The Secret of Chidambaram

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!

Cosmic dance

Cosmic dance

Also check out , related to the Cosmic dance at CERN! (courtesy Balaji )


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5 thoughts on “The Secret of Chidambaram

  1. Vivekananda had also explained the concept of Idol worshipping. Chk out the foll wen free )

    “Next, the Maharaja ridiculed the worship of images, which to him were nothing but figures of stone, clay, or metal. The Swami tried in vain to explain to him that Hindus worshipped God alone, using the images as symbols. The Prince was not convinced. Thereupon the Swami asked the Prime Minister to take down a picture of the Maharaja, hanging on the wall, and spit on it. Everyone present was horror-struck at this effrontery. The Swami turned to the Prince and said that though the picture was not the Maharaja himself, in flesh and blood, yet it reminded everyone of his person and thus was held in high respect; likewise the image brought to the devotee’s mind the presence of the Deity and was therefore helpful for concentration, especially at the beginning of his spiritual life. The Maharaja apologized to Swamiji for his rudeness.”

  2. The garland is actually a garland “Bilva” or “vilvam” in gold and the diety is behind the garland, formless.. (err.. the very word “behind” becomes meaningless for a formless God). Shiva is representing space, ether (or “dark energy”) in this sthalam. And there is significance in the actual form one of the most imaginative representations of God as “Lord Nataraja”. There is a symmetry and poise in the seemingly assymetric posture. In one hand is the “damaru”, signifying the cosmic sound and hence creation and one the other the “fire” representing destruction. But unlike other religions, this concept of creation and destruction is considered cyclic symbolised by the cycle around the idol…(Sounds like the cyclic theory of the universe to me.. No Big bang.. the Big bang marks the ending of one and the beginning of a new universe:) ) .. The “abhaya mudra” tell the devotee/ believer that He is there to help them out of the darkness of ignorance(potrayed as a dwarf on which he is performing the dance)while the other hand asks him to seek his divine feet which is rised up. The

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