The Nataraja Temple
"Pondicherry (or Puducheri) means 'the new settlement'. It was a French settlement comprising of Karaikal, Mahe, and Yanam besides Pondicherry. A unique thing about Pondicherry is that it spreads into several states. While Karaikal is in Tamil Nadu, Mahe is in Kerala, and Yanam is a part of Andhra Pradesh.
Situated around 200 kilometres south of Chennai, Pondicherry is today a union territory where the French connection on the architecture and culture of the place is strongly visible-a result of the centuries-old relation with the French power. However, the fame of Pondicherry lies not in its French connection but its relation with the saint-philosopher Aurobindo Ghosh who founded his ashram here. Sri Aurobindo was a political revolutionary who reached Pondicherry in 1920 and established a place for peaceful and harmonious living.
Today the ashram is home to nationals from every part of the world, who come here to find peace and solitude.
Pondicherry is a planned city unlike most other places in India. All the roads meet at right angles according to the grid system and a long Petit Canal divides the city on the seaward side. The French township is on the sea-facing side while the other is on the Indian side.
Not much is known about Pondicherry before the foreign settlement started. There are evidences of the Pallava, Chola and the Vijayanagar empires around the city. What is interesting are the relics of Arekmedu, the famous archaeological city with a port through which major trade was conducted with the Roman Empire. It is through this port that India used to export silk, spices, even birds, lions, elephants to the Roman Empire in exchange for gold."
In the 16th century, the Portuguese first arrived here and then the following century the Danes made an appearance. In 1673, the French arrived. Till then, Pondicherry was a weaving and fishing village. The French quarters started along the sea and extended to the south, all along the sea. The city slowly emerged with the fort at its center. The town planners tried to implement this grid system methodically. It required the reconstruction of many houses, mostly those of the Tamilians. It also required the strict implementation of regulations. In all, it took the French almost a century to implement the plan-that of the present concentric pattern with the fort at the center and boulevards surrounding it. It has, however, expanded beyond the boulevard in recent years.
Today, some adjacent areas, which were previously villages, have been included within the city limits. Around the 1760's, the British destroyed the city including the fort. When the French reoccupied it, most of the buildings were reconstructed but not the fort.
In the latter part of the 18th and early 19th century, Pondicherry again fell into British hands and all construction activity came to a standstill. Most of the present day buildings came up in the 19th century, which also marked the advent of water supply in the city and the railway link with British India. By the 20th century, the city had expanded to include many neighboring villages, although few changes were made in the inner city.
This French colony became a part of the Indian Union in the early 1950's, with the French voluntarily relinquishing control.
Today, the Union Territory of Pondicherry includes the other three French enclaves of Karaikal (in Tamil Nadu), Mahe (in Kerala) and Yanam (in Andhra Pradesh).
Best Season, Climate, and Clothing
The climate of Pondichery is warm-humid with mean temperature 28-30o C in the summer and winters. Monsoon is prevalent from October to March. Cotton clothing is apt all through the year.
Chidambaram, dedicated to the Lord Shiva, is a world famous Hindu temple. Devotees and tourists from all over the country frequent this temple every year. Situated in the center of the temple town of Chidambaram in the state of Tamil Nadu, this temple surpasses all architectural wonders. Nataraja Temple – Chidambaram reflects the craftsmanship of the architects of the period.
Since its inception, the temple underwent several renovation processes by rulers of various dynasties from time to time. Legend says that Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram is considered to be one of the holiest and the most sacred Shiva temple in India. The temple signifies the natural element space. The other temple, which signifies other form of natural elements are Kanchi Ekambareswara (earth), Kalahasti Nathar (wind).Thiruvanaikaval Jambukeswara (water) and Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswara (fire).
Nataraja Temple worships Lord Shiva in the form of the Cosmic dancing god, Nataraja. The whole temple area is a huge one and spreads for more than 40 acres. This historic and ancient temple is also dedicated to the Lord Govindaraja Perumal. It is a very rare case, where Shaivite together with Vaishnavite deities are worshipped at the same place.
Pallava king Simhavarman, also known as Hiranyavarman is a famous renovator of the temple. The Nataraja Temple – Chidambaram shows typical Dravidian architectural form. The ornamented Lord Nataraja sits within the shrine, who is shown as the lord of the dance form Bharatanatyam. The architectural features of the temple includes Gopurams, the five sabhais, the shrines of the 63 chief devotees of lord Shiva, water bodies and Govindraja shrine. There are nine gateways of the temple, each of which signifies the 9 orifices of the human body.
There is a huge temple car of the Nataraja Temple - Chidambaram, which is equally impressive. People believe that Lord Nataraja descends twice a year on this car. During the time of festivals, this sacred car is drawn by thousands of devotees. Several rituals are associated with this temple, which are observed with great purity and devotion.
Recitation and the mantras are chanted from the Vedas in Sanskrit within the temple. Only the qualified people are allowed to do these sanctified acts. Dikshitar are the priests of the temple. Various festivals are celebrated within the Nataraja Temple - Chidambaram.
How to Reach the Chidambaram Temple
Chidambaram is well connected by rail to important towns and cities of Tamilnadu. Chidambaram can be reached from Chennai (235 Km) in approximately six hours, from Kumbakonam in two hours and from Tanjore in four hours.
Chidambaram is reachable by bus from almost anywhere in Tamil Nadu and other adjoining states.
The nearest airport is Trichy at a distance of about 160 Km.