The Chidambaram temple is one of the most important Shiva temples in South India. The temple is located in the town of Chidambaram in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is one of the PanchaBhootaSthalams. This temple represents the element sky. The word Chidambaram is divided into two words ‘chit’ and ‘ambalam’. ‘Chit’ means consciousness and ‘ambalam’ means stage. It refers to that stage of consciousness where Lord Shiva dances.
The story of this temple is as follows. In the dense forest of Thillai, lived a group of rishis who started assuming that they were Gods themselves. They fought amongst themselves, cheated and lied. To show the rishis the path of righteousness, Lord Shiva went to the forest and started dancing over there. The rishis were furious at Shiva. They became determined to destroy him by means of incantations. A fierce tiger was created in the sacrificial fires and was unleashed upon Shiva. But Shiva vey calmly stripped off the tiger’s skin and wrapped it around himself. The sages muttered some more incantations and produced a monstrous serpent which Shiva seized and wore around his neck like a garland. The rishis at last unleashed a demon in the shape of a malignant. The name of the dwarf was apasmara. Lord Shiva crushed the dwarf’s back by placing his foot on him and resumed his dance. The rishis after that recognized Shiva’s divinity and asked for his forgiveness. A temple was built here which is now known as the Chidambaram temple.
This temple is the only temple where Shiva is worshipped in his anthropomorphic form also. He is worshipped as Nataraj here. In this temple the idol of Parvati is also kept. It is on the left of Nataraj idol. On the right is the formless form of Lord Shiva since it always remains curtained. This temple is also one of the Paadal Petra Sthalams. There are many rituals which are performed over here. A yagya takes place every day. Gaupuja (worship of cow) is performed six times a day. Before each puja ghee, milk,curd, rice, sandal paste and holy ash is applied to the Shiva linga.
It is said that one who visits this place achieves peacefulness and salvation.