Thillai Nataraja Temple
Chidabaram, Tamil Nadu, India
Akasha - ether
In the Thillai Nataraja Temple
Lord Shiva takes the form of Akasha -
the most sacred of the five elements, everything in nature comprises
of according to Hindu philosophy.
The holy city of Chidambaram is
the place where Shiva is believed to have performed his cosmic
dance, the Tandava Nritya. The Nataraja Temple is
build around the spot where the dance is supposed to have taken
place. In this city and especially in the Nataraja Temple, history
merges with mythology and all ancient Hindu beliefs and practises
are observed here through an endles cycle of rites and rituals.
The name of the city is derived from
the innermost enclosure in the temple complex, the Chit Sabha or
Chitambalam the "Hall of Bliss".
This temple has a unique collection of schulptures, the finest being
the Urdhava Tandava.
In the inner sanctum containing the
Akasha Linga is hidden behind a black curtain, symbolizing
ignorance. The curtain is only removed during prayer time. This
veiled sanctum has a aura of mystery and is often called "The
Sacred Secret of Chidambaram".
Religious traditions in the temple are preserved by a group of
hereditary priests, whose ancestors came to Chidambaram 3.000 years
ago They are easily recognized by theis top-knots.
The gold-plated roof
The unusual hut-like gold-plated roof of the main sanctum santorum
in the Nataraja Temple,
where the most revered dancing Shiva is installed behind a black
The Five elemental
in South-East India
it is less known to the public that 5 magnificent Shiva temples
dedicated to the 5 natural elements:
ether (Akasha), air (Vayu), fire (Thejo), water (Jala) & earth (Pridhvi),
is situated arround Chennai in the eastern part of South India:
The southernmost temple in Tiruvannaikaival, near
Tiruchirapalli is apx. 350 km from Chennai, the capital of Tamil
Nadu. From south going north the other Panch Bhoota Sthalams can be
found in: Chidambaram, Tiruvannamalai, Kanchipuram and barely 100km north-west of Chennai
in Andhra Pradesh the Sri Kalahasti
Temple is situated.
natural elements - the "Pancha Bhootas"
is a central and most important concept in Indian philosophy and
In Hindu faith it is beleived that these five essential elements
created man and the universe.
Lord Shiva, one of the
three main Gods in the Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, is
represented in these temples as the embodiment of these five
In the Ekambareswara Temple the Shiva Linga is made of earth.
Jambukeswara Temple Lord Shiva takes the form of water and the Linga
here is immersed in water.
In the Arunachaleswara Temple Shiva takes
form as fire.
In the Kaahateeswara Temple Shiva is representing wind or air.
Last, but not least in the Nataraja Temple Lord Shiva takes the form
of ether, the most sacred of the five elements.
The Vedic rituals
performed in the numerous Hindu temples all over India has been
worshipping the Gods using the natural elements in every ritual
performed since time immemorial.
Acess for foreigners or non-hindus
These days it is difficult to
enter into the Sanctum Sanctorum to see the Shiva Lingam and thereby get the darshan of Lord Shiva. The
atmosphere in these magnificent temples is soothing to the heart and
just visiting the temple compound itself is a divine experience.
No photos exists of the Shiva idols inside, only
paitings are allowed.
The 5 Shiva
temples are as follows:
Sri Ekambeswara Swamy Temple,
Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu - representing the earth element
Sri Jambukareswara Swamy Temple,
Thiruvanaikaival, Tamil Nadu - representing the water element
Sri Arunachaleswara Swamy Temple,
Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu - representing the fire element
Sri Kalahasteeswara Swamy Temple,
Sri Kalahasti, Tamil Nadu - representing the wind element
Sri Nataraja Swamy Temple,
Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu - representing the ether (Akasha) element
Arriving at the Nataraja Temple
The Nataraja Temple main gate seen from the street
Dancing Shiva on top of the main gate
The huge collonaded Shiva Ganga tank
The Shiva Ganga tank
Photographer capturing the
and rare beauty of the temples
Relief in the temple wall