Govindaraja Perumal shrine at Sri Nataraja temple, Chidambram

Chidambaram Sri Nataraja temple, Tamil Nadu.

Chidanbaram  idol of Govindaraja and his consort.

We rarely come across a temple where the presiding deities are both lord Vishnu (protector) and lord Shiva (the destroyer) and the temple worship is  done according to Vaishnava tradition as well as Shaivite tradition. Sri. Govindaraja Perumal temple has the unique distinction of being located on the world famous Chidambaram Nataraja (lord Shiva)  temple complex very close to the main  shrine (Kanaga Sabai) of Shiva  in the temple town of Chidambaram, Cuddalore district, Tamil Nadu.  Likewise there is a famous Shiva temple called Ekambareswarar temple at Kanchipuram in Chingalput, TN  that has a Vishnu temple on the same premises - Nilathingal Thundam Perumal temple. These are two rare Divyadesam Vaishnava shrines.

Idol of Govindaraja perumal, Chidambaram. Temples of India

Though the rulers of mighty Chola dynasty were the followers of Saivite tradition, they also made valuable contributions to Vaishnava temples. According to the history of the temple, King Kulothunga Chola II is believed to have  removed the presiding Govindaraja idol  from the shrine.  This shrine has close connections with the Govindaraja temple in Tirupati (Lower) since the time of  Vaishnavite saint Ramanuja of the 11-12th century. Sri Ramanujar moved  over to Tirupati with the utsava (festival image) idol of the temple at Chidambaram  to escape  from the fury of the Chola ruler.

None is powerful to stop the march of time and in the 16th century, king Krishnappa Nayak was instrumental in installing the idol of Govindaraja back in the Chidambaram Nataraja temple. Son of Viswanatha Nayak  of Madurai Nayak dynasty,  Krishnappa Nayak, who along with his father's able minister Ariyanatha, expanded the Madurai Kingdom  and brought most of the  territory under the Pandya dynasty.  Followers of Saivite tradition protested against the installation of Vishnu idol close to the main shrine of lord Shiva. However, lord Vishnu's idol was reinstalled on the  Nataraja temple premises by the Nayak ruler. Under the British, there was a legal dispute over the rights and location of shrines of lord Vishnu and Azhwars in the same temple before the court between Thillai Moovaeerathars  - Brahmins of sub caste  Dikshita, who controlled the temple, and Vaishnavas. The  court ruling was in favor of Vaishnavas.

Chidambaram location map.

chidambaram Nataraja temple, prakaram (walk way)Panoramio

This shrine is s one of the 108 holy temples of Lord Vishnu called Divyadesam - Vaishnava canon, revered by the 7th-9th-century Tamil saint poets of Vaishnava (those worshiping Lord Vishnu) tradition, Azhwars.  Kulashekara Azhwar mentions this temple as Tillai Chitrakutam and equates Chitrakuta of  the Ramayana fame with this shrine. Legend has it that  Govindaraja Perumal  is believed to have descended for sage Kanvar and the 3,000 Dikshidars of the Thillai Natarajar temple. Here Vishnu is in Bhooga sayanam (dozing stance) facing lord Nataraja in the kanaga sabai, the roof of which is gold plated. Here, lord Vishnu's consort is Pundarikavalli.

last consecration, Nataraja temple chidambaram. note golden roof. Deccan Chronicle

The temple pujas and rituals are done by the temple priests (locally called Bhattacharyas) belonging  to the Vaishnavaite community, a Brahmin sub-caste as in other temples. The 10 day Chitrai Utchavam (April - May) and Gajendra Moksham are the major festivals here. Daily (Nithya) puja is performed six times a day.  Each puja protocol includes  Alangaram (decoration), Neivethanam (food offering) and Deepa Aaradanai (waving of lamps) for both Govindarajan and Pundarikavalli. The last step of worship is accompanied by playing of  Nagaswaram (wind instrument native to S. India ) and Tavil (percussion instrument native to S. India) are played,