Chidambaram is an industrial city in eastern part of Tamil Nadu and the taluk headquarters in the Cuddalore district. It is located in 58 km from Pondicherry, 60 km from Karaikal, and 240 km south of Chennai by rail. It has an average elevation of 3 metres (9 ft). The city is home to Annamalai University, Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram Temple, port Parangipettai, and many industries. The city is a major pilgrimage site for Shaivites and Vaishnavites. Distance from Devanampattinam, Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu to Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu is 46.0 km and travel time is around 1 h 2 min via Chennai - Nagapattinam Highway/E Coast Road.
The ancient Chidambaram Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva in his form of the cosmic Dancer. It is one of the five dancing halls (Sabha) of Nataraja and the most famous one. Chidambaram is the Kanaka Sabha (Golden Hall). It is also one of the Panchabhoota Sthalams - representing five basic elements. This is the Akasa Sthalam representing 'Space' among the Pancha Bootha Sthalams. For Saivites all over the world this is the most important Siva Temple. The stand alone word "Kovil" would automatically mean Chidambaram Temple to Saivites. The others are - Tiruvannamalai (Thejo sthalam - Fire) Kanchipuram (Prithvi sthalam - Earth) Srikalahasti (Vayu sthalam - Air) Tiruvanaikaval (Trichy) (Appu sthalam - Water).
The temples at Kalahasti, Kanchipuram and Chidambaram all stand on a straight line at 79' 45" east longitude - truly an engineering, astological and geographical wonder. The Chidambaram temple houses the Akasha Lingam of Shiva and is considered one of the greatest Shiva Temples of Tamil Nadu. The Govindaraja shrine adjacent to the Nataraja Shrine was constructed in 1639 C.E. by a Cholas. Nataraja in Chidambaram Temple has been sung by many Tamil saints including the Tevaram Trio - Sambanthar, Tirunavukkarasar, Sundaramurti Swamigal. Manikkavacakar attained Mukti in Chidambaram by becoming one with Nataraja. The other Saiva saint of importance who attained mukti here is Nandanar. Nandanar, born in a caste of untouchables became exalted by his bhakti, that even the most conservative Brahmins of Chidambaram worshipped him. Chidambaram hosts the most ancient set of the 108 Karana stone carvings, the key dance movements of Nataraja. The temple complex is spread over 40 acres (160,000 sq m) in the heart of the city. Many thousands of devotees come to this auspicious temple to pay homage to the dancing Siva.
Chidambaram Temple houses the Shiva and Vishnu in the same complex,where a devotee can have darshan of Lord Shiva and Lord Govindaraja(Lord Vishnu) from a single place. The Govindaraja temple is also among the 108 dhivya desams of Vaishnavites.
The famous Natyanjali festival is held in the Nataraja temple complex every year during Maha Shivaratri. Bharatanatyam dancers from different parts of the world offer their prayers to Lord Nataraja and perform in the temple complex.
How to Reach Chidambaram
By Air: The airports at Tiruchirapalli (165 km) and Chennai (215 km) are the nearest airports from Chidambaram. From Tiruchirapalli, Indian Airlines flights can be taken to Chennai (Madras). Chennai is connected to all the major cities in India and abroad through regular flights.
By rail: Chidambaram is located on the Madras-Tiruchirapalli main line of the Southern Railway. It is connected with Tiruchirapalli, Madras, Madurai (335 km), Rameswaram (575 km), Bangalore (340 km), and Tirupati (290 km).
By road: There are frequent bus services available to various places in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Pondicherry states from Chidambaram. Non-stop bus services and express bus services are also available to major cities like Chennai.
The national highway NH-45A (the Villupuram-Pondicherry-Cuddalore-Chidambaram-Nagapattinam Highway) passes through Chidambaram.