The Chidambaram Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva (or Siva) in His form of the Cosmic Dancer, Nataraja, is a temple complex spread over 40 acres. To the follower of Shaivism or Saivism, the very word ‘Koil ’ or Temple refers to the Chidambaram temple. In the same way, to the followers of Vaishnavism (the religion followed by the devotees of Lord Vishnu) it refers to Srirangam or Thiruvaramgam.
The word Chidambaram is derived from ‘Chit’, meaning ‘consciousness,’ and ‘ambaram’, meaning sky (aakasam or aakayam); thus it refers to the 'chidakasam', the sky of consciousness, which is the ultimate aim one should attain as mentioned by all vedas and scriptures.
One more theory is it is derived from CHITRAMBALAM (CHIT + AMBALAM) Ambalam means Stage for performing arts. The 'chidakasam' is the state of supreme bliss or 'aananda' and lord Natarajar is the symbolic representation of the supreme bliss or 'aananda natanam'. Saivaites believe that a visit to Chidambaram leads to liberation.
The story of Chidambaram begins with the legend of Lord Siva strolling into the Thillai Vanam ('Vanam' meaning forest and 'thillai' trees - botanical name Exocoeria agallocha, a species of mangrove trees - which currently grows in the Pichavaram wetlands near Chidambaram. The temple sculptures depicting the Thillai trees date back to the 2nd century AD).
Chidambaram is one of the Panchabhoota Stalams signifying the five elements of wind (Kalahasti), water (Tiruvanaikka), fire (Tiruvannamalai), earth (Kanchipuram) and space (Chidambaram).
Places to see in Chidambaram
How to reach Chidambaram