Tall and towering temples mark the landscape of Tamil Nadu. They remain as preserves of cultural heritage and protectors and promoters of inner urge of people for ethereal bliss and blessings of the Almighty. Not only that the temples inspired promotion of art and culture, and, infact, human life revolved around these centers of worship in ancient period. Chidambaram is one such sacred place with Lord Nataraja temple.
“Salutation to Shiva whose glory
Is immense, who resembles Sky
In Clearness, to whom are attributed
The theme of all creations-
The preservation and destruction of the Universe”.
So sings a saint – Patriot of India in a hymn dedicated to the Divine Dancer. Here in Chidambaram, one of the holy cities in Tamil Nadu, Lord Nataraja, otherwise known as Lord Siva, the benign and the fiery dancer, expounds the myth and mythology of Hinduism and the rhythm of human life through His Cosmic Dance.
The Nataraja Temple built during the eleventh century is the most celebrated of the south India saivite Temple. Lord Nataraja is the family deity of Vikrama Chola(1128) and his successors. He spent the bulk of his revenue for construction of the walls and addition of the structure of the temple and made sumptuous gifts in gold to the structure. Chidambaram rose in popularity due to its proximity to Gangaikonda cholarapuram built and made as the capital of the imperial Cholas by Rajendra Chola. Inscriptions and Tamil literature like Raja RajaChola Ula and Takkayagappari give detailed accounts of the temple and the munificent contribution of the Chola kings in gold to wrap the sanctum sanction and the famous hall. The temple located in the middle of the municipal town sprawls in an area of 40 acres. Inside the walls are four Gopurams(Towers) embellished with numerous sculptures. They represent various religious scenes and parables. The East Gopuram , being the main entrance is the oldest and the West Gopuram is more attractive and outstanding. The tallest is 42.4 meters above sea level and 140 feet above the ground level. The light atop the gopurams here and the Gopurams are visible from the sea and they are the landmarks for the marines. The inner enclosure is the most sacred and has four of five Sabahs. The Nrithya Sabha, the Hall of Dance is the most beautiful and interesting part of the temple. The Sivakami temple, the sivagami tank and the Hall of thousand pillars are important features of temple.
The presiding deity of the temple is represented by air, one of five elements and is known as Akasa Lingam. The great three Tamil saints Appar, Sundarar and Sambandar have visited the temple and their hymns praise the temple and Divine Dancer, Lord Nataraja.
The Nataraja image in its various forms really holds the devotee as well the tourist in ecstasy. Rodin, the modern sculptor of international repute highly praised the forum and art and the concept of Divine Dance of Lord Nataraja