The ancient temple is located in the center of the town and covers 40 acres with four seven-story gopurams ( those huge gateways facing North, South East and West) each with around fifty stone sculptures. There are also five sabhas or courts. The presiding deity of the temple is formless, represented by air, one of the five elements of the universe.
The temple is dedicated to Lord Nataraja, and is unique as it one of the rare temples where Shiva is represented by an idol rather than the customary lingam. (I’d been introduced to lingams earlier, they are black phallic looking statues.) This temple also has exquisite carvings of Bharathanatya dance postures, the Classical Dance of Tamil Nadu. At Chidambaram, the dancer dominates, not the linga.
The eastern tower of the temple rises to a height of 134 feet with 108 Bharathanatyam dance poses as well as on Western tower. The Northern tower rises to a height of 140 feet and is the tallest. This temple is also noted for its Gold Plated roof that adorns the sanctum sanctorum, or called the kanakasabha. Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum.
The temple as it stands is mainly from the 12th and 13th centuries, with later additions in similar style. It was believed to have been originally constructed during the early Chola period (900’s AD).
Chidambaram temple embodies the following characteristics :
1) This temple is located at the Center Point of world 's Magnetic Equator.
2) Of the "Pancha bootha" i.e. 5 temples, Chidambaram denotes the Skies. Kalahasthi denotes Wind. Kanchi Ekambareswar denotes land. All these 3 temples are located in a straight line at 79 degrees 41 minutes Longitude. This can be verified using Google. An amazing fact & astronomical miracle !
3) Chidambaram temple is based on the Human Body having 9 Entrances denoting 9 Entrances or Openings of the body.
4) Temple roof is made of 21600 gold sheets which denotes the 21600 breaths taken by a human being every day (15 x 60 x 24 = 21600)
5) These 21600 gold sheets are fixed on the Gopuram using 72000 gold nails which denote the total no. of Nadis (Nerves) in the human body. These transfer energy to certain body parts that are invisible.
6) Thirumoolar states that man represents the shape of Shivalingam, which represents Chidambaram which represents Sadashivam which represents HIS dance !
7) "Ponnambalam " is placed slightly tilted towards the left. This represents our Heart. To reach this, we need to climb 5 steps called "Panchatshara padi "
"Si, Va, Ya, Na, Ma " are the 5 Panchatshara mantras.
There are 4 pillars holding the Kanagasabha representing the 4 Vedas.
8) Ponnambalam has 28 pillars denoting the 28 "Ahamas "as well as the 28 methods to worship Lord Shiva. These 28 pillars support 64 +64 Roof Beams which denote the 64 Arts. The cross beams represent the Blood Vessels running across the Human body.
9) 9 Kalasas on the Golden Roof represent the 9 types of Sakthi or Energies.
The 6 pillars at the Artha Mantapa represent the 6 types of Sashtras.
The 18 pillars in the adjacant Mantapa represents 18 Puranams.
10) The dance of Lord Nataraja is described as Cosmic Dance by Western Scientists.
Whatever Science is propounding now has been stated by Hinduism thousands of years ago