This was one of the things I didn’t know till recently. I may have visited Chidambaram temple when I was a child but have certainly heard about it being one of the most revered Shaivite shrines. But Chidambara Ragasiyam? I only knew the television serial of that name. I knew Chidambara Ragasiyam was something top secret. So what was the secret that the temple town of Chidambaram held? Thanks to Ashwin Ravi for providing me with the answer.
Chidambaram was the place that deified the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva (Aanandha Thaandavam). It has both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu shrines within the same temple. Apart from these two, there is also a golden garland hanging in space. It just literally hangs in the air without any idol or deity to adorn. That seemingly innocuous garland is the symbol of the Chidambara Ragasiyam, is the source of a wealth of knowledge. It signifies the fact that God has no form. Then why the garland, asked Ashwin to the priest there who explained the significance of the garland to him. The Priest simply said it was to cater, not to the doubters who denied the existence of God, but those believers who for the sake of clarity seek a well defined image or marker to direct their prayers to.
That is the Secret of Chidambaram, that God is formless and permeates everywhere. Hinduism, as I know, is polytheistic and among the most tolerant of religions. But here is one of the most revered shrines in South India saying despite all the Gods we worship and the numerous idols and shrines throughout the nation, that God has no form! This got me thinking about Hinduism in particular, and religion in general and it is claimed that even Muslims visit the Chidambaram shrine because God is worshipped as formless. Hard to believe and unverified, but really got me thinking.
On further research I found out that Shiva is not only worshipped as formless (Ether) but also as Fire, Air, Earth and Water – the five elemental substances, Chidamabram being one of the five Shivasthalangal . I guess there is a lot more for me to know before I can talk about God or spirituality!
Also check out http://www.fritjofcapra.net/shiva.html , related to the Cosmic dance at CERN! (courtesy Balaji )