't click. But then, it was a visual delight. I must have spent about 2 hours within the temple, of that almost more than 20mins were spent staring at those murals!!! It depicts the way the temple was built and the legend behind it. It astonished me to see the temple plan depicted there! The best part, the last panel of the left (as when you're facing the entrance), is a huge panel depicting the Kanaka Sabhai and Aagaya Lingam!!!
The other shrines here at the outer circum-ambulation passages are of Mukkuruni Vinayakar, Karpaka Vinayakar, Subrahmaniyar, Somasundarar Navalingam (The 9 Lingams prayed by the Navagraha (9 planets)) etc. There is a centrally placed Temple Tank. 
If you get into the inner circum-ambulation passage through the eastern side, the first thing to be noticed on either sides is the Purushaa Mirugam (human faced, animal bodied) sculptures. The inner passage has this most important place elevated platform called Narthana Sabhai or The Dance Court. Its hard to miss, thanks to its amazingly intricate sculptures. Every pillar was unique and it was all filled with several several little figures and each figure was hardly the size of a finger!!! And the best part, figures in that size were dancing!!!!! Beside was the Sarabeshwarar shrine. Remember, the Sarabeshwarar who was the specialty of the Madambakkam temple? Later on there were shrines of Nalvar, Mallikarjunar, Dakshinamurthy, 63 Nayanmars etc. 
This is a unique temple that houses both the shrines of Siva and Vishnu together. The Lord Vishnu here is called Govindaraja Perumal. Quite unusually the Lord Nataraja here is seen facing south.
There are 2 main specialities of this temple. One is that this is one of the 'Pancha Sabhai's or the 5 Courts, and this one is called the Kanaka Sabhai. It has 18 pillars to denote the 18 Puranas. The other specialty is that this is one of the 'Pancha Bootha Kshetra' or the 'Temples of 5 Elements', and this one is a 'Aagaya Sthalam' or the 'Temple of Sky'. To see that special place we had to take a ticket of Rs.50. Then once inside, there were a few layers of golden Vilva Flowers hung onto the ceiling. This is to depict that Lord's not here in any form but totally formless in the sky. If you get lucky with the timing, you may spot a priest, just outside the Shrine, praying a Maragadha (Emerald) Lingam!
The priests here in this temple are unique when compared to the priests else where. Here they are called Deekshithars. Both men and women have a side bun while regular priests have a back pony. They were 3000 in number or rather 2999 with the 3000th as Lord Nataraja himself. They're called the Thillam Moovayiram Deekshithargal. But now only 300 survive!!!
Coming back soon with the road less travelled or should I say temple less visited???

To Chidambaram:
From Chennai: 220 km via ECR, Pondicherry, Cuddalore
From Trichy: 157 km on NH227 via Jayamkondan, Palayamkottai
From Pondicherry: 70 km via Cuddalore

Hotels, dorms, lodges at all price points are available at Chidambaram town.


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 78 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of Sept 2020. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands


  1. Beautiful narration Bhusha. Got to visit the temple sometime.

  2. Rs.50 collected by the deekshithars is exhorbitant.
    If you fall prey, they snap out huge money from you saying speical rituals etc.,
    Take care on that.

  3. Lovely pictures and nice description.

  4. did you check out the nadi-jothidam while you were there?

  5. @Niranjan,
    Do visit, you'll like it for sure.... :)

    I don't think this Rs.50 is exhorbidant. And that's only for a closer view of the Aagaya Lingam. Free view is from a little farther...

    @Team G,
    Thanks dears.. :)

    No dear. I am not a believer of those!!!


  6. Really nice blog, very well written. Especially the night pic of the temple is simply awesome.

  7. beautiful photos with nice narration

    thanks busha

  8. Marvellous temple and photos!

  9. Nice post. Chidamabaram is such a marvelous temple. Visited about a year ago but it was night time hence missed out on many salient aspects. Plan to visit again on a day trip. Your post will be very useful guide.

  10. @Pooja,
    Thank you so much dear.. :)

    Thanks Krish... :)

    Thanks love.. :)

    @Ram Sir,
    Oh... Do visit in day time, you need a whole day to see each n every sculptural aspect of the temple....

  11. Nice article, It is quite amazing to know that the Chidambaram Temple has many unknown and interesting facts. Read this interesting article that enlights on the those interesting facts of the Chidambaram Temple.

  12. Good to know about Chidambaram. It is a small industrial conurbation well-known for its historic shrines and great architectural inheritance. It is famous for religious significance for Hindus. You can check out many other places to visit in Chidambaram.


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