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| Last Updated:: 12/09/2023








Chidambaram is a town and municipality in Cuddalore district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is one of the many temple towns in the state which is named after the grooves, clusters or forests dominated by a particular variety of a tree or shrub and the same variety of tree or shrub sheltering the presiding deity. The traditional name of the temple complex is Chidambaram Thillai Nataraja-koothan Kovil. The mangrove forests houses the ancient Thillai trees (Exocoeria agallocha) surrounding the shrine. The Thillai trees of the nearby Pichavaram wetlands, the second largest mangrove forest in the world, extend to the temple area. The shrine is venerated as Thillai ambalam literally meaning the open stage of Thillai. The name of the town of this shrine, Chidambaram comes from the Tamil word Chitrambalam (also spelled Chithambalam) meaning "wisdom atmosphere".

Shri Raghavendra, a Hindu scholar, theologian and saint was born as Venkatanatha in the town of Bhuvanagiri which is located near Chidambaram. Raghavendra Swamy spent his childhood here before leaving for Kumbakonam for higher studies. The house, were swami born and brought up had changed as a temple in his remembrance.



Thillai Nataraja temple is one among the five holiest temples of Lord Shiva or Pancha Bootha Sthalas as it is also known and is located in the heart of the town. Spread over an area of over 50 ac., the monument is a mammoth structure and an architectural marvel. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is of very high religious importance for the followers of Shaivism making it an extremely popular pilgrimage centre. The highlight of the temple is, of course, the fact that Shiva in the temple is depicted in dancing form and is seen performing Ananda Tandava, which means ‘dance of delight’. Normally, Lord Shiva is depicted in the form of a ‘Linga’ which is the classic and most commonly found form. Another unique feature of this temple is the presence of the deity of Lord Govindaraja Perumal making it one of the rare temples dedicated to both the Shaivite and Vaishnavite deities.



Thillai Kali Amman is another prominent temple in the town of Chidambaram. Devotees visiting the Nataraja temple consider their visit complete only after visiting this temple. Legend has it that once Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati had an argument as to who was more powerful of the two. This led to a dance competition between them which Goddess Parvati lost and thus became enraged. At this juncture, Lord Brahma appeared in order to appease Pravati and requested her to remain composed and appear with four faces representing the four Vedas. Hence, it is in this temple that the Goddess appears for her devotees with four faces. The Thillai Kali in her angry form faces the east. The Goddess is believed to be the controller of Magam Star and people born under this star must visit this temple in order to fulfill their wishes. The Goddess Brahma Chamundeeshvari has four faces akin to Lord Brahma and is found in a peaceful demeanour in the western part of the temple. Goddess Saraswathi and Dakshinamoorthy who is in the female form are the other two forms of the Goddess here. The latter in fact is the unique feature of this temple as Dakshinamoorthy is found in the female form only in this temple.




Kattumannarkoil is a town located about 25 km from Chidambaram and 18 km from Gangaikondacholapuram. Known for the Sri Veera Narayana Perumal temple, this town occupies a significant place in Tamil history. The ancient temple traces its origin to the 10th-11th century AD. The main deity faces east and is highly revered especially by the followers of Vaishnavism. There are many inscriptions found in the temple pertaining to the reign of the Chola ruler, Kulothunga Chola I. The temple has undergone several renovations over time and the present deity as it stands today is said to have been installed in the 13th century AD. Legend has it that one of the most revered Vaishnava saints, Nathamunigal lived in Kattumannarkoil and spent a lot of time at this temple. The shrine of Natha Muni has been installed facing south in the temple. The temple also has five wells. The ancient Veeranam Lake built way back in the 10th century AD and one of the largest tanks in Tamil Nadu lies close to Kattumannarkoil.






Vaitheeswaran temple is yet another temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The deity of this temple is popularly known as the God of healing or health. The term Vaitheeswaran is derived from the words ‘Vaidya’ meaning doctor and ‘Ishvara’ meaning God. This temple is one of the clusters of nine temples dedicated to each of the planets or ‘Navagraha’. This temple is synonymous with the planet Mars or Angaraka. The tower or gopuram of the temple has five tiers and has some exquisite carvings. There are inscriptions in the temple belonging to the Chola period. Situated at a distance of about 30 km from Chidambaram, the temple and the surrounding village is also famous for the well-known craft of palm leaf astrology or ‘Naadi shastra’ as it is locally known. It is considered auspicious to offer salt and jaggery, which is available in small packets outside the temple, to the Lord here for one’s good health and well being. There is a vibrant market just after the entrance towards the path leading to the main temple. There are rows of tiny shops on both sides selling all sorts of articles for worship, flowers, offerings and numerous knick knacks. It is a good idea to look around here and soak in the local culture and tradition of this little village.






Bhoovaraga Swamy temple located at Srimushnam is one of the most unique and rare temples in south India where the main deity, Lord Vishnu, is represented in the form of ‘varaha’ or wild boar. The latter is considered as one of the holiest avatars of Vishnu in the ‘Dasha Avatar’. An interesting feature of the deity is that while its face, which is in the form of a boar faces south, the rest of the body, which is in the form of a human, faces the direction of the devotees in the west. It is believed that the confines of the temple are extremely sacred and a visit to this place can help one attain salvation. Also childless couples are believed to beget a child after offering prayers here. The temple is about 25 km from Chidambaram and is considered sacred for Hindus and Buddhists. There is a resplendent tower or gopuram at the entrance of the temple that is beautifully adorned. The structure of the temple is elegant with a hall or ‘purusasuhara mandapam’ in the centre. The pillars have some absolutely ornate and remarkable sculptures with an incredible level of detailing. Another interesting fact associated with the temple is the spirit of camaraderie that its festival demonstrates between Hindus and Muslims. There is a tradition in the Tamil month of ‘Maasi’ (which falls during the month of February and March) where the deity of the temple is taken out on a 20-day procession to nearby villages. During this time, the Muslims of this area offer prayers to the deity and take back flowers from it and offer them to Allah. This wonderful gesture of unity is said to take place each year till date.