Golden hall of Chidambaram Nataraja temple, Tamil Nadu

sri Nataraja temple, Chidambaram. Alamy

Chidambaram in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, one of the five Pancha Bootha Sthalams is among the foremost holiest Shiva temples of India glorified in Tirumular's Tirumandhiram. This temple was visited by great saints  PataƱjali and Vyagjrapadhar     (Pulikaal Munivar).  The five classical elements such as water Jalam), fire (agni), aether (akasam), Vayu (air) and earth (Bhoomi) play a vital role in the sustenance of our lives in this universe. Chidambaram is also known by the name of Pundarikapura which associates with the lotus-heart of Viratpurusha or the universal being.

Shiva in Chidambaram represents akasha (aether) and delightfully dances in the sky-Chidambaram in the golden dancing hall called "Kanakasabha". He is the lord of the sabha, hence kanaka sabha pathy. His dance is the dance of bliss, Ananandatandava. It is of interest to note here that there is a hall beyond, all empty, to suggest a vast expanse of space, Akasa. When the screen is pulled to one side, an empty space emerges without any image or any stone figure, suggesting nothingness-purportedly the sky.

The removal of the screen/veil between us and the empty space is tantamount to the removal of ignorance. Beyond the veil is the truth Sat Sit Ananda, representing Nataraja form of Lord Shiva in all his glory and splendor. This representation of space or emptiness or void  is often referred to as Chidambara Rakashya or simply mystery. It is here Sages Patancurjali and Vyaghrapada saw the dance of Nataraja in the chit sabha. The legend has it that once king Simhavarman I or II (reigned in the 5th-6th century CE; Pallava Dynasty) on a hunting trip to Thillaivana bathed in the pond and became golden hued and was cured of leprosy. It is believed, because of this incidence, he was called Himayavarman. The golden tiled roof for the Chit Ambalam (the vimanam) with a golden tiled roof, records point out, was laid by the Chola King Parantaka I(907-950 CE). Hence he was given the title in Tamil  Thillaiyambalathhukku pon koorai veiynthevan meaning the one who laid the golden roof). Later  Chola rulers  Rajaraja Chola I (reign 985-1014 A.D.) and Kulothunga Chola I (1070-1120 A.D.) made valuable donations to the temple. Rajaraja Chola's daughter Kundavai II made big donations in gold, etc., while Chola king Vikrama Chola (1118-1135 A.D.) made endowments for the conduct of the daily puja, temple rituals, etc,  Niryasabha hall in this temple is adorned with dance figures that are gracefully carved with minute details and it is quite spell-binding. This hall has the look of a ratha - chariot with wheels and galloping horses. Thanks to the munificence of the Chola rulers.

Sri Nataraja temple, Chidambaram, TN , Flickr

Charmed by Shiva's graceful dance of bliss, Lord Vishnu explained to Adishesha what he had experienced. Upon which Adishesha descended to the earth (with his hands in prayer gesture) as the offspring of sage Atri and his wife Anusuya. He was named Patanjali (his legs were transformed

Gold-tiled roof (golden hall),Nataraja temple.

into those of tigers) pati meaning descend and Anjali means holding hands in supplication. Vyaprapada later joined him to witness Nataraja's dance.

Nataraja with Sivagami. saintsVyaghrapada (right)& Patanjali (left),Alamy

On a typical day, lord shiva blessed them with the vision of his dance to the accompaniment of instruments  being played by lords Vishnu, Brahma and Nadikeswara.It was a dance of delight and bliss.