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I dream of wandering wild, walking along the woods plucking fruits, laze around sublime landscapes. I feel alive when I'm out there basking in the sun, watching new horizons. I'm in search of little joys that keep me revived. I wish to belong in places where I can quench my thirst drinking from brooks, spend the day chasing butterflies, sipping honey, stopping by to coo with the birds. I am in love with cloud-kissed mountains and flowery meadows. Freedom is what I crave for! Set me free so that I’ll come back to you… I'm a dreamer. I believe that my dreams will take me to new places. This blog tells about my journeys and people who had been a part of them..

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Iconic Nataraja Temple of Chidambaram



A visit to this holy Shiva temple located in Chidambaram not only invokes a higher level of spirituality but also urge the visitor to admire the scientific factors considered to build the entire structure. Shiva exists here in the form of a cosmic dancer called Nataraja. The word Chidambaram is derived from the two words ‘Chit’ meaning ‘consciousness’ and ‘ambaram’ meaning ‘sky’ (akasha) and signifies the sky of consciousness, which is the ultimate state one should attempt to attain.

Pancha Bhoota Sthalas are the five temples in South India dedicated to Lord Shiva representing the five natural elements namely earth, water, fire, air and ether (sky). The Lord is worshiped in his manifestation as Sky or Akasha in the famous Thillai Nataraja temple located in Chidambaram. Here, the deity of Shiva is in the form of Nataraja (Lord of dance) performing the Thandava, the cosmic dance form. 

The significance of the Nataraja pose can be explained as follows: the demon under the Lord's feet signifies that ignorance is destroyed, the raised hand depicts that he is savior of life, fire in the rear left hand represents destruction of evil, the raised foot represents salvation, the drum in the hand signifies birth of life and the ring behind depicts the cosmos. It is said that the center point of earth's magnetic equator lies at the foot of this Nataraja shrine.


Temple entrance

The original construction of the temple is believed to be during the early Chola period i.e during the 900 A.D.  Several renovations of the temple structure has taken place in the following years. The temple is located in the heart of the town occupying about 40 acres of land with four gopurams (towers) facing all the 4 directions. Each gopuram has seven storeys with around 50 carved sculptures. 


One of the 4 Gopurams

There are five sabhas in the temple namely - the Kanakasabha, Chit sabha, Nritya sabha, Rajya sabha and Deva sabha. The daily rituals are being performed in the kanakasabha where the deity is situated. The sacred sanctum sanctorum or the kanakasabha is adorned by gold plated roof. The Lord is represented in three forms in the kanakasabha:
1. the anthropomorphic form as the Nataraja or the Sakala tirumeni
2. the semi form i.e the semi-anthropomorphic form as the crystal Linga or the sakala nishkala thirumeni
3. the formless or the Nishkala thirumeni which is an empty space

The Chit sabha is located behind the kanakasabha and this is where the Lord is worshiped without a form. It is believed that next to the Nataraja deity, a black screen is hung and behind this priests and sages having divine vision can see two golden vilwa leaves depicting Lord Shiva and his consort Parvathi. The curtain is removed only during special rituals/poojas. By the term Chidambara rahasya it means that in-order to realize one's inner self a person should remove the curtain of 'Maya' from his mind.

The Nritya sabha or the Natya sabha is believed to be the place where Lord Shiva had danced along with Kali to prove his Supremacy. It has about 56 pillars exhibiting 108 poses of the Bharathanatyam dance form. The Rajya sabha (hall of 1000 pillars) is believed to symbolize the yogic chakra of 1000 petaled lotus and it is the venue for victory celebrations and other ceremonies. The Deva sabha houses the Pancha moorthis Ganesha, Somaskanda, Sivananda nayaki, Muruga and Chandikeswarar. 

Another specialty of the temple is that, in a nearby mandapa named Chitrakoota Lord Vishnu is also enshrined in the reclining yoga nidra pose on the serpent Adishesha. Hence if a person stands on a small lotus sculpture on the floor infront of Vishnu he can also get a view of Nataraja on the right side.

Below are the interesting scientific facts about the interior architecture:

The roof of of the Ponnambalam or Kanaka sabha has been laid with 21600 tiles with inscriptions SIVAYANAMA representing 21600 breaths of a person in a day, the roof has 64 beams denoting 64 forms of art, it held by many cross beams representing the innumerable blood vessels, the golden tiles are fixed with 72000 nails representing the number of nadis (nerves) in the human body, at the top of Chit sabha nine kalasas (sacred pots made of copper) can be found depcting the 9 forms of energy, the roof of Chit sabha is supported by 4 pillars symbolizing 4 vedas, the artha mandapam which has 6 pillars denotes the 6 sastras, and the mandapa next to it has 18 pillars denoting 18 puranas. From Kanaka sabha there are 5 steps leading to Chit sabha which signifies the Panchakshara mantra of Shiva (Na Ma Si Va Ya).

The history of Chidambaram temple starts with the arrival of Lord Shiva to the Thillai (a species of mangrove trees) forest which was spread around the temple location (currently limited to Pichavaram wetlands). Inside the temple sculptures of thillai trees can be seen. A group of saints resided in the Thillai forest believed that God can be controlled by certain rituals and prayers. Lord Shiva arrived in the forest in the form of Pitchandanar, asking for alms accompanied by his consort, Mohini (a female form of Vishnu). Shiva in this form exhibited extraordinary beauty and radiance. Soon the wives of rishis/sages were enamored by the handsome mendicant and his consort. The sages got angry on seeing this and they performed poojas to invoke serpents on Shiva. Lord Shiva lifted the serpents and donned them as ornaments on his hair, neck and waist. The enraged sages invoked a ferocious tiger from the holy fire and targeted it towards the couple. Lord Shiva skinned the tiger with his nails and wore the skin around his waist as a garment. Further the sages sent a powerful demon of arrogance and ignorance named Muyalakan. It is believed that Lord stepped on the demon to immobilize him and started performing the Ananda Thandavam (the dance of bliss) to disclose his true form. The sages surrendered themselves and admitted that Lord himself is the Supreme power.

A short history about the Ananda thandava is as follows:
Adisesha, the serpent on whom Lord Vishnu lies yearned to see the Ananda thandava. Vishnu blessed him and asked to take the form of a saint named Patanjali. Patanjali reached the Thillai forest along with another saint Vyagrapathar (Pulikaalmuni) having the feet and eyesight of a tiger. It is said that Shiva displayed his dance as Nataraja to these two saints. 

The temple is maintained by a group of Shaivaite brahmins called Dikshitars who also perform rituals. It is believed that Patanjali brought these people from Kailas to perform the daily rituals. The rituals were collated from the Vedas and established by Patanjali. 

Pichavaram Mangroves

Mangrove roots

3 comments:

  1. That is a nice bit of mythology,like those mangroves

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thankyou Ani. Glad to hear your feedback. Its the second largest mangrove forest after Sunderbans.

      Delete
  2. That is a nice bit of mythology,like those mangroves

    ReplyDelete

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