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Chidambram

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Best Time: Oct-Jan Read More

Ideal duration: 1-2 days

Nearest Airport: Chennai Check Flights

"A Temple Town of Tamil Nadu"

Chidambram Tourism

A beautiful temple town in the Cuddalore District of Tamil Nadu, Chidamabaram is famous for housing the marvellous Lord Nataraja Temple and the famed chariot festival. Situated 250 kms away from the city of Chennai, Chidambaram has been a place of architectural glory and religious importance since antiquity.

It has been ruled by several dynasties over time namely Cholas, Pandyas, Vijayanagar rulers, Marathas and the British. Due to the cultural influences, it boasts of a rich heritage and traditions. It is famous for its many temples which are a marvellous rendition of the Dravidian style of architecture and a beautiful representation of Dravidian culture.

Apart from its authentic history, the town is a slice of paradise for nature lovers and bird watchers. Pichavaram backwater is one of the many highlights of this region. For tourists, Chidambaram is all about relishing nature's beauty and soaking up the spirituality ambience.

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The Temple Town of Chidambram

Chidambram is famous for the many temples that have been built here at different points in history. The evolution of the southern style of architecture - the Dravida style - can be brilliantly traced by observing these temples.

The Thillai Nataraja Temple is one of the holiest sites for Shiva worshippers and is also one of the grandest and best-preserved temples in India. The temple complex also consists of a lake, large pillared halls and many shrines to Shiva and other deities. Many prominent kings from the Chola period onwards have made generous donations to this temple, and to this day, it is one of the richest temples in India. The Thillai Kali Amman Temple and Tirunallurpperumanam Temple are the other two prominent religious structures of this town.

Pichivaram Forest and Backwaters

The unique geographical location of Chidambram makes it home to many mangrove forests. Since the city is located at the confluence of many rivers with the Bay of Bengal, the two estuaries that form as a result - Vellar and Coleroon - host a large number of unique birds and animals. This forested area is known as the Pichivaram mangrove and is the second largest mangrove forest in the world after the Sundarbans.

Very close by is the Pichivaram dam and the backwaters are a favourite spot for bird watching among locals and tourists alike. Other water sports like kayaking, canoeing and boating have been developed here, and there are over 400 boating routes that run through the heart of the mangroves.

Culture

Keeping up to its name, Chidambaram, the temple town of India is very vibrant, with cultural events mostly centred around temples. The Marghazhi Thiruvaadhirai festival, celebrated from December to January and Aani Thirumanjanam, celebrated from June to July are the two important events in the town. During these festivals, the whole town is flocked with people from outside who wait to see a glimpse of the respective festive deity, who is brought out of the main sanctum and taken around the town in a procession.

Natyanjali is another prominent annual festival celebrated in Chidambaram during February. Bharatnatyam dancers from across the country converge here to offer their respect and devotion to Nataraj, the incarnation of Lord Shiva. Panguni Uthiram is also celebrated in the month of March, every year.

Etymology and Legend

The traditional name of the temple is Chidambaram Thillai Nataraja-koothan Kovil. The name is derived from the many grooves and forests that were dominated by a particular type of tree, the Thillai tree, that sheltered the main deity of the temple. The word "Chidambaram" comes from the Tamil word Chitrambalam or Chidambaram meaning "an atmosphere of wisdom". "Chith" translates into consciousness or wisdom and the word "ambalam" means atmosphere. When combined, the word signifies the association with Nataraja, the incarnation of Lord Shiva as a cosmic dancer and the cultural importance the place holds for arts.

As the Hindu legend goes, the Thillai forests were populated by a group of sages who believed that they held supreme powers that could control the Gods too. Shiva, hearing this, took the avatar of Bhikshatana, a beggar seeking alms and went to Thillai. His consort, Mohini, who is the feminine incarnation of Lord Vishnu followed him. The sages and their wives were enchanted by the beauty of the pair. Enraged that the couple could enchant their wives, the sages performed many rituals to defeat Shiva; first, they created serpents, then a fierce tiger, a fierce elephant, and at last a demon by name, Muyalakan. But all their efforts perished as Shiva defeated them all and performed the Ananda Thandavam (The Dance of Eternal Bliss), after which the sages considered defeat.

Restaurants and Local Food in Chidambram

Chidambaram is a place for feasting on some delightful Tamil cuisines such as idli, dosai, vadai and others. One can find both veg and non-veg platters, but most restaurants serve vegetarian food.
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One Day Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Chidambram by road or rail and take the morning off to explore the city and familiarise yourself with its sights and sounds. After a sumptuous lunch in one of the many small restaurants, proceed to the Tirunallurpperumanam Temple located near the city centre. Close to this temple is a few more like the Tiruvetkalam Temple, Chathapurinathar Temple and Thillai Kali Amman Temple. All of these temples are very close by, and you can visit each one of then at your own pace while enjoying the walk through the city.

Day 2: Leave for the Thillai Natarajan temple located a kilometre away from the train station. Since the complex is huge and mostly involves walking, a substantial breakfast before leaving is a must. Relax by the side of the lake within the temple complex and marvel at the large intricately carved pillared halls. The roof of this temple (the vimana) was originally made of gold, though it has now been similarly painted. To fully explore the temple, you will need a minimum of three hours.

Day 3: Leave early for the Pichivaram Mangrove Forest and backwaters. After reaching, you can choose from a broad range of activities like boating, kayaking, bird watching or taking a cruise down the rivulets. Be sure to check the tidal chart since the landscape can change dramatically depending on the time of day. For water sports, high tide is an ideal time, but the lower tide is preferable for bird watching and to get a chance to spot some larger animals like deer. 

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Holidify's Opinion

What's Great?

Excellent for religious tourism and to explore the culture of Tamil Nadu. Engage with the tight-knit community and unravel the secrets of Dravida architecture

What's Not So Great?

Not easy to reach since it is at least 4 hours away from a metro city. Not many options for accommodation. 

For Whom?

Chidambram is the perfect spot if you want to immerse yourself in the ancient architecture of the temples of South India. It is also a must visit for those who want to study Dravida architecture as well as wildlife enthusiasts who can enjoy the mangrove forests and backwaters near the city. 

How To Reach Chidambram

This city is well connected by road and rail but does not have an airport. Being a major temple town, there are daily buses to surrounding cities like  Bangalore, Madurai, Salem, Chennai and Erode. Taxis and cars for hire are less common for intercity travel. Trains connecting this city to all the central stations nearby are also frequent, and the train station is just one kilometre away from the Nataraja temple.

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Chidambram Reviews

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Pallavi Siddhanta 1 year ago
- Being a Hindu temple town Chidambaram is conservative when it comes to dressing, so avoid wearing inappropriate clothes.
- Only Hindus are allowed in the Nataraja Temple.
- Make sure to do advance booking on hotels to avoid facing any problems later.
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