Chidambaram Knowledge Guide
There is reference to the temple or the town in Sangam literature of the first to fifth centuries and the earliest mention is found in Tamil literature. The temple and the deity were immortalized in Tamil poetry in the works of Thevaram by three poet saints belonging to the 7th century - Thirugnana Sambanthar, Thirunavukkarasar and Sundaramoorthy Nayanar. Thirugnana Sambanthar has composed two songs in praise of the temple, Thirunavukkarasar aka Appar eight songs in praise of Nataraja and Sundarar one song in praise of Nataraja. Sundarar commences his Thiruthondar Thogai (the sacred list of Lord Shiva's 63 devotees) paying his respects to the priests of the Thillai temple - "To the devotees of the priests at Thillai, I am a devotee". The works of the first three saints, the Thirumurai were stored in palm leaf manuscripts in the temple and were recovered by the Chola King Rajaraja Chola under the guidance of Nambiandarnambi. Manikkavasagar, the 10th century saivite poet has written two works, the first called Thiruvasakam (The sacred utterances) which largely has been sung in Chidambaram and the Thiruchitrambalakkovaiyar (aka Thirukovaiyar), which has been sung entirely in the temple. Manikkavasagar is said to have attained spiritual bliss at Chidambaram. The Chidambaram Mahatmiyam composed during the 12th century provides the subsequent evolution and Sanskritization of cults.There are several inscriptions available in the temple and referring to the Chidambaram temple in neighbouring areas. Most inscriptions available pertain to the periods of Cholas - Rajaraja Chola I (985-1014 CE), Rajendra Chola I (1012-1044 CE), Kulothunga Chola I (1070-1120 CE), Vikrama Chola (1118-1135 CE), Rajadhiraja Chola II (1163 -1178 CE), Kulothunga Chola III (1178-1218 CE) and Rajaraja Chola III (1216-1256 CE). Pandya inscriptions date from Thribhuvana Chakravarthi Veerapandiyan, Jataavarman Thribhuvana Chakravarthi Sundarapaandiyan (1251-1268 CE) and Maaravarman Thribhuvana Chakravarthi Veerakeralanaagiya Kulashekara Pandiyan (1268-1308 CE). Pallava inscriptions are available for king Avani Aala Pirandhaan Ko-perum-Singha (1216-1242 CE). Vijayanagara Kings mentioned in inscriptions are Veeraprathapa Kiruttina Theva Mahaaraayar (1509-1529 CE), Veeraprathaapa Venkata Deva Mahaaraayar, Sri Ranga Theva Mahaaraayar, Atchyutha Deva Mahaaraayar (1529-1542 CE) and Veera Bhooopathiraayar. One of the inscriptions from the descendant of Cheramaan Perumal Nayanar, Ramavarma Maharaja has been found.
The festivals in Chidambaram are centered on the festivals of the temple. The Marghazhi Thiruvaadhirai festival celebrated in December–January indicates the first puja, the fourteenth day after the new moon (Chaturdashi) of the month of Masi (February - March) indicates the second pooja, the Chittirai Thiruvonam (in April- May), indicates the third pooja or uchikalam, the Uthiram of Aani (June–July) also called the Aani Thirumanjanam indicates the evening or the fourth puja, the chaturdasi of Aavani (August - September) indicates the fifth puja and the chaturdasi of the month of Puratasi (October - November) indicates the sixth pooja or Arthajama. Of these the Marghazhi Thiruvaadhirai (in December - January) and the Aani Thirumanjanam (in June - July ) are the most important festvilas. During these festivals, the festive deity is brought outside the sanctum sanctorum in a procession that includes a temple car procession followed by a long anointing ceremony. Several hundreds of thousands of people flock the temple to see the anointing ceremony and the ritualistic dance of Shiva when he is taken back to the sanctum sanctorum. Shiva, in his incarnation of Nataraja, is believed to have born on full moon day in the constellation of Ardra, the sixth lunar mansion. Lord Shiva is bathed only 6 times a year, and on the previous night of Ardra, the bath rituals are performed on a grand scale. Pots full of milk, pomegranate juices, coconut water, ghee, oil, sandal paste, curds, holy ashes, and other liquids and solids, considered as sacred offering to the deity are used for the sacred ablution.Natyanjali is a prominent festival celebrated during February every year when Bharatnatyam dancers from all over the country converge to present dance offering to Nataraja.