Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram – Chit Sabha

Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram – Chit Sabha
The innermost sanctum of the temple, houses the grand images of Shiva (Nataraja) and Parvati (Sivakami) in the Chit Sabha or Chit Ambalam or the hall of consciousness, adjoining which is the Kanaka Sabha or the Golden Hall, both these structures resting on a raised platform. The innermost prakaram surrounds this holiest of shrines, and to the South West of Nataraja, is the shrine of Govindaraja Perumal facing the East. The Chit Sabha, the holiest shrine in the temple, is a wooden structure supported with wooden pillars, with a hut shaped roof.
It is in this hall, that the images of Nataraja and Sivakami are housed, in front of a set of two curtains, the inner (invisible) one being red in color, the outer one being black in color. To the right of Shiva, is the revered Chidambara Rahasya - or a representation of emptiness garlanded with golden Vilva leaves. The curtain in front of the Chidambara Rahasya, representing Shiva (and Parvati) in the formless form (Aroopam) is lifted ceremoniously during worship services, with offerings of lamps.
The Chit Sabha houses the images of Ratna Sabhapati (Nataraja of Ruby), the Spatika Lingam of Chandramouleeswarar, Swarnakarshana Bhairavar, Mukhalingam etc. The roof was covered by gold. Spadika lingam is kept in a box under the feet of Natarajar. Abishekam is usually conducted to this Spadika lingam and Lingam is taken to Palliyarai after Artha Jaama Pooja. Devotees have to climb steps to five stone steps covered in silver to worship Lord. Hence Lord is also called as Kartralippadiyar.  
The granite plinth of the shrine is called Parvatam, because it does duty for Mount Kailasa in providing a support for Lord Shiva. On all special occasions puja or worship is performed to this plinth. A unique feature is that the structure of the actual Sabha is made of wood, which has so far not been botanically classified. It is rectangular in form and here Shiva is worshipped in his three aspects:
·        As Form – Nataraja; the Murti or image of Shiva
·        As Formless – Form; The crystal Linga called Chandramaulishvara
·        As Formless – The yantra; which is the Akasha Linga
Nataraja Shrine (Form):
A unique feature of this temple is the bejeweled image of Lord Nataraja as the main deity. It depicts Lord Shiva as the master of Koothu-Bharata Natyam and is one of the few temples where Lord Shiva is represented by an anthropomorphic murthi rather than the classic, aniconic Lingam. From the platform opposite the Chit Sabha one can see the image of the Dancing Shiva, Nataraja, situated in the middle of the Sabha. Shiva is facing south, unlike most other Hindu deities. This signifies he is the Conqueror of Death, dispelling the fear of death for the humanity.
The Lord holds different things on his hands. The right hand holds a Drum, which represents the origin of Sound (the Pranava Mantra Om) Agni on a left hand symbolizes Jyoti or Aatman the Deer is symbolic of the Mind, which keeps wandering or galloping the Cobra that adorning the Lords neck represents the Kundalini Shakti the Crescent Moon on the matted Hair represents Blissfulness of the Self, the Skull is symbolic of the Lords power of Destruction and the flowing Ganga signifies Wisdom or the State of being Cool. The three eyes of the Lord signify the Sun, Moon and Agni.
With one Foot, he is crushing Muyalagan, signifying the wiping out of Illusion. The raised right Foot represents renunciation. At Chidambaram, the dancer dominates, not the Linga as in other Shiva shrines. Another notable point of this posture is that it is based on the six-point star. Nataraja's head forms the topmost point of the star, while his spreading hair and right hand form the upper side points. His drape and raised left leg form the lower points, and his right leg that rests on the demon Muyalagan forms the lowest point. Surrounding this is the arc of fire.
Significance of Ananda Tandava Posture:
For brief details, please refer below link;
Spatika Lingam (Formless – Form):
The Chit Sabha houses a small Spatika (crystal) Linga (Chandramoulisvara), believed to be a piece that fell from the crescent adorning Lord Shiva's head and installed by Adi Shankara. The Linga is associated with the intangible fifth element, akasha (ether or space). The Crystal Linga, Chandramaulishvara represents Shiva in Formless-Form. This Crystal Linga was formed from the essence of the crescent moon in Shiva's matted hair, for the purpose of daily worship. This Idol is taken from its place at the feet of the Nataraja six times a day, and abishekam of holy ablution is performed to him in the hall called Kanaka Sabha in front of the Chit Sabha.
Chidambara Rahasya (Formless):
To the right of Sri Nataraja Shrine is the Chidambara Rahasya, the abode of Akasha Linga. It is interesting to note that only a Prabha or Tiruvasi (circular arch) and a Vel (spear) with a golden Vilva Maalai are worshipped. This is one of the Pancha Bhootha Sthalas representing Akasha or Ether. This shrine remains curtained. The five silver-plated steps leading to the shrine represent the five mystic letters of the Panchakshara Mantra, Na-Ma-Si-Va-Ya.
It is said that the Lords dance is the same as the one he performed for Patanjali and Vyakrapada. The significance of Shiva's dance is three-fold first, it is a symbol of his rhythmic play as the source of all movements within the cosmos, represented by the arch of Tiruvasi second, the purpose of the dance is to release the countless souls of men from the snare of illusion third, the place of the dance - Chidambaram, the centre of the Universe - is within the heart.
Ratna Sabha Pathi:
The Chit Sabha houses one more unique form of Shiva. This is the Ratna Sabha Pathi, the Ruby Lord of the Sabha: a replica of the Nataraja Murti in ruby form. This Murti appeared out of the fire of the sacrifice in response to the devotion of the Deekshithars. Once a day, as part of the 10.00 o'clock morning puja ritual, after the abishekam of the Crystal Linga, abishekam is also performed to the Ruby Shiva. As conclusion of this ceremony the Ruby Nataraja is placed on the edge of the Parvatam of the Kanaka Sabha and Mangala Arati is offered. This is the burning of camphor on a special plate which is shown both in front and behind the Ruby Nataraja. This brings out the special quality of translucence of this Murti, creating a mystical spectacle for the onlookers.
History of Chit Sabha:
Nobody knows when the worship of Nataraja was established here, or when the Cit Sabha was build. The original wooden structure is doubtless the oldest structure in the temple complex, as the shrine of the Moolasthana Linga is a later construction under the Chola Kings. The Sabha has no features that could help to date it. It is unique and no other structure is known like it anywhere else in Indian architecture. Analysis by the C 14 method would be unreliable because it is known to have been regularly renovated during the centuries. But the origins of the temple of Shiva Nataraja in Chidambaram definitely lie back in prehistoric times.
According to the mythology the temple was first constructed by a king called Shweta Varman. This king was healed of leprosy by bathing in the sacred pond in the Thillai forest and witnessed the Cosmic Dance. The first gilding of the roof of the Chit Sabha and the instituting of the temple and the formal worship of the Nataraja are all attributed to this King. The first historical references can be found in the Skanda Purana, especially in the Suta Samhita part. Here Shanmukha, the six-faced son of Shiva and Parvati, is described as worshipping his parents in Chidambaram, before going to do battle with a demon called Surapadma. This text can be dated to the second century BCE.
The Cit Sabha, Shiva's dance and Chidambaram are also prominently mentioned in the Thirumanthiram of Tirumular, an important religious and philosophical text in ancient Tamil, dating from the beginning of the Christian era. A few centuries later the temple and its Lord are often mentioned by poets of the Thevaram, especially Appar and Sambandar (7th century) and by Manikkavacakar (8th century). The first historical kings to claim having gilded the roof of the Cit Sabha are the Chola Aditya I (871-907) and his son Parantaka I (907-955). By this time the temple had already become important. The place where kings were crowned, and where they came to worship and receive counsel. How the gilding of the roof was done is a knowledge that was sadly lost with time. But it is without doubt one of the great technical achievements of ancient times.
Ananda Tandava Posture:
For brief details, please refer below link;
https://tamilnadu-favtourism.blogspot.com/2018/10/nataraja-temple-chidambaram-ananda-tandava-posture.html

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