Several rich legends
are associated with Chidambaram. The best known, are those describing the
Cosmic Dance of Shiva, the dance duel between Shiva and
Kaali and the more recent one describing the re-discovery of the Tevaram hymns.
Dance of Shiva: Legend has it that Aadi Seshan, the serpent
(couch) of Vishnu, heard Vishnu's exhilarating description of Shiva's
Dance of Bliss. Filled with irrepressable desire to witness this dance in person at
Chidambaram, Seshan descended to the earth as Patanjali
(the one who descended). Vyagrapaadar, another devotee of Shiva
prayed to obtain the tiger's claws so that he could obtain with ease the sacred Vilva
leaves meant for Shiva's worship at Chidambaram. The two sages spent their time in prayer
and meditation - in anticipation of Shiva's Ananda Tandavam.
At the appointed hour, Shiva
(with Sivakami) granted to Patanjali and Vyagrapaadar,
a visual treat in the form of his Cosmic Dance of Bliss, to the accompaniments of music
played by several divine personalities in the Hindu pantheon. This Dance of Bliss is said
to have been witnessed by Vishnu, and there is a Govindaraja
shrine in the Natarajar temple commemorating this.
Chidambaram is also
known as Perumpatrappuliyur. Five shrines in which Vyagrapaada
(pulippaadar) is believed to have worshipped Shiva, are revered by the tamil hymns of the
Nayanmar Saints. They are Omampuliyur, Perumpuliyur, Erukkattampuliyur,
Paatirippuliyur and Perumpatrappuliyur
Patanjali and Vyagrapaadar
are also believed to have worshipped Shiva at Vilamar
and Tiruppunkur. There is also a shrine to
Patanjali Naathar (Shiva) at Kaanaattumullur.
also has it that the dance of bliss of Shiva, was enacted upon Shiva's (Bhikshatana) victory over the
married ascetics of Dhaaruka Vanam upon quelling their vanity.
The Dance Duel
between Shiva and Kaali: Yet another legend, commemorating the dance duel between
the doyens of dance Shiva and Kaali is associated with Chidambaram.
Towards the end of a
fierce competition between Shiva and Kaali, in a move to determine who the superior dancer
was, Shiva is said to have lifted his left foot towards the sky in the Urdhuva
Tandava posture, a definite male gesture, which out of adherence to protocol,
Kaali could not reciprocate, thereby causing Shiva to emerge victorious, delegating Kaali
to the status of a primary deity in another temple in the outskirts of Chidambaram. This
legend is portrayed in the Nritta Sabha, one of the halls within the Chidambaram temple.
The same legend holds in the Tiruvaalangaadu Nataraja
temple near Chennai.
Re-discovery of the Tevaram hymns: There is another recent legend associated with
this temple. The sacred Tamil works of the Nayanmaars (composed in the
2nd half of the first millennium CE) had been missing for several years, and it was during
the period of Raja Raja Chola (the builder of the Grand temple at Tanjavur) that formal research was initiated to
trace these fine works of devotional literature.
These works of the Saivite Saints - rich in
musical content were recovered in a dilapidated state in one of the chambers in this vast
temple, after the monarch brought images of the Saint trinity in procession to the temple.