The Secret of Chidambaram

ChidambaramWhen I visited Chidambaram Temple on this Diwali day, I wanted to explore the Chidambara Rahasyam (secret of Chidambaram). Lord Shiv is worshipped in Linga form in almost all temples. But this temple has the idol of dancing Lord, Nataraja. This dance is called ‘Ananda Tandava’ (the dance of bliss).

Nataraja idol is known as the Saguna Brahman (the God with a form). To his right there is a screen. When you perform special puja, the Dikshitar (traditional priest) raises the curtain near to Nataraja. There will be a dark cloth and we see five vertical long hangings of golden vilva leaves. We see nothing behind it. This is known as the Nirguna Brahman (the God without form). This is told as ‘Chidambara Rahasyam’ by the Dikshitar.

There is a a mantapa (pillared hall) called Chitrakoota just in the front of Garbhagriha (the innermost sanctum). This is dedicated to Maha Vishnu (Narayana) who gives us darshan in his fully reclining Yoga Nidra pose on the snake bed. If you stand on a small lotus sculpted on the floor slab in front of Narayana, and turn your face to the right side, you can see Nataraja. So the temple is a unique combination of Narayana and Nataraja.

It is Fritjof Capra who catapulted Nataraja into a modern-day scientific icon when he euphorically stated in his cult book of 1974 The Tao of Physics that ”the dancing Shiva is the dancing universe, the ceaseless flow of energy going through an infinite variety of patterns that melt into one another.

The existence of the Nirguna Brahman as empty space (or Akaasa=the sky) reflects the divine nature as vacant space. The word Chidambaram is derived from chit, meaning “consciousness” and ambaram, meaning “sky” (from aakasam or aakayam) or space. Some ancient Hindu scriptures say that the sky of consciousness is the ultimate aim a human should attain.

Many people explain the secret of Chidambaram in different ways:

“The God that is sought outside is the same as the consciousness that we have within – and that remains a secret to the ignorant.”

“We start our spiritual journey in the very beginning with idol worshiping because we need an object to offer and do our prayers. Hence GOD in the form of Nataraja in Chidambaram and when we proceed further with our journey in spirituality we realise GOD’s present in entire of the universe.”

“We get the enlightened wisdom that GOD manifest everywhere… And there is nothing other than god in the whole cosmic”

“In Chidambaram GOD himself gives us realization that he is with form and he also as formless.”

“When the curtain of “maya” (approximate meaning is illusion) is removed one can see his real self. And the seeing of oneself removing the curtain of maya is viewing the secret.”

“Once we uncover the dark cloth of ignorance covering the consciousness then we can realize the paramatma (cosmic) who is formless”

And some people say that it represents the nasthik (atheist) philosophy that is there is no god.

According to legend, “Chidambara Ragasiyam” will never be revealed as it is to everybody. The earnest seekers will be blessed with realization that will take him/her to deeper silence.

Now my personal experience: I have not seen any secret. But as I stood there, I experienced “nothingness”. Apart from the psychological value that we attribute and assign to people and things, what is there in life? Just nothingness! The sound and fury that we produce from the day one of our birth would eventually end up in the eternal silence. This awareness will make us empty. At peace!. What more you need? It is the consciousness unlimited.

I think Chidambaram is a divine invitation – a silent invitaton to you to be a “Chidambara” or “Chitakara “ (The consciousness doer). When you become Chidambara and Chitakara, you become the entire cosmic. You will have no fear. You are neither the mind nor intelligence or ego. You are the ever pure blissful consciousness. So, experience the experience of the ‘Ananda Tandava’ – the dance of bliss!

Udaylal Pai
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