The Temple of Chidambaram

Chidambaram Travel Blog

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Travel companion Raisja gets a string of flowers for her hair (Chidambaram, India)

After breakfast we leave Pondicherry and let Ajit drive us further south, away from the shore. We haven’t quite figured out why Lomash, the co-driver, is with us. He just sits next to Ajit and never takes the wheel himself. He also doesn’t have any maps to consult, so he’s not a navigator either. He must be there because he’s good company then.

Tour leader Digna is turning out to be a spontaneous young woman with a great sense of humour. Although we haven’t bothered to get to know other members of the group we’re travelling with well, we decided we liked Digna since the first day. She is also flexible and anything but uptight, but I guess that comes naturally when you spend a lot of time in India.

After an hour or two we arrive in the small town of Chidambaram.

The temple of Chidambaram (Chidambaram, India)
Located in the heart of this place is the Chidambaram Temple. Ajit drops us of in a wide street that just shows an hidden entrance of neutral brick. In front of this is a small flower stall where a woman fixes flowers in women’s hair before they go to temple. Travel companion Raisja and I also get a string of flowers for our hair, it’s not clear to us what the flowers mean, we just hope we don’t offend anybody with this since we’re not Hindu…

The second we pass the entrance we see an amazing gate that makes my jaw drop. It’s covered with hundreds of colourful carvings and seems to tell an entire story. When I flip through my travel guide, I find out it’s a gopuram, a monumental tower at the entrance of a temple. It functions as a gateway through the walls that surround the temple complex.

Past the gopuram we enter the temple complex, which is spread over 160 square meters.

Man at the temple of Chidambaram (Chidambaram, India)
The ancient and historic temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Strolling across the complex, we realize the gopurams (we can see there are three more at other entrances) are actually more impressive than the temple and other relating buildings.

The word Chidambaram may be derived from ‘chit’, meaning consciousness, and ‘ambaram’ meaning sky. It would mean ‘the sky of consciousness’, which is the ultimate aim one should attain according to all the Vedas (large bodies of texts composed in Sanskrit originating in ancient India).

The temple of Chidambaram has been around for many centuries, the main Shiva temple has been rebuilt as early as 1213 AD.

The temple of Chidambaram (Chidambaram, India)
The main story of Chidambaram begins with the legend of Lord Shiva strolling into the Thillai Forest. A group of saints lived in this forest and they believed in the supremacy of magic and that God could be controlled by rituals and magical words. Shiva enters the forest in the form of a simple mendicant seeking alms. He is followed by his consort, who is actually Lord Vishnu.

The saints and their wives are very impressed by the brilliance and beauty of the handsome mendicant and his consort. But when the saints see that their women are enchanted by these strangers, the saints get furious and invoke serpents by performing magical rituals. Shiva and Vishnu simply get rid of the serpents, they also know how to handle the fierce tiger the saints send towards them.

Thoroughly frustrated, the saints gather all their spiritual strength and invoke a powerful demon. Shiva simply steps on the demon’s back, immobilizes him and performs the Ananda Thaandava (the dance of eternal bliss) and shows his true form. The saints surrender, realizing that this Lord is beyond magic and rituals.

Walking across this temple and discovering it’s beauty and the attached mythological stories is beyond words. This is why we came to India, we wanted to see colourful temples like this and experience the meaning of Hindu culture.

jethanad says:
Really enjoyed your blog. Hindu temples welcome all people, provided they conform to the rituals and customs. If you have any doubts, you should feel free to ask.
Posted on: May 26, 2010
ramishere says:
The wearing flowers are like wearing a necklace or bangle to women. women from all religions wear flowers.. You have not offended anyone :) I am enjoying your blogs...
Posted on: May 02, 2010
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Travel companion Raisja gets a str…
Travel companion Raisja gets a st…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
Man at the temple of Chidambaram (…
Man at the temple of Chidambaram …
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The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
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The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
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The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidamb…
The temple of Chidambaram (Chidam…
Cute kids in Chidambaram (Chidamba…
Cute kids in Chidambaram (Chidamb…
Cute kids in Chidambaram (Chidamba…
Cute kids in Chidambaram (Chidamb…
Having lunch the Indian way (on th…
Having lunch the Indian way (on t…
Chidambaram Sights & Attractions review
One of the most beautiful temples of Southern India
The Temple of Chidambaram is without any doubt one of the most beautiful temples of Southern India. The current complex was built as early as 1213 AD … read entire review
Chidambaram