Top Tourist Attractions in Chidambaram
Chidambaram is a coastal town on the East Coast Road south of Chennai. Next time when you are in Chennai, then Chidambaram can be part of your plans. From Chennai, it takes about five hours of drive time to reach Chidambaram through the East Coast Road (ECR).
It is also connected by direct trains from Chennai. Chidambaram is a coastal town in Tamil Nadu and it is known for its famous Nataraja temple built in the tenth century. The period from 9th to 13th century BC is considered the golden age in Tamil Nadu under the rule of the Chola dynasty. A trip to Chidambaram will take to many places of importance in the Chola history.
The Top 6 Places to Visit in and Around Chidambaram
- Chidambaram Nataraja Temple
- Pichavaram Mangrove Forest
- Gangaikonda Cholapuram
- Silappathikaram Art Gallery, Poompuhar
- Poompuhar Beach
1. Chidambaram Nataraja Temple
It is an ancient temple built by the Chola emperors in the 10th century BC for Lord Shiva. The other name for the temple is Thillai Nataraja Temple. Chidambaram town was earlier known as Thillai as this Tamil word means mangrove trees. The largest mangrove forest in Tamil Nadu is in Pichavaram near Chidambaram.
Lord Shiva being depicted in a dancing posture is a specialty in this temple. One should not miss the colorful artworks on the temple walls depicting various legends. The first picture in this article shows an artwork depicting Lord Shiva's marriage.
After the Chola dynasty, the Vijayanagara rulers played a major part in protecting the temple until the 17th century. It remains one of the major pilgrimage sites for over a thousand years.
In casual discussions, people in Tamil Nadu refer to patriarchal families as Chidambaram since the male God Shiva lives here. The matriarchal families are called Madurai as it is the abode of Goddess Meenakshi Amman.
2. Pichavaram Mangrove Forest
Apart from being a pilgrimage site, Chidambaram has many attractions nearby. The best-known mangrove forest in Tamil Nadu is on the outskirts of Chidambaram, known as Pichavaram. The Mangrove forest in Pichavaram is only a short driving distance from Chidambaram. One must not miss the boat ride in Pichavaram. The Mangrove forests provide an illusion of being larger than what it is when viewed from inside.
Trees form a thin boundary around the banks. The boats find their way through the narrow canals where trees from either side arch towards each other forming a green canopy. It is a beautiful little world cut off from its neighborhood.
We have another port town (more apt to call it a village now) by name "Tranquebar" reachable within an hour of drive time from Chidambaram. Tranquebar is the name given by the westerners to the port town called "Tharangambadi" in Tamil Nadu. This was under Danish occupation for a long period before becoming a part of the British Empire.
The Dutch built the Fort Dansborg in the seventeenth century on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. This town is a reminder of the many connections Tamil Nadu had with the western world in the distant past. New Jerusalem Church built by Dutch in 1718 is another attraction in this small village.
4. Gangaikonda Cholapuram
The city was founded by Raja Raja Chola to commemorate his conquest in North India by defeating the Pala dynasty. Gangaikonda Cholapuram means "the town of the Chola king who conquered river Ganges" in Tamil.
The old city of Gangaikonda Cholapuram has been destroyed over the years. The only reminder of its glorious past now is the Lord Maha Shiva Temple. Built on the Dravidian style of architecture, the magnificence of the temple has to be seen to be believed. The temple has a 9-storeyed 55 meter tall tower.
5. Silappathikaram Art Gallery, Poompuhar
Poompuhar is a town south of Chidambaram at a distance of 44 km. It used to be an ancient port city known as Kaveri Poompattinam during the Chola era. The present day town does not have any ancient monuments from the past.
But the town has a new attraction in the form of the Silappathikaram Art Gallery built in the 20th century. It is a 7-storeyed building with artworks related to the old Tamil epic, Silappathikaram.
6. Poompuhar Beach
Poompuhar beach is one of the most ancient beaches in Tamil Nadu. It is a natural beach that is 3 km long with the mouth of the Kaveri river at its southern end. One should visit the mouth of the Kaveri river where it joins the sea. The beach itself is rocky, but it is nice as it is less commercialized.
A lighthouse and a memorial in the form of a tall tower are the other attractions in Poompuhar Beach. Since it is an offbeat attraction, there is less crowd on most days. It is better to visit on a weekend evening or else the place would look deserted devoid of any tourists. I should caution here that good restaurants are hard to find here.
Tranquebar and Chidambaram are so close to each other that the two can be clubbed in a single visit. One can plan the stay in Chidambaram or Tranquebar. Hotel Saradha Ram in Chidambaram is an option because of its central location and good South Indian food.
For the romantic at heart, there is an interesting option called "the Bungalow on the Beach" at Tharangambadi. An old official residence used by Danish officials is now converted into a heritage hotel. Imagine staying in a place once occupied by Danish royalty centuries ago.