This temple is one of the most important temples for the Saivite sect of Hindus. This sect worships Lord Shiva as their principle deity. It is one of the five Pancha Bootha Stalams, the five holiest temples dedicated to the Lord Shiva. Each of these five temples represents the five classical elements. The one in Chidambaram represents the akasha or air. The temple that we see today was mainly built in the 12th and 13th century. In the subsequent centuries several additions have been made to the main structure.
In this temple Lord Shiva is depicted in the form of a dancer. This representation of Shiva as a cosmic dancer has become one of the greatest representations of Hinduism. This temple complex has several other buildings which can be explored. If you ask, many of the local priests would be happy to show around. This temple can be visited throughout the day. However, the inner compound remains closed everyday from noon till 4.30pm.
Chidambaram is a very good place to visit when you are vacationing with your family. Often families come together to visit the temples here and to offer their prayers. The mangrove forest in Chidambaram also attracts thousands of visitors annually. The Chidambaram backwaters are quite popular among youngsters as it offers several options for water sports.
Around 86% of the total population is Hindu and Chidambaram has some of the most important Hindu temples in the world. It has been a centre of Hinduism for several centuries. Besides the famous Nataraj Temple, there are several other notable temples here which attract thousands of pilgrims annually. The Vaitheeswaran Temple is also dedicated to Lord Shiva. This particular temple is considered to be one among the nava graha temples. It is dedicated to the planet Mars and is considered to have healing powers.
Every year thousands of devotees visit this temple and offer their prayers for the well-being of their loved ones. As Chidambaram has several Hindu temples it attracts thousands of Hindu pilgrims. They comprise the major part of the tourist population visiting this town.
While visiting the temples, do keep the following in mind. It is advisable that women should wear clothes that will cover their arms and legs. Men too should do the same. Before entering the main section of the temple, take off your footwear and walk bare foot. Also, do avoid carrying bags or wallets made of leather. In most cases, photography is banned at temples, so before clicking pictures, do take permission from the temple authorities.
Situated very close to Chidambaram is an erstwhile Danish settlement that exudes old world charm. The Tharangambadi or Trankebar was a Danish settlement for more than 200 years. As a result you will find many Danish influences that have become a part of the local culture.
There is a fort here, known as Fort Dansborg, whose larger portions still exist today. There is a museum inside this fort which displays several antique Danish articles. You will get to browse objects like porcelain ware, glass objects, sculptures, Danish manuscripts, spears, stucco figurines, swords, daggers, steatite lamps, decorated terracotta objects, Chinese tea jars, figurines, lamps and many wooden articles. Amongst the various curios you will get to see a whale skeleton as well.
This is the world’s second largest mangrove forest and it can be reached by roads from Chidambaram. This mangrove forest offers a beautiful view of the mangrove trees rooted deep in the water. These water channels also offer scope for various kinds of water sports.
Amongst the many other temples, there is one temple which is dedicated to the Goddess Kali. The Thillai Kali Amman Temple is situated in the northern end of the town. There are several legends attached to this temple. One of these states that the Goddess Shakti resided here after losing to Lord Shiva in a dance contest.
Chidambaram is located quite near the Bay of Bengal. It has a sub-tropical humid climate. Here, the summers are hot while the winters are comparatively cool. It receives most of its rainfall in the months of October, November and December which results from the North East monsoon.
There are several forest areas which surround Chidambaram. The famous Pichavaram Mangrove Forest can be found here. It is home to several species of flora and fauna. You will find a number of species of birds and fish here.
One of the most important parts of the local culture are the temple festivals which are celebrated throughout the year. In most of these events, the temple deity is brought outside the temple and carried around the town in the special temple car. During this time, thousands of people from all over the state and even nearby come and offer their prayers.
One of the most popular events is the Nityanjali. This event is celebrated in the month of February. During this celebration thousands of Bharatnatyam dancers come and offer dance offerings to the Lord Shiva.
Tamil is the official language of Chidambaram. It is widely spoken and understood by the local people. Those who are visiting this town may want to learn some basic Tamil phrases to help them deal with local shopkeepers and vehicle drivers.
Some of the famous landmarks in Chidambaram are the Tiruvetkalam Temple, the Tirunallurpperumanam Temple, the Chathapurinathar Temple and the Annamalai University. You can also visit Neyveli and Tarangambadi.
At the Pichavaram Mangrove forest, adventure loving tourists have several options to choose from. The backwaters of this forest are ideal for several water sports like rowing, kayaking and canoeing.
The Pichavaram mangrove forest is home to several local as well as migrating birds. For instance, Pelicans, Watersnips, Cormorants, Egrets, Storks, Herons and Spoonbills are some of the species among many others. The period between November to January attracts a large number of birds. This is the best time for those who love watching birds in their natural habitat. Watching birds nestled in their natural habitat is a hugely relaxing experience. As it does not include much of physical exercise, one needs to simply relax and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings.
The Anupallavi Restaurant is a very good option as it is a multi-cuisine restaurant. Completely air conditioned, it serves a good number of options in the non vegetarian section. Some of the places where you can eat are Marrybrown, Moorthy Cafe Restaurant, Casino Bakery and Sweets, and Anupallavi. The Krishna Vilas and Hotel RK Residency serve the town’s best vegetarian food.
Rice is often served along with sambhar a lentil soup cooked along with a variety of vegetables in it. Also, idli and dosa, which are again made of rice, are also popular. Food here is often served on a banana leaf and is eaten with the right hand. Using one’s left hand while eating is strongly discouraged.
While Chidambaram does not have a very vibrant nightlife, it does have a number of pubs and bars. The Dolphin Bar, Nattiya, Peg N Mug, Golden Roof Bar are some of the options available.
There are four major markets in Chidambaram - the Daily Market West Car Street, North Main Road fish market, Gnanaprakasam market and Omakulam fish market. There are several shops which cater to the basic needs of all the locals in this town. These markets are also trading hubs for all the nearby villages and towns.
There is a Nakkeran Super Market and VMP Shopping Mall where one will find several stores set up by leading brands.