Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The sweetness of Southern India circuit (Day 7 late morning) - The Tillai Natarajah Temple, Chidambaram - The 17th of February 2015

Our next stop was the Thillai Natarajah Temple (also referred to as Chidambaram Temple) dedicated to the Lord Shiva and located in the town of Chidambaram which we drove to amids thatched houses I tried to "capture" from inside the bus (none of them good enough to be downloaded), as well as rice fields. We stopped close to some rice workers, so as to observe part of the hard work involved.

The fact that the Temple was undergoing some restoration work didn't allow us to have a thorough overview of the whole ensemble, which as it stands up is mainly of the 12th and 13th centuries taking into account the various renovations it went through since the later Chola period. Outside its entrance our attention was drawn to several Temple priests, whom we were warned not to look in the eye.



The Temple complex spread over 160,000m2 contains shrines to Deities such as Shivakami Amman, Ganesh, Murugan and Vishnu but what really impressed me was the significance of the Temple design, whose layout and architecture are said to be replete with philosophical meanings: 

Three of the five Panchaboothasthala Temples (Kalahasti, Kanchipuram and this particular one) all stand on a straight line, said to be exactly 79 degree 41 minutes East longitude - which has been considered an engineering, astrological and geographical wonder.

The 9 gateways signify the 9 orifices in the human body (the number of orifices was highly contested by some of us).

The Sanctum Sanctorum represents the heart which is reached by a flight of 5 stairs called the Panchaatchara, with pancha standing for 5 and achaara for the indestructable syllables  "SI VA YA NA MA" with the Chit sabha roof being supported by four pillars symbolising the four Vedas. The Sanctum Sanctorum is equally held by a set of 64 beams representing the 64 forms of Art and held by several crossbeams representing the innumerable blood vessels.

The golden tiles (21,600) represent the 21600 breaths and are fixed by 72,000 golden nails which represent the number of nadis that exist in the human body with a roof topped by a set of 9 sacred pots representing the 9 forms of energy and its sanctum supported by six pillars denoting the six holy texts.

Finally, the Hall next to the Sanctum has eighteen pillars symbolising the eighteen Puranas.

It was with all of this in mind that I entered one of the nine gates (four of which have gate way towers, each of 7 storeys facing the East, South, West and North) which I soon forgot  to concentrate on what actually drew my attention. Intricate carvings adorning the Eastern Gopuram, people sitting against columns, the Sacred Tank and the pagoda ...

In no time everything was getting my attention, even the rice flour designs on the ground ...I didn't know which way to look and from a certain moment on just let myself be guided by a kind of "photographic" instinct.





When the visit was over I had once more the feeling that I would have needed a lot more time to admire everything as it should, despite the  (restoration) limitations.


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