Chidambaram is a temple town in the district of Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu known for its surreal setting, ancient Dravidian architecture and imposing Gopurams. With the sound of temple bells in the early morning, as you wake up to a hot cup of the finest filter coffee, Chidambaram stands for everything a traveler would expect from a quintessential Tamil Nadu temple town.
Many things come to mind when one thinks of this town. , But the first would be the imposing Chidambaram Natarajar temple that the town is famous for. The principal deity worshipped in the temple is Lord Shiva, making the town a preferred destination for Shaivites.
The temple is one of 5 Shiva temples scattered across Tamil Nadu, each associated with one of the 5 elements (namely air, water, earth, fire and wind, according to the Hindu concept of the panchabootha).
The other temples are Kalahasti Nathar temple associated with the wind, Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswara associated with fire, Kanchi Ekambareswara temple associated with Earth, and Thiruvanaikaval Jambukeswara temple associated with water.
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The temple may very well be the only Shiva temple in which the deity is worshipped in the form of the “Nataraja”, the lord of dance. It is interesting to note that everywhere else you find the Lord worshipped as the “Shivalinga”. It may also be the only major temple where both Lord Shiva and Mahavishnu are worshipped side by side.
Lord Vishnu as Lord Govindaraja Perumal is worshipped in the very same temple complex as Lord Shiva, making the Chidambaram Natarajar temple a place of pilgrimage for both Shaivites and Vaishnavites. Nowhere else in the world is one able to worship both deities from the same spot.
A Town of Temples and Educational Institutions
Chidambaram is home to not only the Chidambaram Natarajar Temple, but numerous other temples. Built in different eras and by different dynasties, these temples stand for the architectural excellence of a bygone time. Many of these temples have gone several revisions and renovations as in the case with the Chidambaram Natarajar temple.
It is also home to the Annamalai University, one of the premier universities in the country, with hundreds of colleges under its wing. The town is also renowned for its ornament making industry. The art of fashioning gold and silver ornaments is passed on from generation to generation.
Not far from this quaint temple town is a behemoth of industry- namely the industrial complex of Neyveli. This industrial complex, with its lignite mines and thermal power plants, is situated just 30 km off Chidambaram.
Chidambaram is one place you can experience to the fullest at any time of the year, without the climate being a hassle. Be it summer or be it winter, the feel Chidambaram gives off to the visitor remains the same. It would be advisable to visit when the temperature is milder, though.
Chidambaram is well connected to the rest of Tamil Nadu with an excellent network of roads. Its proximity to Chennai makes it feasible for those who get off at the Chennai International Airport to travel to the place.
Chidambaram also offers a plethora of shopping options, when it comes to indigenous handicrafts that the city is famous for. You come here to buy a piece of history, a piece of heritage that can be found nowhere else in the world but here. And in doing so, you become part of that culture. You do not shop for souvenirs in Chidambaram; instead you hunt for irreplaceable collections in terms of art.