Chidambaram, the famous Hindu pilgrim center gets the name from two words – chit (truth) and ambaram (space), as Lord Shiva is believed to manifest here in the form of akasha (sky) lingam. The temple town was the glorious capital of Cholas from 907 to 1310, who built the Nataraja Temple during the 9th century in honor of their patron deity, Lord Shiva as Natraja. The best time to be here is during the 10 day car festivals held in Apr./ May and Dec. / Jan. . The Natyanjali Dance Festival held on the auspicious occasion of Maha Shivaratri is another attraction of the town.
Natraja Temple: The ancient temple complex dedicated to Lord Nataraja, the dancing Shiva, was built during the reign of Vira Chola Raja (927-997 A.D.). The huge complex is a masterpiece of Chola artistry and one of Tamil Nadu’s Dravidian architectural highlights. It has four exquisitely carved gopurams (gateways), the north and south ones rising to a height of 49 meters. The east and west gopurams are adorned with intricately carved 108 classical postures (54 on each side of both) of Bharatanatyam dance. The temple is unique as it enshrines an idol of Lord Nataraja instead of the customary Shivalingam. It is distinguished for the five Sabhas or halls. Raja Sabha, a huge mandapam near the colonnaded Shivaganga Tank has intricately carved a thousand pillars. The Deva Sabha houses temple bronzes and the Nritta Sabha is carved like a gigantic chariot and has a rich collection of sculptures. Chit Sabha or the ‘Hall of Bliss is the main sanctum, with an unusual hut-like gold plated roof. Lord Shiva is worshipped here in the form of Akasha (Sky) Lingam and is therefore invisible. Kanaka Sabha (Golden Hall), the fifth hall is considered to be the most important. It is said that Lord Shiva performed his tandava nritya (cosmic dance) over here. The ‘golden hall’ represents the golden hue of fire, which stands for purity, and Lord Shiva (Nataraja) dances in unlimited space. Within the hall is a magnificent idol of Lord Nataraja.
Thillai Kaliamman Temple: The temple dedicated to Goddess Parvati was built by Kopperunjingam, who ruled between 1229 and 1278 A.D. It is said that a trip to Chidambaram is incomplete without a visit to this shrine.
Pichchavaram (16 kms.)
This popular tourist site is famous for the beautiful backwaters interconnected by the Vellar and Kollidam system. The unique mangrove forests sprawling over an area of 28,000 acres and quite rare and among the healthiest mangrove occurrences in the world. TTDC offers various water sports facilities.
Poompuhar (40 kms.)
It was the ancient port town of the Cholas. The original town established over 2000 years ago lies submerged in the sea and is of great archaeological value. The excavations conducted here have revealed valuable information about town planning, buildings, sculptures, etc. The existence of ring-wells (Urai Kinaru) near the sea-shore, which have been described in the Sangam literature is quite interesting.
Sillappathikara Art Gallery: The 7 – tire building is of great sculptural value. The statues and sculptures exhibited here make it a perfect showcase of Tamil Culture.
Thiruppallavaneeswaram: The ancient temple is associated with Iyarppakai Nayanar and Pattinatthar. The hero and heroine of Sillappathikaram Kovalan and Kannagi were also born here.
Sirkazhi (20 kms.)
The temple town is famous for the shrines of Lord Shiva, known here as Sri Brahma- pureeswarar, Parvati (Goddess Tirunilai Nayaki), and the child deity Gnanasambandar.
Vaithisvarankoil (25 kms.)
It is famous for the temple of Lord Shiva in the form of Vaidynatheswar, the healer of all diseases. The waters of Siddhamirtham tank in the temple complex are said to have curative powers. According to mythological legends, Lord Shiva treated Angaraka, the ailing God of War over here. Devotees offer gold and silver replicas of organs and pray for good health.