Saturday, June 16, 2007

Natarajar 3 (Chidambaram)


Though Lord Siva is worshipped mainly in the formless form of LINGAM , he is also worshipped in 64 different forms, foremost of which is the NATARAJA. Siva in a dancing pose is known the world over as Nataraja - the king of dances. His dance embodies layers of symbolism. His form denotes centuries old Hindu thought on the eternity of life in the universe. The belief that life is a part of the great rythematic process of creation and destruction of death and rebirth, sparked the imagination of the devoted ancient people. Their saints painted words pictures of abstract thought using the cosmic dance of Siva to enlighten their devotees. The sculptors produced arrested moments of motion in stone and Bronze. Especially the Chola bronzes are known world over for their exclusive workmanship.

As sung by saint Appar " His arched brows meeting at the center of His forehead, His shaped lips, His golden smile, His flowing hair, His coraline skin tone, with white ash all over His body , His golden raised dancing feet .... to see this beatific vision is the very purpose of life... nothing else is worth seeing." This great vision of my Lord can be had at Chidambaram the foremost temple for saivaits. Let us see about this temple and the legends associated with this temple and festivals conducted in this temple in this article.

Chidambaram also known as Thillai, as it was once abundant with thillai (mangrove) forest is the Akhasa (Space) sthala among the five Pancha Bootha Sthlams ( temples representing the the five elements of Earth,Water,Wind,Fire and Ether). Here Siva is worshipped as Akasha Linga -the Linga of Space!. It is one of the five Sabhas ( Dance Halls ) of Lord Siva known as Panja sabhais. As its roof is plated with Golden tiles, this ambalm is called Kanaka Sabhai (Golden Hall) or Ponnambalam. The legend is that whoever witnesses the dance of bliss of Lord Shiva in this sacred place attains salvation so this place one of the seven mukthi sthalams. A lot of significance is associated with this temple and these are some of them.
The myth of Nataraja:
This dancing form of my Lord has inspired a billion words in saints, poets, singers, scholars, travelers and historians. In tamil alone the literature pertaining to Shiva in Chidambaram can fill an entire library. It is not surprising that to interpret the myth and mysticism of the dance of Nataraja to the world, writers from Ananda Coomaraswamy to the present day have delved into endless avenues of research and scholarship. Ananda Coomaraswamy writes " In the night of Brahman the Nature is inert, and cannot dance till Siva wills it. He rises from His rapture, and dancing sends through the inert matter pulsating waves of awakening sound and lo! matter also dances, appearing as a Glory round Him. Dancing, He sustains its manifold phenomena. In the fullness of time, still dancing, He destroys all forms and names by fire and gives rest."
The dance of Siva symbolizes the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, birth and death.. But also reminds us of that the manifold forms in the world are Maya-not fundamental, but illusory and always keep changing as He keeps creating and destroying what He creates in an endless flow as He dances. Thus the dance of Siva is the dance of the Universe.
Each aspect of Nataraja is significant. The circular frame is the aura, while His hair flies in all directions. The whole universe is His body and the whirling swastika the life force. without His vibration the world cannot be sustained. All sound is music to His dance. All ornaments are all the celestial bodies and the beauty of nature, while the demon underfoot signifies the suppression of pride. The sound of His steps and the Damaru in one hand are the sounds of creation. The deer indicates purity and the fire the alchemy and transmutation. The hand pointing downwards shows the way to salvation and the raised foot is salvation itself. The whole signifies "OMkaram".

The purpose of the celestial never ending dance of Siva is further elaborated in Thirumoolar's Thirumanthiram. The dancer is called Koothan. The represents His five activities- Panchakritya. They are Shrishti (creation), Sthithi (preservation), samkara (destruction), tirobhava (illussion), Anugraha (salvation) . The drum held in the right upper hand, the abhaya right hand, the fire held in the left upper hand, the foot held aloft and fourth hand points to the foot which crushes the demon represent these five activities of my Lord.

The legends assocoated with temple:
The first legend of origin of Nataraja is that the rishis of Dharuka vanam questioned the relevance of God, arguing that karma (action) was everything., only action mattered. To remove their agnyana (ignorance), Siva took the form of a beautiful man-Sundaramoorthy and came as an alms taker Bikshadana along with Maha Vishnu who took the form of Mohini (enchantress) and came to the village. Enchanted all the woman followed Sundaramurthy and Lord Vishnu enticed the rishis with his Mohini form. The rishis, enraged that they had been fooled , conducted an Atharva Vedic "Homa" to destroy to destroy Siva. From the fire first came the demon Muyalagan, the cosmic dance of eternal bliss( Ananda Thandavam) began. Muyalagan was trampled under the foot. The snakes from the fire became Siva's garlands and ornaments. A deer with huge antlers was made small and held in one hand. A tiger was skinned and the skin became His waist cloth while the fire itself was captured in one hand. The sound of the mantras became His anklets and became beneficial. Thus Lord Siva and Vishnu taught the rishis a lesson. This act is enacted on the eighth day of the Annual festival held in this temple as Bikshadanar Utsavam.

The second legend is that Adhi Shesha the snake bed of Maha Vishnu saw Vishnu smiling one day and asked Him the reason . Vishnu replied that He visualised the Ananda Thandavam of Lord Siva at Dharukavanam and so He smiled. Adhi Sesha also wanted to have the vision of the Thandava. Vishnu advised him to penance at thillai. Adhi sesha came as saint Patanjali and was doing penance here. Another saint names Viyagra pada, he is so called because he asked for the legs of tiger with powerful claws which will allow him to climb the trees swiftly so that he can fetch flowers for the Lord was also doing penance at thillai. Pleased by the devotion of both the saints Lord Siva performed His Ananda Thandavam here and as requested by the saints stayed here at this sacred spot where the dance of Him was seen by the saints for the benefit of mankind.

The third legend is the dance duel between Siva and Kali. Kali a fierce form of Parvathi was sent to kill two demons who were troubling the people. Kali went to war with the demons. Blood flowed from the demons and the demons multiplied from the each drop of blood that touched the ground. Kali turned to Shiva. He gave Her a vessel (kapalam) to collect the blood. Not quite knowing what to do to prevent the blood from spilling , She drank the lot. Demonic blood, that transformed Her and she went on rampage attacking everything in sight. The Gods then appealed to Siva. You must come, they said to humble Kali. Kali on seeing Siva called for a dance duel. The two danced like thunder and lightning. Kali matched Siva step for step. He then let fall His left ear ring to the ground, and picked it up with His toe, tossed it up high in the air, and eventually restored to His ear. With that single breath-taking movement when the kinetics of dance reached an ultimate crescendo, Kali was humbled, because she could not match it. Tamed thus Kali was banished to a temple outside the forest and Nataraja stayed on there with Ananda Thandavam pose.

Six ablutions to Lord Nataraja:
What is one year for us human beings is one day for celestials. The six poojas they do in their one day is observed in this temple with abhisekhams (ablution) to Nataraja. The days in which these are done are
1. Margazhi ( Dec-Jan) on Thiruvaathirai asterix. - early morning Pooja
2.Masi ( Feb - Mar) day before full moon day - morning pooja
3. Chithirai (Apr-May) on Thiruvonam asterix - noon pooja
4. Ani (Jun-Jul) on uthiram asterix - evening pooja.
5.Avani (Aug- Sep) day before full moon day - second time pooja
6.Purattasi (Sep-Oct) day before full moon day - night pooja

Of these six days on days 2,3,5,6, . Lord and Mother are brought out of the sanctum sanctorum - Chit sabhai (Hall of truth) and ablutions are done in the evenings in the ponnambalam (Hall of Gold), the front portion and after that special poojas are done. Abishekams are not done daily to Nataraja and Mother but only to crystal Linga in the morning and evening and during noon to Rathna Sabapathy (Ruby Nataraja).

Ani Thirumanjana Darishanam & Arudra Dharisanam
Whereas 1 and 4 ten day festivals and Lord Nataraja and Mother Sivakama Sundari leave the sanctum sanctorum and give darshan to their devotees outside. The festival starts with hoisting of the Rishaba flag on the first day. In all the ten days procession of Pancha Murthis (five Gods) is held in the evening. Lord Siva as Somaskanda gives darshan in different mounts. Lord Ganesha in mooshikam(Rat) mount , Sivakami in swan mount , Lord Muruga along with His consorts Valli and Deva Sena in Peacock and Sandikeshwara in Rishabam(Bull) mount. The eighth day is celebrated as Bikshadanar Utsavam. The ninth day is Rathotshavam (Chariot) Lord Nataraja and Mother Sivakami leave their sanctum sanctorum and come out to give darshan to their devotees. Pancha Murthis give darshan in chariots and on the 10th day the Darishanam day early morning (before sunrise) He has abhisekham (special ablutions) in the front court of the thousand pillared hall also called Raja sabhai ( Hall of the King). We should have been blessed to see the ablutions to the Lord and Mother on that day. Then He gives Royal audience to His devotees at noon time inside the hall, He is adorned with the best of the Jewels and beautiful flower garlands befitting the Lord of the Universe. Specaial poojas are also done in the Hall. In the evening He returns to His sanctum sanctorum ( Sith sabhai- Hall of truth) with dance of bliss. Only on these two days we can have the darshan of Lord outside His sanctum. Lakhs of people congregate on these days in Chidambaram to have the Darshan of the Lord. These days are called Aruthra Darishanam in the month of Margazhi and Ani Thirumanjana darshanam the month of Ani. Let us visit Chidambaram and have the darshan of Lord Nataraja and attain salvation.


shriram said...

very nice article. I loved reading it. Thanks a lot for your initiatives

S.Muruganandam said...

Thank You Shriram.

Read other posts also when time permits.

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