Located 215 kms South of Madras at the entrance of the erstwhile Chola kingdom, Thiru Chitrakoodam temple in Chidambaram is home to both Saivite and Vaishnavite Lords in Kanchipuram.In years gone by, the direction to Thiru Chitrakoodam was given as North of the Cauvery, East of Sri Mushnam ( Aathi Varaahan temple) and West of the Bay of Bengal.This place is also referred to as Thillai Nagar, Chitrakoodam and Pundarika Puram.
It is believed that Cauvery’s parents undertook penance at this place uttering the name of Govinda. And were blessed with Moksham. Hence this Lord came to be called Govindarajan. One can see the Lord in 3 postures here- Standing, Sitting and in Bhoga Sayanam.
Once Nataraja (Shiva) and Thillai Kaali (Paarvathi) decided to display their dancing expertise and to see who had better skills among the two. Shiva looked up to Brahmma for his judgment, who asked them to perform at Thiru Vaalan Kaadu. Unable to come to a decision, Brahmma directed them to Vishnu, who created a dance sabha in Chitrakoodam, for the two to display their prowess here.
Vishnu is believed to have come down here and witnessed the dance contest between Shiva and Parvathi. With Shiva’s earring falling down, the audience believed that Shiva had lost. But Shiva, continuing his dance, picked up the earring with his leg and put it back in the ear while continuing to dance – Oorthuva Thaandam. Parvathi couldn’t match this and Vishnu judged Shiva the winner.
It is believed that Vishnu was greatly impressed with Shiva’s dancing capabilities and enjoyed Nataraja’s dance duel with Thillai Kaali. Hence, Govindarajan is seen in a sleeping posture with his face directed towards Nataraja in the Northern direction. All forms of dance can be seen in art form within this temple.
One can see the Chidambaram Rahasyam (the Lord in the ‘form of a Yantram’) inside the sanctum of Nataraja, to his right. The Chidambaram Rahasyam is covered with a screen and is shown to devotees at regular intervals.
Two separate temples
In earlier days, there seems to have been separate temples for Vishnu and Shiva. This can be seen in Azhvaar’s praise of Thillai Chitrakoodam.
There is said to have been a Nataraja temple known as Chitraambalam. Siru Ambalam signified that the Nataraja temple was small and Chitrakoodam (the Vishnu Lord) was the bigger temple. Chozha kings are believed to have destroyed the Vishnu temple and reconstructed the Nataraja temple and then positioned the Vishnu temple inside.
There is a seperate sannidhi for the Goddess
Thirumangai Azhvaar has praised, in his Paasurams, Nandivarma Pallava’s contribution to this temple.
“PainPonnum Muthum Maniyum Konarnthu
Padaimanvain Pallavar kon Paninthu
Sempon Manimaadangal Soozhnthu Thillaith
Thiruchitra Koodan Chendru Sermindkaley”
Paraanthaka Chozha is also said to have contributed to this temple in the 10th Century AD.
Listening to Kulasekara Azhvaar’s praise of the Chitrakoodam Lord is equivalent to listening to the entire Ramayana.
Natha Muni, the great Vaishnavite Savant was born near here, at Kattu Mannar koil.
In the temple tank, on the northern side, fishes come out of the water and on to the ground to pick up eatables thrown in by the devotees.
Deity : Govinda Rajan East facing Bhoga Sayanam
Goddess : Pundarikavalli
Utsavar : Devaathi Devan, Paarthasarathy, Chitrakoodathullan
Timing : 6am –12noon and 4pm-9pm
Priest : Balaji Bhattar
Contact : 04144 230 787 or 94439 86939
Email id: firstname.lastname@example.org
Address : 55/1 New Street Chidambaram 608 001
Azhvaar : 32 Paasurams- Kulasekhara Azhvaar(741-751), ThiruMangai Azhvaar( 1158-77, 2674)
Festivals: Vasantha Utsavam, Aadi Pooram, Panguni Uthiram, Chitra Pournami, Jestaabhishekam
How to reach Chidambaram
By car, one can reach Chidambaram in under 4 hours from Madras via East Coast Road.
Buses every 15 mts from Madras via Tindivanam, Cuddalore – one can reach in about 5 1/2 hours.