The Thillai Natarajar Temple is the principal attraction of Chidambaram. Being one of the most important centres of worship for Shaivites, it draws visitors from all over the country. Many are the saints who have sung its praise. It was constructed almost 2 millennia ago and has influenced architecture, dance and other art forms of Tamil Nadu since then.
The temple as it is today has been rebuilt and renovated by various dynasties along the course of the ages, and their stylistic influences can be seen in the architecture of the temple. The temple has seen the rise and fall of several dynasties, every one of which has left its mark on it.
Lord Shiva is worshipped as Thillai Koothan here, and the chief idol is of the Nataraja, or “the cosmic dancer”. It is one of the five Pancha Bootha Sthalams spread around Tamil Nadu. Thillai Natarajar Temple is located in the midst of the city itself, so travellers coming to Chidambaram will not have any trouble finding it.
Annamalai University is renowned for its cutting edge curriculum for courses in engineering, arts and science. It is a preferred destination for people hoping to do their studies under the best teaching faculties in the country. Annamalai University has numerous colleges affiliated to it.
The university was founded in the year 1928 by Rajah Sir Annamalai Chettiar, who donated land and the Sri Mahalakshmi College to the Madras State, which became the centre of the University. He was honoured with the post of Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University by the government, a post he held for twenty years.
Annamalai University has overseas study centres in Sharjah, Muscat, Dubai and Toronto. The University campus is spread over an area of 1500 acres. The campus area houses various departments of the university and the residential areas for students and faculty. It is located in proximity to the Thiruvetkalam temple and is at a distance of 2 km away from Chidambaram railway station.
Thillai Kali Amman Temple, an important place to visit in Chidambaram has Goddess Kali as its presiding deity. The idol of the deity has four faces and is a magnificent sight to behold. The story behind this is that Goddess Parvathy became enraged after a debate with Lord Shiva concerning who was superior.
She took on the form of Kali in a fit of rage. And as the legend goes, it was Lord Brahma's penance that finally cooled down the Goddess' anger. Another name for Chidambaram is “Thillai”, derived after the Thillai trees that grow rampantly in the mangroves nearby. This is one reason why the word “Thillai” has been incorporated into the names of the temples in the area.
The Thillai Kali Amman Temple is located to the north of the Thillai Natarajar Temple. It is in the vicinity of the Natarajar Temple and is easily accessible once you are in Chidambaram.
Chathapurinathar Temple is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva, as is the case with most temples in and around Chidambaram. Since Shiva is worshipped here as Lord Chathapurinathar, the temple is frequented by devotees of Lord Shiva around the year. By his side, the other deity being worshipped here is Osai Kodutha Nayagi. The name comes from a story where the goddess animated a pair of pure gold cymbals that the lord gifted to a devotee, which could not make sound till then.
This temple is a place where you come not only to worship the deities but also hoping for miracle cures. For the deity is known to have cured what many, including modern science, consider to be incurable diseases. The temple is but only a kilometer away from Chidambaram and is located at a place called Tirukolakka.
Achalpuram Temple, situated in the village of Achalapuram, is about 25 km from the temple city of Chidambaram. Lord Shiva is the main deity worshipped in this temple, and the idol worshiped here is to be particularly noted.
It is in the form of a Shiva Linga entwined by a snake, made in gold, the hood of which covers the linga, protecting it. Lord Shiva is worshipped as Sri Shivalokathyageshwar in this temple and as always, is accompanied by his consort Goddess Parvathi as Tiruvenneetrumai Ammai.
The temple architecture is reminiscent of the golden age of Tamil temple architecture. Every other temple in Chidambaram exudes the same aura in equal measure and this place proves to be no exception. The temple is located 8 km away from Chidambaram, on the route to Seerkazhi.
Thirunelvayil, a place of pilgrimage best known for the Uchinathar temple is one of the many important “shivasthalams” scattered across Tamil Nadu. Two principal shrines are present inside the temple: one of Lord Uchinathar, and the other of Paalvannanathar.
The shrine of Lord Uchinathar boasts of a panel sculpted in the precise perfection of ancient Tamil architecture. Frozen in this stone panel is an image of Shiva and Parvati. The temple itself is a sight to behold with its magnificent five-tiered gopurams and the path for “pradakshina” (circumambulation on the outside, along which you see smaller shrines for deities like Bhairava, Ganesha and Murugan).
Another shrine with images of Lord Shiva as the Nataraja and Sivakami is also located inside the temple complex. Thirunelvayil is located at a distance of about 3 km from Chidambaram. The temple lies in proximity to Annamalai University and the Thiruvetkalam temple.
Thiruvetkalam has its place in ancient Hindu folklore as the spot where Lord Shiva battled Arjuna in the guise of a hunter. Apparently, this is the spot where the lord battled and won over Arjuna, breaking Arjuna's bow in the process.
Other stories credit this area to be where Arjuna received the Paasupataastram from Lord Shiva, at the very spot where now stands the Thiruvetkalam Pasupateswarar Temple. Lord Shiva is worshipped as Pasupateswarar here. The temple faces the east, witnessing the rising sun.
Smaller shrines of several deities, namely Sundareshwar, Siddhi Vinayakar, Somaskanda and Mahalakshmi are present here, which one can visit while performing circumambulation of the main shrine.
The Festival during the Tamil month of Vaikasi is the main attraction of this temple, and the best time to visit would be then. The story of the Paasupataastram is re-enacted during this festival. The temple is located about 3 km from Chidambaram, in close quarters of the Annamalai University Campus.
Natarajar Temple was constructed in the 11th Century, in dedication to Lord Nataraja or Shiva and Lord Perumal. The temple is spread across an area of 40 acres and reflects the Dravidian Style of architecture. It is one of the most popular Saivite temples of South India.
The temple was constructed by Vikrama Chola and the Pallava King, Simhavaram, reconstructed it. There are four Gopuram or towers inside the temple complex which are rich with numerous structures. The structures represent several religious scenes and fables.
The Eastern Gopuram is the entrance. There is a light on top of the Gopurams which are visible from the sea ahead. The temple also has a Nrithya Sabha or the Hall of Dance which is the most attractive area of the temple. The temple is a must visit spot for lovers of architecture.