Chidambaram located in Cuddalore district in Tamil Nadu, about 150 km from Chennai. The town is believed to be of significant antiquity and has been ruled, at different times, by the Cholas, Pandyas, Vijayanagar Empire, Marathas and the British. The town is known for the ThillaiNatarajaTemple, and the annual chariot festival held in the month of April.
The rich cultural heritage of India is depicted in its antiquity, richness of worship & festival traditions, in architectural & sculptural splendour and in its association with music & dance. Several rich legends are associated with Chidambaram. The best known, are those describing the Cosmic Dance of Shiva, the dance duel between Shiva and Kaali and the more recent one describing the re-discovery of the Tevaram hymns.
The traditional name of the temple complex in Chidambaram is Tillai Nataraja-koothan Kovil. The mangrove forests houses the ancient Tillai trees (Exocoeria agallocha) surrounding the shrine. The shrine is venerated as Tillai ambalam literally meaning the open stage of Tillai. The earliest mention of the temple is in seventh century Tamil literature. The temple and the deity were immortalized in Tamil poetry in the works of Thevaram by three poet saints belonging to the 7th century – Thirugnana Sambanthar, Thirunavukkarasar and Sundaramoorthy Nayanar..
The temple, dedicated to Shiva Nataraja, is spread over an area of 40 acres in the heart of the city. The main complex contains shrines to deities such as Shivakami Amman, Ganesh, Murugan and Vishnu . The temple’s earliest structures were designed and erected by ancient craftsmen. The golden tiled roof for the Chit Ambalam (the vimanam) was laid by the Chola King Parantaka I. Pancha Bhoota Stalam refers to the five Shiva temples, each representing the manifestation of the five prime elements of nature – land, water, air, sky, fire. The five elements are believed to be enshrined in the five lingams and each of the lingams representing Shiva in the temple have five different names based on the elements they represent. In the Chidambaram temple, Shiva is said to have manifested himself in the form of sky.
Located close to the shores of Bay of Bengal, the topography of the place is almost plain with forests around the town. The Natyanjali annual festival of classical Indian dance that takes place at the end of February is the biggest attraction that brings thousands of people from all over the world.