|Area :||5 sq km|
|Population :||58,740 (1991)|
|Languages :||Tamil and Hindi|
|Best time to visit :||Throughout the year|
|Altitude :||5.97 m|
The island of Rameswaram on the Gulf of Mannar is one of the main fishing villages in Tamil Nadu. More importantly, it is a major pilgrimage centre for pious Hindus who worship Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu known respectively as Shaivites and Vaishnavites.
Most visitors come to see the impressive Rameswaram Temple, famous the world over for its lengthy and ornate corridors, representing fine architectural masterpieces. Rameswaram also boasts of fabulous beaches edging its coral reef waters abundant with exotic marine life, making it a haven for adventure seekers.
The temple town of Chidambaram, 58 km south of Pondicherry greets the visitors, with a beautiful temple, dedicated to Lord Nataraja – Lord Shiva in the enthralling form of a Cosmic Dancer. This is one of the few temples, where Shiva and Vishnu are enshrined under one roof. Chidambaram is also called Thillai, since the place was originally a forest of Thillai shrubs. It is one of the five Shaivite mukti sthalams, the other four being Kalahasti, Kanchipuram, Tiruvannamalai and Tiruvanaikaval. A unique feature of Chidambaram is that a person of any race or religion can visit the shrine and pray.
The town of Chidambaram is situated in the east-central part of Tamil Nadu state of southeastern India extending 11.24°N and 79.44°E. The town is in the Coleroon River Valley on the Madras-Thanjavur road and rail system.
The climate of Chidambaram is tropical with mercury touching up to 37°C in the summers and around 20°C in the winters.
Chidambaram (also Thillai) literally means the sky permeated by an atmosphere of intelligence and wisdom. According to legend, it was once a forest of tillai, a mangrove species of trees. There was once a small shrine on the banks of a tank. The saints Vyagrapada and Patanjali are said to have worshipped at this shrine, now called Thirumoolanathar. It is believed that their penance attained fruition with the revelation of Shiva’s cosmic dance by Lord Nataraja on the auspicious Thai Poosam day.
The golden hall of dance was built and covered with gold plates by Jatavarman Sundra Pandya (ad 1251-1272). He was very proud of his achievement, and as such assumed the title of Hemchandandana Raja (literally the king who covered the temple with gold).
The Natyanjali festival, which brings all the prominent dancers of India, together on the same platform, opens on the auspicious occasion of Mahasivaratri, in the month of February. It is performed at the ‘Prakara’ of the temple, and the dancers, full of intense bliss and devotion, with their evocative abhinaya, offer their dance to the great divinity, Lord Nataraja.
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