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R. Nagaswamy

[Cidambara, Chirrambalam (Skt and Tamil: ‘Consciousness as space’)]

Temple site in Tamil Nadu, India, sacred to Shiva in his form as Nataraja, the Cosmic Dancer. The Nataraja temple occupies an area of about 16 ha and consists of a complex series of walled enclosures containing shrines, halls and gateways built between the 12th and 20th centuries. The temple’s origin is ascribed to the sages Vyagrapada and Patanjali, and it has become associated with Appar and other southern saints. The Chola kings, from whose time the earliest surviving portions belong, were devoted to Nataraja and held their coronation ceremonies in the precinct. The active religious and artistic life of Chidambaram continues to the present day.

At the centre of the Nataraja complex are the Chid Sabha and Kanaka Sabha, two small wooden buildings with hipped gable roofs sheathed in copper. While based on earlier prototypes, these structures probably date to the 17th century. Shiva is worshipped here as Nataraja and as the ...