Lord Nataraja of Chidambaram!

The Rishis who lived in Darukavana (pine forest) engaged themselves in intense tapas and yagnas continuously. Due to their meritorious activities, they became very powerful and consequently very arrogant and full of pride. They thought that they could control all the devatas because of their austerities and mantras-siddhis. When Lord Shiva heard of their attitude, he set out to destroy their pride. He disguised himself as a pious man. On the behest of Shiva, Lord Vishnu took the form of Mohini and accompanied Shiva as his wife. Both of them came to Darukavana. The rishis and their wives were totally mesmerized by the beauty and charm of the divine couple and became distracted from their austerities. A little later, the rishis realized that they had been distracted from their austerities and became angry. 

The rishis started a yagna to attack and counter the couple without knowing that it was Lord Shiva and Vishnu in front of them. In the ‘yagna-fire’, they invoked a ferocious tiger and directed it towards Lord Shiva. The Lord killed the tiger and wore its skin around his waist. Next came a serpent from the sacrificial fire. Shiva seized it in his hand and wore it round his neck as an ornament. A wild elephant was invoked next, which the Lord easily killed. A demon called Apasmara (representing ignorance) was sent next. The Lord put him under his feet and rendered him immobile. Various hurdles and obstacles in the form of mantras were sent towards Lord Shiva. He converted them all into anklets and wore them round his feet. Having met all the challenges successfully, the Lord started his wonderful and most awesome cosmic dance called “Ananda Tandava” (the dance of eternal bliss). The Lord danced and Lord Vishnu watched the beautiful Tandava! The rishis were stunned at the breath-taking, beautiful Cosmic Nritya (Dance). Lord Shiva’s Tandava represents Creation, Sustenance, and Dissolution. The rishis realized their mistake and prostrated to the Lord and asked for forgiveness.

After reaching Vaikunta, Lord Vishnu who was witness to the great Shiva Tandava narrated the entire episode and described the Tandava in particular to Adi Sesha. Adi Sesha was very eager to see the unique and divine dance of the Lord. Sri Hari told him to proceed to the Thillai forest (mangrove forest), which is Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu), and perform tapas. Adi Sesha manifested as Sage Patanjali and came to the Thillai forest. He was joined by Sage Vyaghrapada. They made a Shiva-linga and invoked and worshipped Lord Shiva in it. 

Lord Shiva was pleased with their penance. It was on the auspicious day of Margazhi Purnima that the Lord performed the Tandava for them. The star on that day was Arudra Nakshatra which is associated with Lord Shiva. Chidambaram was the only place in the universe that has the strength and stability to become the divine stage for the Lord of Dance, NATARAJA, for his Cosmic Dance. Hence this auspicious day is known as ARUDRA DARSHANAM.

All the devatas, rishis, and gandharvas came to witness the dance. Celestial musicians sang. Narada played his veena and Nandi played the mridangam. The Vedas became the Lord’s anklets! The devatas and rishis who had witnessed the great performance requested the Lord to continue his Nritya for the welfare of the whole world. Lord Nataraja agreed and made Chidambaram his abode.

Chidambaram means “covered or clothed with knowledge”. The Lord is worshipped there in the form of Nataraja (with form), as crystal Linga (form-less), and as Akasha or Space-linga (invisible). Hence, this kshetra is one of the Pancha Mahabhuta Kshetras. There are five sabhas in which Lord Shiva performed five different types of Tandavas. CHIDAMBARAM is the KANAKA (Golden) Sabha where the Lord performed the ANANDA TANDAVA. The temple was designed and consecrated by Sage Patanjali himself who is the author of the ‘Yoga Sutras’. The structure of the Chidambaram temple is very unique and can be related to the entire structure of a human being. The temple is located at the centre point of the world’s magnetic equator. Lord Nataraja represents the five great Elements necessary for creation. He symbolises the Pancha Kriyas: Srishti (Creation), Sthiti (Sustenance), Samhara (Dissolution), Tirobhava (Veiling) and Anugraha (Showering of Grace). SHIVA TANDAVA represents Life and Life’s activities (micro and macro) in the entire Cosmos.

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