Paadal Petra Sthalam - Cuddalore District
Thirumoolattaneswarar, west facing
Sivagamiamman, facing east
Vinayaga, Muruga, Viswanathar, Vaithyanathar, 63 Nayanmars, Saneeswarar, Navagrahas, Govindaraja Perumal (which is considered a separate 108 Divya Desam temple)
Records pertaining to the Sangam Period prior to 5th century CE mention the existence of a temple in this area though not as Chidambaram. Thirunavukkarasar, Thirugnanasambandar and Sundaramoorthy Nayanar who all lived between 7th and 8th century CE have sung the praise of the Lord here at Nataraja Chidambaram confirming the presence of the temple at that period. A chapter in the Skanda Purana also around the same period mentions the famous cosmic dance of Lord Shiva here at Nataraja Chidambaram. Chidambaram was the capital of the Chola Dynasty before it was shifted to Thanjavur by Raja Raja Chola. The earliest historically verifiable inscriptions date back to the rule of Aditya Chola I in the early 10th Century CE and during the rule of Parantaka Chola I (c.907-955 CE). Thus the present day temple is traceable to the early Chola Dynasty. The copper plate inscriptions of Parantaka Chola I describe him as the “bee at the lotus feet of Shiva” and calling him as the “Pon Veinda Perumal” – one who covered with gold the Chit-Sabha of the Nataraja Chidambaram temple.
Nataraja Chidambaram temple, according to inscriptions found in South India and Southeast Asia, received a precious jewel from the King of Angkor who built the Angkor Wat temple, through Kulothunga Chola, who submitted it to the temple in 1114 CE. In the 12th century CE Kulothunga I, his son, other Chola and Pandya Kings expanded the Nataraja Chidambaram temple including the 1000 Pillared Hall, Sacred Tank, the early Gopurams and Mantapas.
In the 13th Century CE the east and west gopurams were constructed by Sadayavarman Sundarapandian and the south gopuram by the Pallava King Kopperunchinga Devan. The north gopuram was constructed around 16th Century CE by Krishnadevaraya.
By the late 13th century Muslim invasions plundered and destroyed many parts of the temple. This came to an end with the rise of the Vijayanagar Empire and Nayak Kings and the temple along with so many other temples were restored to their former glory.
Manickavasagar after visiting many places and temples finally arrived at Nataraja Chidambaram temple and created many literary works including Thiruvasagam, Kandapaattu, Kulapathu, 3 Ahavals Kuil Paththu, Thirupuvali, Koil Pathigam and many more. A Budhist King, his dumb daughter accompanied by a Monk from Srilanka came to Chidambaram upon hearing about its greatness and challenged Saivism. The monk engaged in a debate with Manickavasagar whose prayers made the monk go dumb. Upon the request of the King he made his dumb daughter talk. He asked her various questions and her answers were compiled as ‘Thiruchazhal’. He then restored the voice of the Monk and all of them embraced Saivism. After this the Lord appeared as a Brahmin and wrote the Thiruvasagam himself as dictated by Manickavasagar. It was then kept on the Panchakshara steps after which the Lord vanished.
Rajaraja Chola was listening to some devotees singing a few hymns from Thevaram and desired to trace the entire set of hymns whose presence was not known. Knowing the greatness of Nambiandar Nambi of Thirunaaraiyur he approached him and through his devotion to the Polla Pillayar (Vinayaka) there he gleaned out the information of the presence of the palm leaf manuscripts in a room adjacent to the Ponnambalam in Nataraja Chidambaram temple. Nambiandar Nambi also told that the number of hymns were 16000 (Thirugnanasambandar), 49000 (Thirunavukkarasar) and 38000 (Sundarar)! The two of them went to Chidambaram convinced the Thillai Brahmins and opened the room to see the entire site covered in termite mounds. Whatever could be salvaged was codified by Nambiandar Nambi including the Thevaram and Thiruvasagam.
Nandanar, one of the 63 Nayanmars, reached Nataraja Chidambaram temple after delaying for years because of his low caste. The lord appeared in his dreams to prompt him to come and pass through a fire bath. Likewise he appeared in the dreams of the Thillai Brahmins and asked them to prepare the fire and receive Nandanar. Nandanar went through the fire entered the sanctum sanctorum and merged as one with the Lord.
Adisesha was born as Sage Pathanjali when he wished to see the dance of Lord Shiva and came here to Nataraja Chidambaram with Sage Vyagrapadha on the advise of Lord Vishnu.
There are many more such legendary events that have happened in Nataraja Chidambaram Temple.
Chidambaram is about 150 Kms south from Chennai. The Nataraja Chidambaram temple is visible from a long distance and the town is built around this temple. Lot of parking is available outside all entrances. You will require a good half day to explore this temple. Start early morning and finish before the heat of the day as the stone paved surroundings can get very hot to walk upon.
Stay and Food
There are many restaurants and hotels here including Udupi Krishna Bhavan in the western side of the temple.