“Enlightenment inside, Illusion outside” – A basic concept relating Inner Consciousness with The Divine …
Before moving on to the next fascinating marvel of Dravidian architecture, you should try to read out the first part of my blog (if not, please click on this link “Fascinating Marvels of Dravidian Architecture – Part 1 (Mahabalipuram)” ) and then only, one can experience the noticeable transition of dravidian temple architecture from the 7th century Pallava tradition to the 10th century Chola tradition. In this part, you are going to experience the two Chola Marvels of dravidian architecture :
- Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram.
- Brihadisvara Temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram (One of the Great Living Chola temples).
Temple architecture in South India reached its pinnacles under the rule of imperial
Cholas (850 – 1250). Early Chola temples however, are not as large as the ambitiously planned Pallava Kailashnatha or the Vaikunthaperumal temples at Kanchipuram. Development in early Chola architecture consists, instead, in perfecting the unique elements of the Dravidian style and combining them harmoniously with new forms in astonishingly diverse ways.
Period of the imperial Cholas (850 CE – 1250 CE) was an age of continuous improvement and refinement of Dravidian art and architecture. Utilized their prodigious wealth earned through their extensive conquests in building long-lasting stone temples and exquisite bronze sculptures. One such architectural marvel is our next location :
“Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram”
In South India, five temples were built for each of the five elements – Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space. These are the Pancha Bhuta Sthalas. Geographically, they are all within the Deccan Plateau – four in Tamil Nadu and one in Andhra Pradesh. The temple for water is in Thiruvanaikaval, fire is Thiruvannamalai, Kalahasti is air and Kanchipuram is earth. The temple for space is in Chidambaram.
Thillai Nataraja temple in Chidambaram is located in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu and it is about 5 kms north of Kollidam river (Kaveri), 65 kms south of Pondicherry and 220 kms south of Chennai. State transport and private companies operate many services connecting it to other major cities. The site is also linked to the Indian Railway network through Chidambaram railway station. So, reaching Chidambaram, from Mahabalipuram was not an issue, as there were state transport buses available from the bypass junction near Mahabalipuram town (in 1.5 km distance). The easiest way is to reach Pondicherry, first (91 kms from Mahabalipuram) and then to Chidambaram.
In ancient times, this town was used to be called ‘Thillai’, following Thillai Vanam (forest), derived from mangrove of Thillai trees that grow here and the nearby Pichaivaram wetlands. And was renamed to Chidambaram, by Chola dynasty, when it was their capital city.The early history of the temple lies hidden in the mists of time. It reached its present form under the patronage of the kings of the Chola dynasty in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. From the aerial view we can see the total surface area of the temple covers 13 hectares or 35 acres. Placing it among the largest temples in the whole of India. It is designed with five concentric Prakaras, or circumambulatory temple courtyards. These are associated with the Five Elements. The innermost Prakara is not visible. It lies within the sanctum with the golden roof, and can only be entered by the Deekshithars (exclusive administrative group of Brahmins). The architecture and the rituals of this temple reflect its history and doctrine.
The word ‘Chidambaram’, refers to the philosophy and doctrine of the temple. ‘Chit’ means consciousness or wisdom. ‘Ambaram’ signifies ether in Sanskrit, but in Tamil the ‘ambalam’ means hall. The name unifies two aspects of the doctrine. Meaning both Hall of Wisdom, as well as the place of the Ether of Consciousness. Temple’s architecture symbolizes the connection between art and spirituality; ie, creativity and divine.
The Nataraja (Lord Siva posing as a Cosmic dancer) form essentially comes from Southern India, particularly from Tamil Nadu. And Nataraja is the family deity of Chola dynasty. Represents the exuberance of creation, the dance of creation which self-created itself from the eternal stillness. Nataraja standing in Chidambaram is very symbolic because what you call as Chidambaram is just absolute stillness. That is what is enshrined in the form of this temple. Main idea of classical arts is to bring this absolute stillness into a human being. Without stillness, true art cannot come… isn’t it ???
History of Chidambaram Nataraja Temple
Where we now find this beautiful and ancient temple, was once an impenetrable forest of Thillai trees, which is a kind of mangrove. This forest gave Chidambaram its first and most ancient name, Thillai. Within this sprawling forest was a lotus pond, and at the southern bank of this pond existed a Svayambhu Linga. A linga is a representation of Lord Siva which unites both the concepts of Form as well as of Formless in itself. In modern terms this formless-form might be called an abstraction.
Svayambhu means ‘self existent’, signifying that the linga was not made by human beings, but came into existence by itself, from nature. To this lotus pond in the Tillai forest, once came two saints, named Vyagrapada and Patanjali. They came from very different backgrounds and from very different directions, but they came for the same reason: to witness Lord Siva’s Cosmic Dance. It had been foretold to them that if they would worship the linga on the bank of the lotus pond in the forest, Lord Siva would come to perform His Dance.
Eventually this great event took place. Nataraja came to perform His Dance on a Thursday, when the moon was in the Asterism Pushan, in the Tamil month of Tai, long before the Christian era. This dance is called the Ananda Tandava or Dance of Bliss. The saints achieved liberation, and on their special request Siva promised to perform His Dance for all time at that place. The story of the origin of the worship of Shiva Nataraja in Chidambaram is told in the Chidambaram Mahatmyam. The Sacred History of Chidambaram, which is part of the Skanda Purana, one of the 18 great Puranas or collections of mythology. From one of the saints, Vyagrapada, which means Tiger Footed, Chidambaram received its second name, Puliyur, meaning ‘City of the Tiger’.
“Chidambaram Mahatmyam or Legend”
An interesting story to visualize….. Throughout all of eternity, Lord Vishnu rests on Shesha (Ananthan), the Cosmic Snake, in Vaikundam. Once his weight suddenly seemed to have greatly increased. Shesha asked Vishnu “why are you so much heavier, Lord?” The Lord answered “I have had a vision of Siva doing his Cosmic Dance. I have expanded with happiness at the sight.” Shesha requested Vishnu to tell him all about Siva’s Dance. And Lord told him everything as follows :
“In the forest called Daruvanna, lived a community of Rishis or Seers in a hermitage. Through the performance of rituals they had achieved great knowledge and power, but they had not realized the importance of Divine Grace. Lord Siva requested Lord Vishnu to accompany him to enlighten the Rishis, by showing them human power and knowledge were helpless without intervention of Divine Grace. To accomplish this purpose the two deities applied their power of Maya or Illusion. Siva entered the hermitage of the Rishis as Bhikshatana or a Mendicant. With dazzling beauty, wearing only a mendicant’s sandals, the wives and daughters of the Rishis fell madly in love with him, forgetting everything else, and completely loosing themselves. Vishnu transformed himself into a beautiful woman called Mohini, and an alluring dancer. As soon as the Rishis saw Mohini dance before them, they too lost all sense and rationality and with desire burning in their hearts they followed Mohini around like madmen.
When some of the Rishis realized what was happening they became enraged and started a great magical fire sacrifice against Lord Siva’s Bhikshatana. First they called from the fire – A tiger, but when tiger attacked Lord Siva he laughed, and killed the ferocious animal with his hands, tearing off its skin and wearing it for a loin cloth. Next the Rishis send poisonous snakes, which he draped around his arms and neck, as jewelry. Then Siva prepared to perform his Cosmic Dance. His two other arms appeared and his third eye shone in his forehead. The Rishis called a fierce dwarf (Apasmara Purusha – Murayalayan) from their magical fire, but Siva’s dancing foot simply took him for a pedestal and danced. Finally the Rishis send the fire itself to destroy the Cosmic Dancer, but he just took it on to his left hand. And from the mantras that the Rishis used against him he made his anklets. Then the Lord danced his Tandava or Cosmic Dance. Its full power made the Rishis fall to the ground. It made Lord Vishnu shake, and even Parvati, the goddess consort of Shiva, who joined them to witness her husbands dance, was overcome with fear. But the Lord danced smiling, showing his raised foot. The Rishis understood the Lord’s Divine Grace, and attained realization. They started to dance themselves and all of creation danced with them.”
After Vishnu has told Shesha about his vision of Siva’s Cosmic Dance, he longs for only one thing: to see Siva’s dance himself. Vishnu grants him permission to leave him for a while, so Shesha too will be able to experience the dance. After performed austerities for long ages, Siva appeared before him, and offers him the fulfillment of any wish. Shesha has only one wish: to witness Shiva’s Ananda Tandava.
In fulfillment of Shesha’s wish, Siva announced to him that he will dance at the appropriate and tangible moment on earth in the Sabha in the Thillai forest. This forest is situated on the middle point of the earth, and constituted its heart centre, the Lotus Space. Through it passes the main energy nadi, or vein, of our mother planet. This place is called Chit Ambara, the Ether of Consciousness. Siva told that he, Shesha, would be born on earth from human parents, and that he would be called Patanjali. After growing up, he will travel to Thillai, where he will meet another saint, called Vyagrapada the Tigerfooted. And both will perform tapas and worship, until the appointed time for Siva to perform his Cosmic Dance in the Sabha has arrived.
All these things foretold by Siva to Shesha, come to pass. As Patanjali reached the Thillai forest he found on the southern bank of the lotus pond the saint Vyagrapada, worshipping the Mulasthana Linga and performing austerities. Vyagrapada had come to the Thillai forest following the advice of his father, the Rishi Madhyandina. To worship the Mulasthana Linga he used to gather flowers in the early morning, but however early he collected the flowers, insects had already damaged them. Deeply upset that his worship was not as complete or perfect as he aimed for, he cried to Lord Siva to help him. In answer to his prayer Siva gave him tiger claws for hand and feet, enabling him to find his way through the thick forest at night to gather flowers long before daybreak, before the insects could inflict their damage. From then on both saints did the worship and the austerities together, as they waited for the appointed time for Siva to dance in the Sabha. As that time approached also the 3000 munivars or Thillai Muvayravar (later called Deekshithars) arrived in the forest to await the Lord’s dance.
When that day arrived, it was announced with the sound of drums and conches. A rain of flowers fell from heaven, and in the Sabha appeared a light of a thousand suns and moons. In the middle of this light mass appeared Siva’s form, dancing his Ananda Tandava, and showing his Lotus Foot. His is an un-earthly beauty, while his peaceful smile shines on all. He was together with Parvati, who witnessed his dance. All those present, Devatas, demons and humans rejoiced, almost fainting, and all joined in his dance, dancing themselves. Then Siva offered the two saints to make a wish. They wished that Siva would forever perform his Ananda Tandava or Dance of Bliss in the golden Sabha of Chidambaram, for the entire world to experience. So that any human who desired this could also reach His lifted Lotus Foot and realize liberation. Soon after that, the King Sveta Varman came to the Thillai forest. At that time, he was forced to give up his kingdom after being infected with a skin disease called ‘white spot’, a form of leprosy. Lord Nataraja ordered the two saints Vyagrapada and Patanjali to let the king take a bath in the lotus pond, now called the Shiva Ganga (A sacred pool), that he may be healed. After re-emerging from the water the king’s skin had become golden, his name becoming Hiranya Varman or ‘golden coloured’. And he was taken to the Sabha to see Nataraja’s Ananda Tandava. Overtaken with emotions the king fell on earth and offered his life-long service to the Dancing Siva. He was consecrated by the 3000 munivars, and received from Vyagrapada, signifying his kingship and valor. The king then rebuild beautifully the temple and the city around it. And established the main festivals of the yearly cycle in the temple.
Nataraja Siva and his “dance of bliss” is an ancient Hindu art concept. It is found in various texts such as Tatva Nidhi which describes seven types of dance and their spiritual symbolism, Kashyapa Silpa which describes 18 dance forms with iconographic details and design instructions, as well as Bharata Muni’s ancient treatise on performance arts Natya Shastra which describes 108 dance postures among other things.
Earliest historically verifiable Siva temple at Chidambaram is traceable in inscriptions that date to the rule of Aditya Chola I in early 10th century, and far more during the rule of 10th century Chola King Parantaka I. For them, Lord Nataraja was the kula-nayaka (family guide or deity) and Chidambaram was the capital they built. The copper plate inscriptions of Parantaka I (907-955 CE) describe him as the “be at the lotus feet of Shiva” who built the golden house for Shiva, with Chit-sabha, Hema-sabha, Hiranya-sabha and Kanaka-sabha (all mandapam, pillared pilgrim rest places). He is referred to as “Pon veinda Perumal”, which means “one who covered with gold” the Chit-sabha of Chidambaram. These inscriptions and texts from this period suggest that the significance of the Agama texts and Shaiva Bhakti movement was strengthening within the Chola leadership and thought. They converted many older brick and wooden temples into more lasting temples from cut stone as the building blocks in dozens of places across South India.
The temple, according to inscriptions found in South India and Southeast Asia, was also historic recipient of a precious jewel from the king of Angkor who built the Angkor Wat through Chola king Kulothunga I, who submitted it to the temple in 1114 CE.
Significance of Siva in his “Ananda Tandava” Nataraja aspect:
- The demon (Apasmara) under Lord Nataraja’s feet signifies that ignorance is under His feet.
- The fire in His hand (power of destruction) means He is the destroyer of evil.
- The raised hand (Abhaya or Pataka mudra) signifies that He is the savior of all life forms.
- The arc of fire called Thiruvashi or Prabhavati signifies the cosmos and the perpetual motion of the earth.
- The drum in His hand signifies the origin of life forms.
- The lotus pedestal signifies ‘Om’, the sound of the universe.
- His right eye, left eye and third eye signify the sun, moon and fire/knowledge, respectively.
- His right earring (makara kundalam) and left earring (sthri kundalam) signify the union of man and woman (right is man, left is woman).
- The crescent moon in His hair signifies benevolence and beauty.
- The flowing of river Ganges through His matted hair signifies eternity of life.
- The dreading of His hair and drape signify the force of His dance.
Invasions in Chidambaram
By late 13th century, in the north, the Indian subcontinent had been conquered by the Delhi Sultanate. Muslim armies had begun raiding central India for plunder. In 1311, the Ala ud Din Khilji’s army general Malik Kafur and his Delhi Sultanate forces went deeper into the Indian peninsula for loot and to establish annual tribute paying Muslim governors. The records left by the court historians of the Delhi Sultanate state that Malik Kafur raided Chidambaram, Srirangam and other Tamil towns, destroyed the temples, and the Chidambaram Siva temple was one of the sources of gold and jewels booty he brought back to Delhi. The temple towns of Tamil Nadu were again targeted for loot in 1320s. However, when the news of another invasion spread in Tamil lands, the community removed them into the Western Ghats or buried numerous sculptures and treasures in the land and concealed chambers underneath temples sites before the Muslim armies reached them. A large number of these were rediscovered in archaeological excavations at the site in and after 1979, including those in Chidambaram. Those who buried the temple artworks followed the Hindu Agama texts such as Marici Samhita and Vimanarcanakalpa that recommend ritually burying precious metal murtis as a means of protection when war and robbery is imminent. Over 200 such items have been recovered, including relevant hordes of copper plate inscriptions.
The islamic invasion in the 14th century, bought an abrupt end to the patronage of Chidambaram. The Delhi Sultan appointed a Governor, who seceded within the few years from the Delhi Sultanate and began the Madurai Sultanate. This Sultanate sought tribute from the temple towns, instead of supporting them. Madurai Sultanate was relatively short-lived, with Vijayanagar empire removing it in late 14th century. Vijayanagara rulers restored, repaired and expanded the temple through the 16th century, along with many other regional temples. These kings themselves went on pilgrimage to Chidambaram, and gifted resources to strengthen its walls and infrastructure. Destruction of Vijayanagara Empire in late 16th century by Bahmini Sultans, an alliance of Sultanates, followed within a few decades by entrance of Portuguese, French and British colonial interests brought geopolitical uncertainties to Chidambaram and other temple towns. The Portuguese were already a major Coromandel Coast trading group by early 17th century, a region to which Chidambaram belonged. The Portuguese began building forts, garrison and churches in Coromandel Coast region after the demise of Vijayanagara, triggering the intervention of the French and the British. By mid 17th century, the temple complex was within the patronage of Nayakas, who repaired the temple and repainted the frescoes on mandapa ceilings. According to British reports, this temple town had to bear the “brunt of several severe onslaughts” between the French and the British colonial forces several times particularly in the 18th century.
Floor Plan of Thillai Nataraja temple, Chidambaram
First session of Day 2 – Exploring Chidambara Rahasyams (Secrets)
The most imposing feature of Chidambaram Natraja temple, which can be seen soaring above the plain from miles away, are the four temple gateways or gopurams, located in the second wall of enclosure at the cardinal points. They are considered among the earliest examples of such structures and are in their present form dated to the 12th and 13th century. Scholars disagree about the dates of individual gopurams, or about which one was build first. Some consider the west gopuram as oldest, some the east gopuram.In total, the temple has nine major gopuram gateways connecting the various courtyards. Four of these are huge and colorful, visible from afar, a symbolic and convenient landmark for pilgrims. These gateway towers, each have 7 storeys facing the East, South, West and North.The first edition of the four gopuram superstructures were likely built between 1150 and 1300 CE. All gopuras are built of precisely cut large stone blocks all the way to the main cornice. Upon this is a stone, brick and plaster structure with layers of pavilions. Above these talas(storeys) is a Dravidian style barrel vaulted roof, crowned with thirteen kalasa finials. All four are approximately similar in size and 14:10:3 ratio. Truely, a fascinating scene for our eyes….
Between the second half of the 12th century and the early 13th century, the Chola kings added colorful and high gopura stone gateways as easily identifiable landmarks, starting with the western gopura. Thereafter, about mid 13th century, the Pandya dynasty ended the Chola dynasty. The Hindu Pandyas were liberal supporters of Chidambaram temple, along with other Siva and Vishnu temples, just like the Chola. Sundara Pandya added the huge eastern gopura at Chidambaram, beginning the colossal gateway tradition.
Artists and architects who built these towers may have had a rationale in the relative sequence and position of the artwork with respect to each other and on various levels… How marvelously and perfectly they are sculpted and arranged !….. True geniuses !
The gateways, which are dwarfed in the Pallava, are in late Chola prominent. The dvarpalas (gatekeepers) in Chola temples are fierce men with tridents, bearing tusks
protruding from mouths, rolled eyes and hands always in threatening gestures. These contrast with the benign natural looking single paired arm dvarpalas of the past.
Inside walls of passages through all the four gopurams are decorated with the 108 karanas, the dance movements of Siva, from the Natya Shastra, the world’s most ancient treatise on dance, drama and theatre. Besides in Chidambaram these karanas are depicted in only four other temples, all in Tamil Nadu. That’s interesting, isn’t it ?
Eastern gopuram features the 108 reliefs of Bharata Muni’s Natya Shastra dance postures (22 cm each in a separate niches)…..
Just look at the ceilings, also … What can you find ???
On the outside of the granite bases of the gopurams are found sculptures of many important as well as less well known deities in niches in a particular order. From the second tier onward, on each of the Gopuram, are seen images of various manifestations of Siva such as Bhikshatana, Kankala (both being ascetic forms), Kalyanasundarar, Somaskandar etc. (bestowers of prosperity). There are no representations of Nataraja on the temple towers, as this image is reserved for the innermost shrine alone….
A typical new Chola feature, that is different from the Pallava, is the famed
ornamentation of temple walls. This consists in the use of real deep niches with entablatures. These niches, the Devakushtas (niches to house deities), flanked by demi pilasters, appear on wall surfaces of Chola temples. The decoration, in most finished examples, alternates between the various niche devices of koshtapanjaras and Kumbhapanjaras. Space is narrow in these forms but the decoration is more rounded. The pilasters of these niches are crowned by a curved roof moulding adorned by two kudus with crowning lion heads. The bases of these decorative devices have makara (motif based on the mythical sea monster) and warrior heads.
Moving on to the eastern entrance to the third prakara or courtyard, a Yagam was going on in the nearby pillared mandapa or hall…. you can see the Deekshitars or Thillai muvayravar in this scene…
Today there are around 360 families of Deekshithars who are conducting the rituals and are also the beneficiaries of the temple. But they are unable to maintain it so many things are going away. All the vegetable dye paintings on the ceiling, which are a thousand years old are almost sixty percent gone. The plaster has fallen off and there is nobody for upkeep. And unknowingly, they have put up concrete structures here and there in this hundred percent stone temple because of which the aesthetics and the dynamics of the temple are badly disturbed.
Coming to the eastern entrance of second prakaram …. two interesting designs caught our attention…. one, on the floor and the other, on the ceiling…
Reaching near the entrance to inner third prakara, the most disturbing and annoying thing came to my notice. A saddened moment for a photographer …. can you guess it ??? Yeah ! Its about restriction of photography….
In any way, the good thing is that you can still explore the world, beyond this, with your magical eyes…. And i can explain it to you, what’s on the other side of this….
Main edifices of the temple are the five Sabhas or Halls: the Cit Sabha, Kanaka Sabha, Deva Sabha, Nritta Sabha, and the Raja Sabha. At the centre of the temple is situated the sanctum sanctorum or holy of holiest, called the Chit Sabha or Chit Ambalam. This means the ‘Hall of Wisdom’. It is the main shrine where Lord Nataraja accompanied by his consort Parvati performs His Cosmic Dance, the Ananda Tandava or Dance of Bliss.
The world is the embodiment of the Virat Purusha, the colossal human form. Chidambaram is the centre of this form, the place of the heart, where Siva performs the Cosmic Dance. Chidambaram temple is laid out as a Purusha. For this reason the devotees may approach the central shrine from two sides. As blood flows to and from the heart. The nine stupas or finals topping the golden roof represent the nine orifices of the human body, and also symbolize the nine Matrikas or goddesses. The roof is made of 21.600 tiles, representing inhalations and exhalations of breath. The links and side joints symbolize the connecting veins.
The golden roof is made of 22600 tiles representing the number of breaths of a human being on a day, and fixed with 72,000 golden nails representing the 72,000 visible and invisible nerves of a human body! The roof is having 9 ornamental conic heads (Kalasas), representing the nine gateways or holes in a human body. There are five courtyards, representing five sheaths of a human body, kosas. The four gopurams, together with the golden dome of the central shrine are the five towers which represent the five faces of Shiva, with the Chit Sabha symbolizing the masterful face.
The five main steps at the entrance to the shrine stand between the devotees and the image of Siva, covered in silver – ‘Panchakshara’. They are the five seed words or syllables of the mantra, ‘ Shi Va YA Na Ma ‘. By chanting these syllables, the devotee can cross the ocean of bondage and attain to the Lord. The granite plinth of the shrine is called Parvadam, because it does duty for Mount Kailasa in providing a support for Lord Siva. On all special occasions puja or worship is performed to this plinth. The name, Hall of Consciousness or Hall of Wisdom, refers to the quality of wisdom which pervades the atmosphere, bestowed upon the worshippers by the Dance of the Lord. His boon is the experience of the Cosmic Dance.
A unique feature is that the structure of the actual Sabha is made of wood, which has so far not been botanically classified. It is rectangular in form and here Siva is worshipped in his three aspects:
- As Form – Nataraja the murti or image of Siva
- As Formless-form – The crystal linga called Chandramaulishvara
- As Formless – The yantra which is the Akasha Linga
From the platform opposite the Sabha one can see the image of the Dancing Siva, situated in the middle of the it. Siva is facing south, unlike most other Hindu deities. This signifies he is the Conqueror of Death, dispelling the fear of death for the humanity.
The Crystal Linga called Chandramaulishvara is Siva as Formless-Form. Crystal Linga was formed from the essence of the crescent moon in Siva’s matted hair, for the purpose of daily worship. This murti is taken from its keeping place at the feet of the Nataraja six times a day, and abhishekam of holy ablution is performed to him in the hall called Kanaka Sabha in front of the Chit Sabha.
Immediately to the proper right of the Nataraja is the Chidambaram Rahasyam, the ‘mystery’ of Chidambaram. Here, behind a silk curtain which is black on the outside and red on the inside, is the Akasha Linga, in the form of a yantra. An abstract geometrical design, on which the deity is invoked. Behind the curtain, before the yantra, hang a few strands of golden vilva leaves. This signifies the act of creation. One moment nothing exists, the next instant the All has been brought into existence. At regular timings the curtain is removed to allow the devotees to worship the Akasha – the Ether which is the vehicle of the Absolute and Consciousness.
The Chit Sabha houses one more unique form of Siva. This is the Ratna Sabha Pati, the Ruby Lord of the Sabha: a replica of the Nataraja murti in ruby form. This murti appeared out of the fire of the sacrifice in response to the devotion of the Deekshithars. Once a day, as part of the 10.00 o’clock morning puja ritual, after the abhishekam of the Crystal Linga, abhishekam is also performed to the Ruby Siva. As conclusion of this ceremony the Ruby Nataraja is placed on the edge of the Parvadam of the Kanaka Sabha and Mangala Arati is offered (burning of camphor on a special plate which is shown both in front and behind the Ruby Nataraja). This brings out the special quality of translucence of this murti, creating a mystical spectacle for the onlookers.
Nobody knows when the worship of Nataraja was established here, or when the Chit Sabha was build. The original wooden structure is doubtless the oldest structure in the temple complex, as the shrine of the Mulasthana Linga is a later construction under the Chola Kings. The Sabha has no features that could help to date it. It is unique and no other structure is known like it anywhere else in Indian architecture. Analysis by the C 14 method (Carbon dating) would be unreliable because it is known to have been regularly renovated during the centuries. But the origins of the temple of Siva’s Nataraja in Chidambaram definitely lie back in prehistoric times.
Immediately in front of the Chit Sabha is the Kanaka Sabha, or Golden hall. Its roof is made of copper, although Kanaka means gold. This is the gold of spiritual treasure: to experience Shiva’s dance from so near. In this Sabha are most of the daily rituals of worship for Nataraja performed. The Yagna of the morning rituals. Rituals with lamps and ritual objects. And the abhishekam of the Crystal Linga and Ruby Nataraja. The public can enter certain areas of the Kanaka Sabha for worship of the Nataraja and the Akasha Linga at specified hours of the day. It is a controversy whether this Sabha was originally constructed together with the Chit Sabha, or some time later.
In the innermost courtyard, at a right angle with the golden Sabha, we find the shrine of Vishnu, as Govinda Raja. Reclining on the Cosmic Snake (Shesha), he is in the yogic state of consciousness, enjoying the vision of Shiva’s dance. The coexistence of the worship of both Vishnu and Shiva within one temple is unique. The worship of Vishnu was established in the earliest times and was originally performed by the Deekshithars themselves. In the later medieval period, with a shifting political situation under pressure of Muslim invasions, there was possibly a discontinuation of the worship for a
long period, after which it re-instated by the king Achyuta Raya (1539) of the Vijayanangara empire. The worship of Vishnu Govinda Raja has since then been in the hands of Vaishnava priests, and was no longer performed by the Deekshithars.
Within the inner courtyard, to the east of the Sabha, we find a small shrine which houses the murtis of both the Creator God Brahma, of the Hindy Trinity, and Chandikeshvara, a deified saint. The presence of Brahma (a deity almost never worshipped) establishes the worship of all three deities of the Hindu Trinity with-in the
Next one, we are going to experience is the Nritta Sabha. Here the shrine is in the form of a Ratha or Chariot, pulled by two stone horses. It is situated opposite the Chit Sabha, in the third courtyard. It is the place of the dance contest between Nataraja and the goddess Kali. Siva conquered the goddess, who would not calm down after she destroyed a powerful demon, by lifting his right leg straight up towards the sky. This dance is called the Urdhva Tandava. Then and there Kali suddenly remembered who she really was, the peaceful Parvati, consort of Siva, and she was able to leave her furious mood and returned to her peaceful self. This scene is depicted in the sanctum inside the Sabha. We see here, Siva performing his Urdhva Tandava, his leg lifted straight above his head, Kali calmed down in one corner, both accompanied by Vishnu playing the Talam, the instrument which is used to accompany dance. The chariot form of the Sabha commemorates Siva as Tripurasamhara murti, the Destroyer of the Three Demon Cities. Several divine powers joined together to create Siva’s chariot. Thus the sun and moon became the wheels, the Vedas the horses etc.
After destroying the Three Cities, the Lord descended from His chariot, having landed opposite the Chit Sabha, and ascended into the Sabha to commence His Dance. From this the Nritta Sabha is also called Edir Amabalam or opposite hall. This Sabha has several distinguishing features aside from its shape and its function. Its columns are unique to the chariot hall. They are square, and although carved from the hardest granite they are covered with exquisite miniature relief’s, depicting dancers, musicians and all kinds of mythological figures.
One other feature sets this edifice apart from any other hall within the temple complex and from all other temple halls in India. This Sabha is mysteriously connected to the Sphinx (is a mythical creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion). Just under the floor surface of the raised platform which is the body of the Sabha is a belt or pattika, surrounding the whole Sabha. Here we see lions and sphinxes alternating in pairs, girdling the Sabha. Also the pillars of the two pavilions on the western side of the Sabha are supported by four sphinxes which function as caryatids (Draped female figures).
Nritta Sabha is considered by tradition the second oldest building in the complex, without any real indication of its age. It is reported in inscriptions as having been renovated by the Chola King Kulottunga I in the 11th century.
The Deva Sabha can be found in the third prakara or courtyard. The festival deities are kept during the year, and worship is performed for them daily. This is done inside the Sabha, and is not open to the public. The age and history of this Sabha is also hidden in the mists of time. There is some evidence the Deva Sabha was once used as an audience hall by visiting kings of the different governing dynasties of the Cholas, Pandyas and others during the several phases of history. No other information is available.
Altogether, the inside views are so fascinating to the eyes and beyond our imaginaton. Visuals of highly intricated, massive pillars, modern era paintings at the top on ceilings, stunning architecture of the main sabhas (some works have to be related with the Vijayanagara style (14th – 16th century)), thrilling golden roof of Chit-sabha etc are very interesting. Coming to the outside, its time to open the eyes of my camera, and the first scene was this…. The South Gopuram of Chidambaram temple….
Near to this Southern gopuram, Mukkuruni Vinayagar temple is located in the southwest corner….
From there, we can see the earliest gopuram of the all four, the one made by the Chola kings, The Western Gopuram of Chidambaram temple….
Its a shame, if one mentions Lord Siva without mentioning His loving consort, Goddess Parvathi. Likewise, there is a temple for Goddess Shivakamasundari, consort of Siva, situated on the west side of the Shivaganga tank. A flight of steps leads down into its courtyard. The goddess is worshipped here as the Jñana Shakti: the energy and power of wisdom. On the frontal portion of the pillared hall, on the ceiling of the right and left wings, the finest eye-capturing fresco paintings of approximately a thousand years old, illustrate the Leelas or Sacred Deeds of Siva.
The galleries surrounding the temple are decorated with a procession of dancers and musicians, sculptured in relief. This temple was possibly build in the 11th century under the Chola king Kulottunga I.
In the north side of Chidambaram temple, one can see the sacred ‘Sivaganga Pool’ …. Most of the infamous shots of the Nataraja temple, Chidambaram are really originated from here…. Its time for me to achieve something like that….
You can see an elongated massive hall to the east of Sivaganga pool …. Its name is Raja Sabha or 1000 Pillared Hall…..
It is first mentioned as the place where the medieval poet Sekkilar premiered his great work on the lives of the 63 Nayanmars or Saiva saints, the Periya Purana, before the Chola king Kulottunga II or III, in the 12th century.
Interesting images of two elephants (not monolithic ones) with their trainers, found on the either sides of Mukhamandapa, placed in front of the Raja Sabha or 1000 pillar hall. It looks like the elephants are trying to pull this enormous Raja Sabha….
And there was this last shot from Chidambaram Nataraja temple, dedicated to my fellow companions; Sreejith and Lakshmy….
Its been four long hours, since we had done our breakfast from one of the nearby vegetarian hotel. I was totally famished at this time…. So, needed a proper lunch to satisfy my stomach. Thankfully, there were free offerings of food, daily, for devotees, from the temple administration. Felt like a boon, granted by the Lord for our efforts. It was a good traditional Brahmin meal and really enjoyed myself, having it.
Time to say goodbye to this infamous Nataraja temple (a unique one in entire South India) and move onto the next destination. Its a place where one gets enlightened, both physically and mentally. A place where Creativity meets the Divine. The Divine grace transforms our consciousness in to a superior level, beyond our imagination. A moment of realization about the ignorance living inside us. And His ‘Dance of Bliss’ can clear this ignorance and bring the eternal happiness.
As mentioned earlier, the next destination on our list was Gangaikonda Cholapuram, situated 45 kms to the southwest of Chidambaram, in the Udayarpalayam taluk of Ariyalur district, Tamil Nadu. The nearest railway station is at Kumbakonam and Ariyalur. But, the simplest way to reach Cholapuram is by road, with the help of state transport and private buses. You need to travel via Kaattumannarkudi or kovil, which is 27 kms from Chidambaram. From there, local buses and auto rickshaws are available at reasonable rates, to cover the final 17 kms. Locally, Gangaikonda Cholapuram is known as Jayakondam (please, remember this). So, lets know more about the Cholapuram temple …..
Brihadisvara Temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram
Cholas had become the greatest power in South India by 10th century CE. They had reached the borders of the Rashtrakuta kingdom in the north. Rows of temples were built on both the banks of the river Cauvery to mark their growing power. Cholas greatly made use of art to proclaim their power, used temples to make unequivocal statements about their political hegemony. The Great Chola King, Rajaraja I, crowned in 985, carved out an overseas empire by establishing a second capital at Pollonaruva in Sri Lanka. The Brihadeeswara (Big temple of Thanjavur), built by him (995 – 1010) at his capital Thanjavur, though he did not live to see it completed is a product of this success. Temple inscriptions make clear the triumphal nature of the edifice.
Just a couple of years after Rajaraja I built the Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur, his proud son Rajendra I (1012 – 1044 AD) became the Chola ruler. Rajendra ruled jointly alongside his father, until the latter’s death in 1016 AD. Having served as a general under his father, Rajendra was an accomplished warrior who led many successful military expeditions. He had his army march northwards, all the way to the Ganga, to bring home pots of holy water from the river. Defeating enemy armies along the way, his men returned victorious, earning Rajendra the title ‘Gangaikondachola’, meaning ‘the Chola who conquered the Ganges’.
He established a new capital city called Gangaikondacholapuram (also called Gangaikondacholeshwaram) about 70 km from Thanjavur, and had a royal temple by the same name built in it. The temple is commonly called the Brihadisvara Temple now (the one we are going to explore). Rajendra also built a lake in the town called Cholagangam to mark his victorious expedition. It was fed by the Cauvery river, and some water from the holy river, Ganga was poured into it as well. Today, people call it Ponneri lake.
Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple is the pinnacle of the achievements of Rajendra I, the mighty Chola King, who established his new capital here with the magnificent city and temple dedicated to Lord Siva. The temple is massive and richly carved with sculptures. The architecture has complex carvings on the hard granite stones unlike the customary simple style of the Cholas. The sculptures that adorn the walls and ceilings of Gangaikonda Cholapuram are exquisite.The temple is famed for its bronze sculptures, artwork on its walls, the depiction of Nandi and the scale of its tower. As well as its notability for having been built by Rajendra I, the temple is also noteworthy for its numerous inscriptions, although none of them are his.
History of Brihadisvara temple, Cholapuram
The Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple is smaller yet more refined than the Thanjavur Big temple. Because of its delicate appearance and gentle curve, this temple is often called the feminine version of the one in Thanjavur. The temple was constructed in 1035 AD by Rajendra Chola I. Some experts believe that the temple was built during 1020, during the 6th regnal year, but inscriptions indicate the 20th regnal year, which is 1035 AD. Rajendra wanted to emulate the temple built by his father after his victory in a campaign across India that Chola era texts state covered Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Bengal. After his victory, he demanded that the defeated kingdoms send pots of Ganges River water and pour them into the temple’s well. The well was originally called Cholagangam as it was filled with water from Ganges.
Gangaikonda Cholapuram remained the Chola capital for the next 250 years. Rajendra I built the entire capital with several temples using plans and infrastructure recommended in Tamil Vastu and Agama Sastra texts. These included a Dharma Sasta, Vishnu and other temples. However, these structures were destroyed in the late 13th and 14th centuries except this temple. The other Chola landmarks, clearly shown by soil covered mounds and excavated broken pillar stumps and brick walls, are found over a large area nearby. The earliest inscription that mentions this city by name is dated 1029, while the earliest reference to Rajendra I’s expedition towards the Ganges river in the north is dated 1023. The first gift to the newly built Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple is dated 1035. Rajendra I, must have involved the same craftsmen used by his father and transferred them from Thanjavur. Archaeological excavations have revealed fort walls and palace remains a few kilometers from this temple. It is believed that Kulothunga Chola I, Rajendra’s successor, built fortifications around the city.
The reasons for the city’s destruction are unclear. The Pandyas who defeated the Cholas during the later part of 13th-century “may have razed the city to ground” to avenge their previous defeats. However, it is unclear why other temples were destroyed and this temple was spared, as well as why there are around twenty inscriptions from later Cholas, Pandyas and Vijayanagar Empires indicating various gifts and grants to this temple if they previously razed this place. An alternative theory links the destruction to the raids, plunder and wars, particularly with the invasion of the capital city and the territories, that were earlier a part of the Chola and Madurai Empires, by the armies of the Delhi Sultanate led by the army commander Malik Kafur in 1311, followed by Khusrau Khan in 1314, and Muhammad bin Tughlaq in 1327. The period that followed saw many wars from the Delhi Sultanate and they carved out new states such as the nearby Madurai Sultanate (1335–1378). The Vijayanagara Empire defeated the Madurai Sultanate in 1378 and this temple, along with other Chola era temples, then returned to the control of South Indian kings who repaired and restored many of them. The temple was added to the list of Great Living Chola Temples in the year 2004.
According to available evidences, the last Chola, King Rajendra Chola III’s rule did not end due to defeats in war. There are signs of some devastation that hint at some major catastrophe that happened around Gangaikondacholapuram which brought to an end the Chola rule. The temple, unfortunately, was looted several times. It was also used as a garrison and fortified cantonment by the Pandyas and later on by the British as well.
Floor Plan of Brihadisvara temple, Cholapuram
Though the temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram follows the plan of the great temple of Thanjavur in most details it has an individuality of its own. From the remains it may be seen that it had only one enclosure wall and a gopuram while the Thanjavur temple has two gopurams and enclosures. The prakara follows the Thanjavur lay-out in that it had a two storeyed cloister running all around. Only a part of this has survived in the north. The stones from the other portions were utilized to build the Lower Anaicut across the
Kollidam, during British rule in 18th century. The pillars of cut stone are severely plain throughout as in Thanjavur.
Second session of Day 2 – Exploring the Great Living Brihadisvara temple, Gangaikondam :
Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple of Lord Shiva is really grand and is regarded as the reproduction of Brihadeeswara temple built by Rajaraja Chola, father of Rajendra Chola I. It surpasses the Thanjavur Big temple sculpture as, by the time it was built, Chola sculptors and artisans had perfected the art of temple architecture. It is a tribute to the magnificent architects and artisans.
As one steps in, the great Sri Vimana (superstructure) arrests the visitor’s sight. The Vimana with its recessed corners and upward movement presents a striking contrast to the straight-sided pyramidal tower of Thanjavur but with octagon shape of Dravidian architecture. As it rises to a height of 182 feet (55 m) and is 9m shorter than the Thanjavur tower (as a mark of respect to his father’s masterpiece) with larger plinth, it is often described as the feminine counterpart of the Thanjavur temple.
A Flag post or Dvaja Sthamba is placed in front of the temple, near the eastern entrance….
In front of the flag mast, one can see a “Couchant Bull” facing west, towards the main sanctum…. Don’t you know his name ?
The building to the north of Nandi, called Alankara mandapa, and now housing the executive office of the temple was in all probability constructed in the 19th century. On the northeast corner of the temple complex, you can see a circular well adorned with a lion structure at the entrance…. “Simhakeni”
The superb architecture of the temple boasts of a 9 storey Vimanam that extends to the height of 185 feet. Not less than 54.86m in height, the temple structure follows the style of
Thanjavur big temple. Whole temple is thrived with rich and intricate carvings that are exclusive to Chola style of artistry. Known to comprise a little northern style, the structure embraces intricate carvings in the Vimanam. The colossal shrine also addresses several significant bronzes of the Chola age.
The structural difference of this Srivimana with that of Rajaraja-I’s Brihadeeswara temple at Thanjavur is that; this Srivimana is of feminine structure and the Thanjavur Srivimana as masculine in nature. The main difference, that is obvious, is this Srivimana has 8 sided (Octagonal) in structure and Thanjavur Srivimana has 4 sided (Quadragonal) in structure.
The main temple consists of a sanctum tower called Sri Vimana or Sri Koil, a big rectangular mandapa called the mahamandapa with an intervening vestibule called mukhamandapa. The entrances are guarded by big dvarapalas (7 ft high monolithic Gatekeepers) of remarkable beauty….
Just look at the Dvarapalaka figure on left side. The position of his right hand index finger, which is pointing upwards, indicates that ‘There is one and only God’ (Thatva Concept). And now look at his upper left arm, which is showing Abhaya mudra, indicates ‘He (The God) is the savior of all forms’.
The front entrance to the great mandapa is approached by steps from north and south. As the flooring of the mandapa is on a high elevation, the steps rise to a considerable height forming a high platform in the front. It is said that there is a subterranean passage with steps under this platform. Some claim that this passage leads to the royal palace, while others assert that it leads to the river Kollidam. Yet a third tradition says that it leads to an underground treasury wherein invaluable properties belonging to the temple are preserved. None in the living memory has set foot on this passage for fear of darkness, poisonous gas and wasps. It is not unlikely that the empty underground space below the great mandapa and the space between the steps were utilized as store houses.
Beyond this, photography is not allowed, especially inside the Mahamandapa, the ardhamandapa and the main sanctum or Garbhagriha….
So let me explain the inside of this structure, The Mahamandapa….
If the original mahamandapa had been preserved, it would have retained the grandeur of its conception and beauty. But as it is, only the portion up to the main base is original. The side walls, the pillars and the ceilings have been reconstructed; probably in the 18th century AD. Obviously the superstructure should have crumbled due to neglect and vegetation. However a part of the original has survived up to the ceiling at the western end. From the surviving portion it may be seen, the roof (prastara) of the mahamandapa was in level with the prastara of the ground floor (adi bhumi) of the main Vimana. Like the walls of the main Vimana, a horizontal cornice divides the outer walls of the mahamandapa into two parts. They carry a series of niches both in the upper and lower courses.
As mentioned earlier, the adibhumi of the main Vimana has two floors inside the sandhara passage (the intervening passage), the intervening cornice forming the intermediate floor level. The mahamandapa should have been a two storeyed pavilion, quite fitting with the mahaprasada of the temple. In view of the tall dvarapalas guarding the entrance to the mukhamandapa, the central passage should have had only the upper ceiling without the intermediate flooring. Thus the central passage was flanked by two storeyed structures, resembling the storeyed cloister of the enclosure. It would have presented a most spectacular sight when the deities were taken out in procession through the mahamandapa.
As it stands today the inner side of the mandapa has a central passage, leading from the front to the sanctum flanked by two raised platforms and a passage running around. Two massive dvarapalas are noticed at the western and guarding the entrance to the mukhamandapa. A few sculptures and bronzes receiving regular worship are on the northern platform. The north eastern corner houses an interesting solar altar, now worshipped as Navagraha (nine planets).
Moving on to The Main Sanctum of Gangaikondam Brihadisvara temple…..
The sanctum enshrining the main deity is encased by an inner wall. Between the inner wall and the outer, there is an intervening passage-called sandhara running all around. The two walls are joined at the top by a series of corbelling. They are provided to support the massive super-structure. No painting is noticed in the inner passage. The inner sanctum houses a very big Siva Linga, rising to a height of thirteen feet. It is said to be one of the biggest Siva Linga enshrined in a sanctum in any South Indian temple. The entrance to the sanctum is guarded by massive doorkeepers, dvarapalas. The mandapa immediately preceding the sanctum is approached by steps leading to it from the north and the south sides and also from the great mandapa in the east. The entrances are guarded by big dvarapalas (15 ft high) of astonishing beauty….
The mandapa is supported by massive plain and square pillars. The eastern walls flanking the opening to the great mandapa carry groups of small sculptures illustrating Shaivite themes. The following are the themes thus represented;
Though these group sculptures are carefully selected, they are imperfectly finished and lack the beauty and elegance of the sculptures of the main tower.
Coming to the outside from the main sanctum through northern entrance of the Ardhamandapa, you can see, one of the famous scenes sculpted in this Brihadisvara temple complex (near the Dvarapala on the left side wall)….
Lets explore the northern side of Brihadisvara temple complex…….
Two gatekeepers flank the entrance. In front of the gatekeepers, in the mahamandapa, are images of Saraswati in the north and Gajalakshmi in the south. One of the Dvarapalas is shown here…..
It is significant that the mahamandapa of this Amman temple has steps to it, only on the side. In ancient times, steps were always provided on the sides and not in front of the sanctum. The beautiful image of Goddess now enshrined in the sanctum of this temple should be a later installation. Originally the temple should have enshrined a Siva Linga, like the southern Kailasa. Though separate shrines of Goddesses came to be built in the main temples only from the reign of Rajendra I, no Devi-shrine was built originally in this temple, the present one being clearly a later institution.
Back to the details about Great Sri Vimana of Brihadisvara….
According to architectural treatises, basements (upa-pithas) are introduced in temples to increase the height of the main tower; to add to structural stability and to make the temple tower majestic.That these purposes are magnificently fulfilled by the basement of Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple, may be noticed even by a casual visitor not conversant with architectural principles. Besides the purposes mentioned above, the basement also provides, a space to walk around the tower. In this temple, the basement is ornamented with sculptures of lions and leogriffs with lifted paws.
The main base adhishtana is decorated with well defined courses, consisting of the lotus moulding adaspadma, and the kumuda moulding, topped by a frieze of leogriffs and riders. This constitutes the main base, the top of which forms the flooring level of the inner sanctum. That portion of the structure rising above the main base up-to the roof cornice is called ‘the wall’ (bhitti or kal). It is the principal element that encases the main sanctum and carries on it a number of niches housing various deities. The wall in this temple is divided into two horizontal courses by an intervening cornice. Lower and upper courses have an equal number of niches, on all the three sides except the front
The sculptures in the lower courses, of the Sri Vimana depict various aspects of Siva and also the subsidiary deities who include Ganesha, Vishnu, Subrahmanya, Durga, Brahma, and Bhairava, supplemented by Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Durga in the niches of the great mandapa. The sculptures were made separately and fitted into the niches. They are flanked by a group of small sculptures, carved in situ, illustrating the theme the niche sculpture seeks to represent. The sculptures on the upper courses represent, besides some aspects of Siva, the guardian deities of the eight quarters.
Lets examine the sculptures on the lower courses (north side of Sri Vimana)…..
The interesting thing is that, one can see ancient inscriptions (Grantha script) imprinted on the basement part below these sculptures. Together, they called ‘ Chola Prasasthi ‘. Prasasthi is a poetic way of expressing the extol of the king and his various heroic activities. Prasasthi’s start with auspicious saying such as Swasthi Sri etc., they give historical details, name of the king, his title, name of his queen, the regnal year and later on about donations, land details etc.
Time to move on to the Western side of Great Sri Vimana of Brihadisvara….
This basement of Srivimana is 100 feet by 100 feet and the foundation is square in structure and raises 20 feet above the ground level. The courtyard in 566 ft in the length and 318 ft width and has a transept at the west in line with the main sanctum.
Above this rises the main tower, consisting of nine stories including the ground floor. The upper stories of the main tower carry the same type of ornamentation, consisting of square and oblong pavilions except a change; the central wagon-shaped pavilion is flanked by square ones instead of “the nests”, the whole being projected forward than the rest. Now, look at the different sculptures shown in the lower course niches of West side (Sri Vimana)….
It is from the southwest corner that, one gets an infamous view of the Great Srivimana of Gangaikondam Brihadisvara temple…….
Coming to the Southern side of Sri Vimana of Brihadisvara…..
You can see two other interesting images on side walls of the southern entrance leading to the ardhamandapa of main sanctum (near the 15 ft Dvarapalas on south side)……
The shrine, south of the main Vimana and called the Southern Kailasa has a sanctum preceded by a mandapa which in turn is fronted by flights of steps from south and north of which the basement alone remains.
A little to the north-east of this temple is a granite basement, probably the ruin of a mandapa. It is now called the Alankara mandapa. To the west of this is a well, probably coeval with the temple.
And here come the final moments of a memorable day of my life….
Its the moment to remember my companions, who were supporting, without any hesitations, throughout the entire sessions of explorations, happened on this long day….
The symmetry, geometry and symbolism of these temple architectures simply leaves you spell bound. Visualizing the stories of more than 10 centuries, oh! that’s something you can’t just imagine. looking at these marvels, one must appreciate the brilliance of Chola artisans. How skillful, they were! And can say, in every block of stone, there is a story inside and the task of the sculptor is to discover it. Another memorable day of discovering creations, enlightenment by the divine and touching the depths of eternal happiness.
Day 2 – Itinerary
- First Destination : Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram.
- Starting Time : Morning 4.30 am.
- Transportation : By State transport; Via Pondicherry (91 kms from Mahabalipuram); then to Chidambaram (65 kms from Pondicherry)
- Travel Time : 4 hours in total.
- Duration of exploration : 4 hours.
- Second Destination : Brihadisvara Temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram.
- Starting Time : Afternoon, 1.30 pm.
- Transportaion : In a private local bus; Via Kattumannarkudi (27 kms from Chidambaram); then to Gangaikondam by auto rickshaw (17 kms)
- Travel Time : 2 hours in total.
- Duration of exploration : 3 hours.
- Next Destination : Brihadeeswara Temple (Big temple), Thanjavur.
Thank you for the patience…
********************************To be continued*************************************