Chidambaram temple dedicated to Nataraja, the cosmic dancer considered the lord of dancers, is situated in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu. Considered one of the ancient Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu, Chidambaram is among the five Panchbhooytha Sthala or Shiva representing five elements which constitutes human beings.
The other temples which represent the natural elements are Kanchi Ekambareswara (earth), Thiruvanaikaval Jambukeswara (water), Kalahasti Nathar (wind) and Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswara (fire).
Also known as ‘Thillai’ as the place was originally the forest of Thillai. It is believed that the forest had a lotus pond on the banks of which sages including Patanjali are believed to have meditated.
The most prominent attraction of the city is the Nataraja temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is venerated as the cosmic dancer Nataraja. Unlike other Shiva temples, Chidambaram doesn’t have a Shiv lingam, instead it has Shiva as the dancer.
Besides the Nataraja temple, two other temples in the city are known for their religious and archaeological importance. The temples are Thillai Kali Amman temple and Ayyapan temple.
Chidambaram is also known for the Annamalai University, one of the Asia’s largest public residential universities. It is famous for its research in Tamil studies, Tamil music, mass literacy programmes and vocational training.
Tourist visits to the temple increases during March when then Natyanjali Dance Festival is held. Held inside the temple complex, the festival is a tribute to Lord Shiva, the lord of the dancers. Eminent dancers from across the world participate in the festival.