Chidambaram Nataraja Temple - Pancha Bhoota Sthalam (Akasha sthalam)
Chidambaram is one of the five Pancha Bootha Sthalams, the holiest Shiva temples each representing one of the five classical elements; Chidambaram represents akasha (ether). The other four temples in this category are: Thiruvanaikaval Jambukeswara (water), Kanchi Ekambareswara (earth), Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswara (fire) and Kalahasti Nathar (wind). A unique feature of this temple is the bejeweled image of Nataraja as the main deity. It depicts Shiva as the master of Koothu-Bharata Natyam and is one of the few temples where Shiva is represented by an anthropomorphic murthi. Chidambaram offers a combination of the three apects of Saiva worship - of the form(Nataraja), of the form and the formlessness(linga) and of the formless omniprescence. The last is suggested by a "Chidambara rahasya", a chakra inscribed on a wall and blackened by applying "punugu"(civet) and over which hangs a string of golden vilva(bael) leaves. This can be viewed through the square chinks when the priest draws aside the dark "curtain of ignorance" The temple has been traditionally administered by an endogamous group of Saivite brahmins called Dikshitar, who also officiate as its priests. A whole year for men is said to be a single day for the Gods. Just as six poojas are performed in a day at the sanctum sanctorum, six anointing ceremonies are performed for the principal deity - Lord Nataraja in a year. They are the Marghazhi Thiruvaadhirai (in December - January ) indicating the first pooja , the fourteenth day after the new moon ( chaturdasi) of the month of Masi ( February - March) indicating the second pooja, the Chittirai Thiruvonam ( in April- May), indicating the third pooja or uchi kaalam , the Uthiram of Aani (June- July) also called the Aani Thirumanjanam indicating the evening or the fourth pooja , the chaturdasi of Aavani (August-September) indicating the fifth pooja and the chaturdasi of the month of Puratasi ( October - November) indicating the sixth pooja or Arthajama. Of these the Marghazhi Thiruvaadhirai ( in December-January) and the Aani Thirumanjanam ( in June-July ) are the most important. These are conducted as the key festivals with the main deity being brought outside the sanctum sanctorum in a procession that included a temple car procession followed by a long anointing ceremony. Several hundreds of thousands of people flock the temple to see the anointing ceremony and the ritualistic dance of the Lord when He is taken back to the sanctum sanctorum.