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Chidambaram, one of the major Hindu pilgrimage sites, is a municipality and taluk headquarters in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu. Situated at 240 km south of Chennai, the holy town of Chidambaram houses the Akasha Lingam of Shiva and hence, is a very important pilgrimage site for the Shaivites. Just 11 km from the coast, it has an average elevation of 3 metres and is located in the Kollidam River Valley.

ChidambaramThe word Chidambaram is actually derived from two words 'Chit Ambaram' which literally means a sky surrounded by an atmosphere of wisdom and intelligence. A very important South India pilgrimage site, Chidambaram is the place where Nataraja, an incarnation of Lord Shiva, emerged from the sacred space and performed his Cosmic Dance.

The population of Chidambaram is 58,968 and has a phenomenal average literacy rate of 80%. Spread over an area of 5 sq. km., Tamil and Hindi are the main languages of Chidambaram. The climate here is mainly tropical with temperatures soaring up to as high as 37ºC in the summers and falling to 20ºC in winters.

The holy town of Chidambaram resides a number of must-visits. The one thing that tops the list is the very famous Nataraja Temple. It is one of the oldest temples of Tamil Nadu. The temple is located in the heart of the city and covers an area of 40 acres. Towering at over 40 metres in height, the temple roofs are covered with gold plates. The presiding deity in the temple is Akasha Lingam and is represented by air, one of the five elements of the universe.

The spectacular bejeweled Nataraja image is one of the highlights of the temple along with other important features like the Sivakamiamman temple, the Sivaganga tank and the thousand pillar hall. The temple complex, built over several centuries, reflects an assortment and amalgamation of architectural and sculptural styles. One can also see 108 Bharatha Natyam dance gestures on both the Eastern Tower and the Western Tower of the Nataraja Temple.

The Thillaikaliamman Temple, located on the northern end of the town, is another major attraction of the important Hindu pilgrimage site of Chidambaram. It was built by Kopperunjingan between 1229 A.D. and 1278 A.D. The Viadanatheeswarar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, is yet another must-visit of Chidambaram. It is believed that the water of the tanks in this temple cures illness. The residential Annamalai University, founded by Raja Sir Annamalai Chettiar, is a great place of learning which now also offers various educational facilities in different disciplines like medicine, engineering, agriculture, etc. Pichavaram, Neyveli and Seerkazhi are other places around Chidambaram worth visiting. The Natyanjali Festival, which opens on the auspicious occasion of Mahasivaratri, brings all the prominent dancers of India together on the same platform and they offer their dance to the great divinity, Lord Nataraja.

The most convenient way to get to Chidambaram is by road. There are non-stop bus services and express bus services to all the major cities nearby from Chidambaram and vice-versa. One can also get to Chidambaram by rail or by air. It is located on the Chennai-Tiruchirapalli main line of Southern Railway and Chennai and Tiruchirapalli are also the nearest airports around Chidambaram. So, if you are planning a holiday in South India then Chidambaram in India should definitely be a part of your itinerary.

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