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Tourist Places To Visit In Chidambaram
Ages ago, the region where the temple town of Chidambaram is located now, was overgrown with the Thillai or mangrove trees that extended up to Pichavaram. With due reverence to these trees, the Shiva temple at Chidambaram was called Thillai ambalam or the open stage of thillai, the arena of performing arts and culture. Chidambaram could also mean the modernized version of Chitrambalam or Chith and ambaram, the eternal wisdom prevalent in the atmosphere.
According to legends, it was in Chidambaram on the auspicious day of Thai Poosam, that Shiva revealed himself in a cosmic dance to sages Vyakrapada and Patanjali. Chidambaram is a major pilgrimage centre for Shaivaites, as well as a hub of divine art and culture, that is symbolic of the Shiva tandava. There are numerous temples in and around Chidambaram that you can visit and we will give you a list of some of the best tourist places with them.
Thillai Nataraja Temple
Immortalized in the 7th century Tamil poetic verses of Thevaram, the Chidambaram Thillai Nataraja temple has several inscriptions that trace their history to the Cholas, Pallavas, Pandyas and the Vijayanagara Empire. The golden vimana (gopura) was laid by Chola King Parantaka, and the generous offerings of gold and jewellery were made by the kings who came later. Spread over an area of 50 acres, the temple is one of the oldest and most renowned shrine for Shiva in India. Check out the nine towering gateways, especially the eastern and northern gopuras that are over 40 m high and are engraved with the 108 dance movements of Shiva as Nataraja (the king of dance).
The temple that is open from 6.00am-12.00pm and from 5.00pm -10.00pm, is about 2 km from the Chidambaram bus stand.
Ellai Kali Temple
According to legends, Parvathi as Ugra Kali or the ferocious One, is commanded by Shiva to destroy the sinners on Earth and wait at Chidambaram, where she could join him as Sivakami, when Shiva performs the cosmic dance for Vykarapada and Patanjali. Another legend says that a furious Parvathi retired to the ellai or border of Chidambaram after losing a step in a divine dance with Shiva. Brahma appeased her by portraying the goddess as Brahma Chamundeshwari, or Parvathi with four faces representing the four Vedas.
It’s said that a pilgrimage to Chidambaram is never complete without a visit to the Ellai Kali Temple. The temple is open from 6.30am-12.00pm and from 4.30pm-8.30pm. The temple is in the northern end of Chidambaram, about 2 km from the bus stand.
Uchinadhar Shiva Temple
Praised in the Thevaram verses of Tamil poet Thirugnana Sambandhar, the Uchinadhar temple is said to be the place where Shiva and Parvathi appeared before Sage Agasthya. You could see a sculpture of Shiva and Parvathi on their wedding day. When Thirugnana Sambandhar was 12 years old, his marriage was arranged and the bridal parties wended their way to Achalpuram Shiva temple to solemnise the wedding. Midway, the tired and hungry pilgrims rested in Shivapuri, where Shiva pretending to be a temple priest, served them a sumptuous meal. The presiding deity of the temple thus came to be called Uchi (midday) nathar or Madhyaneshwar (the God of noon).
The temple is located in a land that was lush and fertile with paddy fields and was called Thirunelvoyil and is now called Shivapuri, about 3 km southwest of Chidambaram.
Thirumaani Kuzhi Temple
This is an ancient small temple for Shiva who is known as Vaamaneshwara. According to legends, Vishnu as Vaamana atoned for his treatment of King Mahabali Chakravarthy, whom he had sent to the netherworld, by doing a penance to Shiva in this temple. The temple is significant for the poetic verses sung by Thirugnana Sambandhar on Vaamaneshwara and Thirupugzh by Arunagirinadhar on Muruga. There are exquisite sculptures on the walls and inscriptions dating back to the ancient times. The Vaamanapureshwara temple is about 44 km from Chidambaram.
Paalvanna Nadhar Temple
Legends say that when Sage Kapila passed through these regions he was amazed to see a profusion of Bilwa trees and the sands made white with the milk that overflowed from the udder of Kamadhenu. He made a Shiva Linga with the white mud and worshipped it. Shiva came to be called Paalvanna Nadhar or the One who is as white as milk! The Linga has a split on top, caused by the hoof print of a king’s horse that had passed by. A unique feature of the temple is the idol of Bhairava who wears 27 skulls, a sacred thread, a serpent around his waist and a tuft. It is said that worshipping Bhairava in this temple is akin to worshipping him in Kashi.
Paalvanna Nadhar temple is in Thirukazhi palai, about 6 km from Chidambaram through Shivapuri main road.
Poompuhar is a rebuilt historic port city that lies at the estuary where the river Kaveri meets the sea. The erstwhile capital of the Early Chola Kings is a rich treasure house of marine archaeological artefacts that show how prosperous the city was once, before it was ruined by the sea in what was said to have been a tsunami that struck the coast in 300BC. There are numerous ancient temples in Poompuhar like the Naganadha Swamy and Swetharanyeshwara Temples, which showcase the Dravidian architectural styles of the Cholas, and the Silapathikara Art Gallery that retraces the Tamil epic of Silapathikaram in stone carvings.
The town of Poompuhar is about 44 km from Chidambaram.
Sirkazhi is a small historic town that you could visit, while on a trip to Chidambaram. There are quite a number of temples here as well, like the most renowned Sattainadhar Shiva temple that has three tiered shrines for Shiva as Brahmapureshwara, Thoniapper as Uma Maheshwara and Sattainadhar as Bhairava. You could also visit the 11 Nangur Divya Deshams of Vishnu located in the outskirts of Sirkazhi. The earliest recorded history of Sirkazhi goes back to the Sangam Age of 3rd century BCE when the Chola King Kochengannan won a battle here. Sirkazhi is about 20 km from Chidambaram.
Vaideshwaran Kovil is yet another major temple town near Chidambaram, revered in the Tamil Thevaram verses of Thirugnana Sanbandanar and Thirunavukkuarasar. The town is well known for the Vaideshwaran Temple and for Nadi Jothishyam, which is the principle of predicting the future through writings on ancient palm leaves. Shiva, the presiding deity of Vaidheshwaran Kovil is known as Vaidyanatha swami or the One who cures all ailments! The temple is a navagraha stala connected with the planet Angaraka or Mars, who was cured off a disease by Shiva. Pilgrims also take a dip in the Siddhamritham tank which is said to cure all diseases.
Fort St. David
If you are interested in forts, ruined ones in particular, this one’s for you. When the region was under the control of the Nayakas of Gingee, Fort St. David was built by the Dutch at Devanampattinam as a trading post. The Dutch were forced to abandon the Fort that later came under the control of the British when the Marathas ruled Devanampattinam. Elihu Yale, the then Governor of Madras called the Fort after St. David, the patron saint of Wales. The British strengthened the fortifications further and used the fort as headquarters of Southern India. But for a few years, the Fort was occupied by the French and later abandoned.
Sitting on the banks of the Gadilam River and the Silver Beach, what’s left of the ruins still stand a mute memory of the mighty countries that had walked its corridors.
The 2000 year old Pasupatheshwara Temple for Shiva was built by the Pallava Kings, in the region that was once called Mungilvanam for the rich profusion of bamboo grass that grew there. The temple’s history records that before the Mahabharata war, Krishna sent Arjuna to the temple to worship Shiva, where the Pandava prince got not only Shiva’s blessings but also the Paasupathasthra. Interestingly there is a minor scuffle between Shiva and Arjuna over who had killed the asura Mookasura who had arrived on the scene as a wild boar to kill Arjuna, on Duryodhana’s orders. Arjuna unknowingly lands a blow on Shiva’s head and the mark can be seen on the Shiva linga to this day!
The temple is open from 7.00am-11.30am and from 5.30pm-8.30pm. The Pasupatheshwara temple is at Thiruvetkalam near the Annamalai University Campus, about 4 km from Chidambaram.