''Kanakasabha'' (Golden Hall) of Chidambaram, TN and mystifying ''Cosmic Dance'' of Shiva

Chidambaram Nataraja temple, TN with water tank.en.wikipedia.org

Prakaram Chidambaram Nataraja temple alamy.com

Sri Nataraja temple of Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, dedicated to God Shiva of the Trinity Gods in Hinduism,  is one of the five  Pancha Bootha sthalams; here the lord represents the sky. The temple architecture is symbolic of the link between art and spiritually The philosophical connotation of '' Chidambara Rahasiam" (secret/mytery  of Chidambaram) and  the visual  display of all the 108 karanas in carvings from the Natya Shastra by Bharata Muni on the temple walls corroborate this link. This is the reason why the famous annual Natyanjali dance festival on Maha Shivaratri is held here by  exponents of Indian dance. The dance postures inscribed here form the backbone of Bharatanatyam, a popular classical south Indian dance. Saivites centuries ago  were known to have practiced a dance-drama at the famous Nataraja Temple of Chidambaram.

Thillai Natarajar temple, Chidambaram, TN.thehindu.com

Golden hall. Thillai Natarajar temple, Chidambaram, TN.thehindu.com

Golden hall (Kanakasabha), Nataraja temple, Chidambaram  tamilandvedas.com

The subject of this post is about the golden hall of Chidambaram - Kannagasabha (or Kanakasabhai). Here, Shiva is of the nature of  the  sky (one of the important natural elements). He dances in the sky, it is the dance of bliss - Anandatandava and the stage in the temple is golden hall (kanakasabha). There is a hall beyond it - just empty suggesting space (Akasha). 

In the shrine  there is a small room  in the sannidhi and the priests will  open it once in a while upon request.  when the screen is pulled to one side it reveals nothing but just space, no image of the god. You have to imagine the lord is very much there. The removal of veil is symbolic of  getting rid of your ignorance The 'real truth' - sat, chit and ananda that  lies behind the ignorance (veil) emerges. So, here Lord Nataraja represents  vast empty space, ether and just mere void. This is ''Chidambara Rahasyam''  suggestive of abstract nature of God, implying ''no beginning and no end'' (''Athiyum anthamum ellathavan'' in Tamil). An interesting fact is  Lord  Shiva never takes birth, no incarnation unlike Lord Vishnu.

Mystifying Cosmic dance of Nataraja..quora.com 

Mystifying Cosmic dance of Nataraja.pinrest

Above image:   ''The cosmic dance is not random motion but is beautifully choreographed and the movements obey laws of nature. The most fundamental laws of physics are the conservation laws--conservation of mass, conservation of energy and conservation of momentum. These laws control all movement, interactions and transformations in the universe. The laws are inviolate regardless of where in the universe one looks. ....Nothing new in the universe has been created, since the Big Bang, but only transformed from one form to another. What appears as creation or destruction is only a transformation from one form to another in accordance with physical laws. The laws are fixed but the dancers and the dancing change. The dance never stops''. (https://www.scienceandnonduality.com/article/the-cosmic-dance) .......

The golden hall in this temple is  carefully laid with heavy gold plates, covering every part of the outer roof. The sanctum is right below it. It is said it was the Pallava king  Simhavarman who contributed the gold plates laid on the Kanakasabha. The dance hall of Chidambaram looks  like a chariot - ratha with wheels on either side of the mantapa, galloping horses and meticulously carved sculptures of dancers. Lord Nataraja'  personifies the descent from the subtlest as an act of creation and also the ascent from the grossest as an act of dissolution. Ananda Tandavam 

Shiva's cosmic dance was so graceful and memorizing many demi-gods and sages wanted to see it. Aadi Sesha God Vishnu's  serpent couch came to earth as the  offspring of sage Attri and Anusuya. Hence he was called Patanchali (pat meaning descend and anjali meaning holding hands in supplication). At the request of  celestial Gods  and sages like Vyagrapaad  at the appointed hour on the day  Thiruvaderi God Shiva gave  them the awe-inspiring  vision of  ''His dance of bliss''  with Lords Vishnu and Brahma playing the instrument and Shiva's mount Nandikeswara playing on the drum  at Chidambaram

Tamil saint and poet Tirumoolar in his Tantra Tirumandiram refers to it as ‘Nadanta’ posture — the  summit of meditative bliss — even beyond the realm of soundless space  or Shiva Vyapti, the ultimate! The dance hall is Chit Akasha, the hall of Supreme Consciousness.

 Lord Siva, does five most distinctive functions to keep the world spinning in rhythmic fashion. They  are creation (symbolized by drum in his right back  hand), protection ( right front hand hand gesture), destruction ( upper left hand - fire), veiling the truth and showering of grace (left front hand-  abhaya muthira - keeping one foot aloft and planting the other on the ground). His right foot on the demon Mukilan  suggestive of evil doers. The lofted left foot suggestive of keeping the balance between creation and destruction (Isostetic equilibrrium). The last one is known as Isostasy'  in science ( refer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isostasy.   

The cosmic dance of  Nataraja, the highest concept of art, is a subject of discussion by many scholars. What is the purpose of this dance in the hall of Supreme Consciousness? It is simply to release men from  the world of ''Maya'' - illusion of the idea ''I'' and of the physical world. Lord Nataraja’s cosmic dance with his consort Sivakami represents these Pancha Kriya dances. 

A  visit to Chidambaram Nataraja temple will  help you visualize the dance of bliss  and also remove the fear of cycles of birth and death - attainment of salvation. Hence,  the connection between spirituality and art is deep rooted in this 10th century temple where the Akasa Lingam in the temple is dedicated to the subtlest space.


Thiruvathira or Thiruvathirai or Arudhra Darisanam is an important  Hindu festival celebrated in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Thiruvathirai (Arudhra) in Tamil means "sacred big wave", implying that  this universe was created by Lord Shiva about 132 trillion years ago. Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu, the Sri Natarajar temple's annual Festival, is celebrated on this date. It is also  celebrated at five Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu  with sabhas. The five sabhhas of Sri Natarajar  are:  1) Kanakasabha (Gold) - at Chidambaram (Thillai or Tillai), 2) Velli Sabhai (Silver) at Madurai, 3) Ratnasabha (Ruby) at Tiruvalankadu, 4) Tamrasabha (Copper) at Tirunelveli, 5) Chitrasabha (Pictures) at Kutralam

In the month of Makaram Thiruvathira Star is celebrated in Mathira Peedika Devi Temple  near Kadakkal in Kollam District of Kerala state. Thiruvathira has a connection with lord moon

 The annual Tiruvadirai, a ten day festival is celebrated on a grand scale at Chidambaram. On the tenth day, at dawn, Maha Abhishekam is done to Lord Nataraja and goddess Sivakamasundari at Raja Sabhai. The idols will wear special Tiruvabharanam  -adorned with  sacred Jewels. It includes  nine precious gems worn by  Sri Nataraja’s Pancha Murthi.

The abhishekam of Nataraja in this temple is a unique one showcasing the purpose of Shiva's cosmic dance. The venue is  the thousand-pillared  mantap. The ritual itself is symbolic of  creation (srishti). The food offering is preservation (stithi) Sandal as Krishna gandham smeared on Him is dissolution (samhara). A black cow is brought before Him as obscuration (tirobhava ) and finally the dipaaradhana Aarati which all people witness is grace (anugraha). These, separately considered, are the activities of the deities Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Maheshwara and Sadasiva.



''Kanakasabha of Chidambaram'' - Bhavan's journal July 1 1985