The Thillai Nataraja temple is an incredible place. Although the newer portion of the temple is known to be around a thousand years old, the older portion’s accurate age is still vastly unknown. Various estimates have been made regarding how old it actually is, one of them suggesting it to be around three thousand five hundred years old. The prominent deity in the Thillai Nataraja temple is Nataraja that is the lord shiva, as the lord of dance. Sivakami amman, is the consort goddess in this temple. She symbolizes motherhood and female energy. Being one of the most popular and prominent forms of lord shiva, Nataraja originated in southern India. It represents the buoyancy of creation. After a period of eternal stillness, the dance of creation was self created.
Thillai Nataraja temple is a Hindu temple, built in dedication to the destroyer of evil, the lord shiva. It is situated in Tamil nadu, in the town of Chidambaram. Thillai Nataraja temple is prominently knows for beautiful sculpture, spell binding architecture, an influenced worship and amazing performance art. It was actually at Chidambaram that the sculpture and bronze image representation of lord shiva as a dancer was originated. After this, the lord of dance became a significant concept in the Hinduism.
Although several renovations have been made to the original shrine, the Thillai Nataraja temple still manages to hold on to the royal beauty. Many high ranking classes like chera and pandya have paid their offerings to the temple over the years. Since twelfth and thirteenth century, the up gradation has been done many times to the temple. The Thillai Nataraja temple consists of bronze idols and stone-made sculptures. These figures depict many different deities and also the popular Thillai trees, which are grown in the surrounding forests. These carvings also represent various highlights of the chola and pallava kingdoms, and their arm forms. The Thillai Nataraja temple also consists of various gold plated towers, which belong to the medieval period. These structures were offered by the royal kingdoms of aditya and parantaka.
The Thillai Nataraja temple complex, which covers an area of above forty acres, is also known for its five halls that are beyond architectural brilliance- ambalam and sabhal. It is also the house of many other Hindu god’s shrines.
The legend behind the Thillai Nataraja temple begins when, the lord shiva, took a stroll into the Thillai vanam, that is a forest of mangrove trees. The rishis, or saints who lived in the forest were firm believers of the dominance of magic and that the god was controllable through rituals or spells. While strolling down the forest, lord shiva was followed by Vishnu, as mohini, his consort. The saints and their wives were truly spell bound upon seeing the beautiful mendicant and his lovely consort. But as the wives seemed much more enchanted, the saints, out of anger performed magical rituals that invoked serpents. Lord shiva, on the other hand, merely lifted these serpents and wore them like ornaments on his neck and waist. The saints got even angrier and then invoked a merciless and fierce tiger. But lord shiva, once again, used the skin of the tiger as a shawl. Finally the saints invoked an elephant, who the lord shiva simply ripped and devoured to death. It was then that all the rishis combined their powers and created a very strong demon, muyulakan, which symbolized arrogance and ignorance. Lord shiva, all the while smiling gently, climbed upon the demon’s back and disabled him. After this he did the dance of never ending joy, also called tandava. Thereby, disclosing his true form. The sages now realized that all their efforts were in wane. As lord shiva was the ultimate truth and was far above any magic or spell. Many more different legends have also been connected to the Thillai Nataraja temple. The dancing duel between goddess kali and lord shiva, which the latter god won, has also been associated, which stated how the goddess kali was delegated to only a primary deity in the Thillai Nataraja temple.
The beautifully jeweled image of Nataraja is one of the major features of the Thillai Nataraja temple. These are being housed on slightly raised platforms in the inner most sanctum or the hall of consciousness. The huge towers, or the gopurams, are one of the highlights of the Thillai Nataraja temple. These are enormous structures and stand for various elements from the Hindu mythology. The dance of lord shiva, which is cosmic in nature, symbolizes the movements of the universe. The lovely hymns sung by Gnanasambandar, Tirunavukkarasar and Sundarar are exclusively found in the Thillai Nataraja temple only. By some historical texts the Thillai Nataraja temple is known to be lord Shiva’s three most significant shrines in India. It is highly glorified and was also visited by patanjali. A very rare and unique worshipping protocol is still followed through, involving six pooja services, in the Thillai Nataraja temple even today, which was originally prescribed by patanjali.
Here the lord shiva is worshipped in the form, a form-less form and formless. The Thillai Nataraja temple’s layout is such that the devotees can reach the central shrine from the both the sides. The image of dancing shiva is situated in the centre of the inner most portion. As lord shiva is known as the destroyer, his image faces south, and not north like most deities. This significant feature sets apart the Thillai Nataraja temple.
The managers and administrators of the Thillai Nataraja temple are a special category Brahmins, the dikshitar; their presence is also a kind of legend. No one exactly knows when they actually started doing the work or how they were brought here. Recently, live dance performances have also been started in the Thillai Nataraja temple, throughout the festive months. This rare specimen of artful architectural talent, is a one of a kind structure, and is a lovely combination of many different architectural styles. The spell binding charm of this temple is a reason enough to make the trip.