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How to Reach Chidambaram Nataraja Temple, Tamil Nadu
My spiritual sojourn through Tamil Nadu, the land of temples touched yet another milestone when I alighted at Chidambaram railway station. The journey began from Trichy at sharp 9.35 am on December 30, 2014. The 158 km long distance was covered in three hours. Why did I miss Chidambaram for a long time? I have no answer, but I am happy that finally I could make it. Late better than never!
Why Chidambaram? The pressing reason was just to visit the Nataraja temple. It is the ‘Kshetra (temple) of Cosmic Knowledge and Space’. ‘Chith’ means knowledge and ‘ambaram’ means space. It is one of the holiest of all Shiva sites. The specialty of the site is that it is the only Shiva temple, where the deity is not represented by a ‘lingam’ but by a spectacular dancing pose of the deity. Further, it is one of the five pancha bhootha (natural elements) sthalas of Shiva in Tamil Nadu.
Nataraja, the Temple Deity
Nataraja is the presiding deity of Chidambaram. It is only here that you can see Shiva represented as a spectacular bronze deity. The blissful posture of Shiva or Nataraja is a delight to eyes. This posture is called Ananda Thandavam or the Dance of Joy. It is a classical Bharatanatyam pose.
The Temple Structure
When we search on the Google, the image of Chidambaram temple we get is small and not impressive. Actually it is gigantic and so spectacular. You need to visit it to believe it. It is the fitting example of Dravidian architecture. The 40-acre complex contains two temples and magnificent gopurams. The tall towers encrusted with sculpted idols, pillared halls, long and wide circumambulation corridors will definitely surprise you. The spectacular artistic display of Chola and Pandava features are sure to make you bewildered. Needless to say, it will take at least one full day to explore and experience the beauty and magnitude of the stunning Nataraja temple.
How to Reach
By Air: The closest Airport is Chennai (235 km)
By Rail: You can easily reach Chidambaram by Train either from Trichy or Chennai Egmore. From Trichy, it takes roughly 3 hours (158 km). The route passes through Tanjavur, Papanasam, Kumbakonam, Mayiladuturai, Vaithisvaran Koil, Sirkazhi. From Chennai, it takes roughly four and half (4 ½) hours and the distance is 244 km.
By Road/Bus: Tamil Nadu state buses make several services to here from all major towns/cities.
Temple Timings: 6 am – 12 noon and 4 – 9 pm
Unique Feature: It is one of the very few temples that has both Shiva and Vishnu shrines. Apart from Nataraja, you can also see Vishnu in his reclining form, resting on the coils of five-headed serpent, Adisesha. Also, it is an apt place for performing dance, music and other arts.
Temple Festivals: Maha Shiva Ratri (Feb/March). Natyanjali Festival (Feb.) (during this festival, classical dancers gather here to give performance).
Accommodation: Though several lodges are available around the temple town, the experienced travelers suggest that the best option is to stay at Pondicherry, which is 2 hours away from Chidambaram by road.
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© 2015 Sunil Kumar Kunnoth