The Temple of Chidambaram
Chidambaram Travel Blog› entry 6 of 37 › view all entries
After breakfast we leave Pondicherry and let Ajit drive us further south, away from the shore. We havenâ€™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 doesnâ€™t have any maps to consult, so heâ€™s not a navigator either. He must be there because heâ€™s good company then.
Tour leader Digna is turning out to be a spontaneous young woman with a great sense of humour. Although we havenâ€™t bothered to get to know other members of the group weâ€™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 second we pass the entrance we see an amazing gate that makes my jaw drop. Itâ€™s covered with hundreds of colourful carvings and seems to tell an entire story. When I flip through my travel guide, I find out itâ€™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.
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 â€˜chitâ€™, meaning consciousness, and â€˜ambaramâ€™ meaning sky. It would mean â€˜the sky of consciousnessâ€™, 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 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 demonâ€™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 itâ€™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.