Chidambaram Temple - How And Why It Was Created

Yogi and mystic, Sadhguru looks at how and why the Chidambaram temple was created and explores its association with Patanjali, the father of modern yoga.

The Arudra Darshan falls on January 11, 2017, and is an especially significant event at the Chidambaram temple. Sadhguru looks at how and why the Chidambaram temple was created and explores its association with Patanjali, the father of modern yoga.

Sadhguru: In South India, five temples were built for each of the five elements – Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space. These are the Pancha Bhuta Sthalas. Geographically, they are all within the Deccan Plateau – four in Tamil Nadu and one in Andhra Pradesh. The temple for water is in Thiruvanaikaval, fire is Thiruvannamalai, Kalahasti is air and Kanchipuram is earth. The temple for space is in Chidambaram.

The Chidambaram temple is an incredible space. The newer part of the temple is around a thousand years old but no one knows how old the older part of the temple is. People say it is 3,500 years or more. This is how Indian culture has been. Even in ancient times, just look at the kind of temples they built. Whether you see the Rameshwaram Temple, the Chidambaram Temple, or the Madurai Temple, these are all colossal establishments and they were created a thousand years ago. At that time, almost every human being except the king lived in shacks. There was no machinery, trucks or cranes, but they worked for a couple of generations on these temples with a single-minded purpose. These people dedicated their whole life, they lived and died to create these temples because it meant so much to them.

Nataraja - The Lord of Dance

At the Chidambaram temple, there is the Nataraja, Shiva as the Lord of Dance. Natesha or Nataraja is one of the most significant forms of Shiva. When I visited CERN in Switzerland, which is the physics laboratory on the planet, where all the atom-smashing takes place, I saw that there is a Nataraja statue in front of the entrance, because they identified that there is nothing in human culture which is closer to what they are doing right now.

The Nataraja form essentially comes from Southern India, particularly from Tamil Nadu. It represents the exuberance of creation, the dance of creation which self-created itself from the eternal stillness. Nataraja standing in Chidambaram is very symbolic because what you call as Chidambaram is just absolute stillness. That is what is enshrined in the form of this temple. The classical arts are to bring this absolute stillness into a human being. Without stillness, true art cannot come.


One thing about Chidambaram is the Nataraja, but the main deity is an empty space. This temple was consecrated by Patanjali himself. Patanjali is known as the “Father of Modern Yoga.” He did not invent yoga. Yoga was already there in various forms which he assimilated into a system. The Yoga Sutras were written by him. If you look at Patanjali, as an enlightened being he can’t be more enlightened than someone else. There is no such thing. Realization is realization. But Patanjali as a man and above all as an intellect, the breadth of his understanding of life is so big that you cannot believe that this is possible in one human being. He is absolutely incredible and almost “not human.”

Painting depicting Nataraja at Chidambaram. Lt of Nataraja - Parvati, Rt - Vyagrahapada, Patanjali

Patanjali consecrated this temple with a certain science behind the whole thing because he is not a devotee, he is a scientist and he set up proper ways of how to conduct the temple. He prepared a group of people who have to maintain a certain level of sadhana and discipline and a method of daily ritual in the temple. Those families multiplied and they continued to keep the temple. Even today, they are generally maintaining the codes and the ritual part that he set forth as to how the temple should be maintained.

Arudra Darshan

One well-known aspect at Chidambaram is the Arudra Darshan in the Tamil month of Margazhi. Rudra means a roarer, or someone who is very effervescent - more than effervescent, a roar. Arudra means stable; not the roaring kind but absolutely stable. Rudra also suggests movement and creation. Arudra suggests a certain inertia.

Reviving Chidambaram

Just the buildings of the Chidambaram temple cover around thirty-five acres. They are built completely of stone and are magnificent. Apart from this, hundreds of acres of lands were attached to it, alongwith jewelry to maintain the vast temple. But during the British era, they took over many temples because of the enormous amount of wealth attached to them and all the jewelry has completely disappeared today. They say that a huge amount of the British funding for World War II came from Indian temples. Lands were also taken over and distributed, so the temple has become poor and unmanageable now.


Today there are around 360 families who are conducting the rituals and are also the beneficiaries of the temple. But they are unable to maintain it so many things are going away. All the vegetable dye paintings on the ceiling, which are a thousand years old are almost sixty percent gone. The plaster has fallen off and there is nobody for upkeep. And unknowingly, they have put up concrete structures here and there in this hundred percent stone temple because of which the aesthetics and the dynamics of the temple are badly disturbed.

When Patanjali built the temple, he didn’t build things for fancy. He only did what is absolutely needed, and it is an incredible space. That space needs to be protected and nurtured and made available to the whole of humanity. We want to do that. It will cost plenty to restore the temple and also clear up the surroundings because all kinds of bazaars have mushroomed which are bad for the space. We want to just see if we can do something about that and put up proper shopping and hotels, but this is still an idea. We are looking for some corporate support in India. If that happens I want to restore that because whether your house is 10,000 square feet or just 1000 square feet is not going to make an ultimate difference in your life, but being around a consecrated space is going to make a phenomenal difference in your life. With this understanding, in Indian culture, they built human habitations like this: if there are 25 houses, there must be one temple. Whether you go there or not, whether you pray or not, whether you know the mantra or not is not the point. You must be in a consecrated space every moment of your life.

An enormous amount of knowledge about this dimension of life was perpetuated particularly in this culture, and this was held as the most important thing. Because it doesn’t matter what you are eating, how you are or how long you live, at some point, a need will come that you want to get in touch with the source of Creation. If that possibility is not created across the planet and is not available to every human being who seeks, then society has failed to provide true wellbeing for a human being.

Editor's Note: Download Sadhguru's ebook, Shiva - Ultimate Outlaw. The ebook is filled with rich graphics and pearls of wisdom from Sadhguru that reveal many virtually unknown aspects about the being we call Shiva. Encounter Shiva like never before!

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6 years 1 month ago

I'm so proud and privileged to be a part of this wonderful movement taking place all across the globe. Sadhguru' inspiration to all whom hear or meet him is persuaded by his connection to true love and integrity. Thank you Sadhguru, volunteers and all whom follow the path of enlightenment :) God bless you all :) And thank you for your walk in all of our lives Sadhguru. You are a True friend to the Children of Humanity, and all :)

8 years 7 months ago

Sadhuru is gr8....

6 years 1 month ago

Let us do it..

9 years 1 month ago

That was wonderful.
Everyone who comes across this will feel like taking part in the Cleaning process.

A strong intiative to be appreciated.
We will join hands & make it possible..

8 years 6 months ago

fantastic work, keep up the good job, proud to be part of  Isha.

6 years 1 month ago

Pranams Sadguruji
You have educated us on the formation of Temples adequately. Even though I am very closely associated with Chidambaram, my admiration has gone many folds for this Temple after attending " Shajasthithi Yoga" way back in Sept,1999 at Coimbatore. As you rightly pointed out all the shops, Bazar have mushroomed around this great Temple. It's time you have now brought the awareness about re-deeming this Temple.

9 years 1 month ago

I don't have words. All my desires are fulfilled by sadguru. Trees, now temple cleaning(mainly in TN, kerala temples are very clean). Thanks a lot sadhguru.
Well done Isha Volunteers.

8 years 5 months ago

Im not a follower of Sadhguru, but at the same time i have very good respect .
In one of his  speech he told that he never went into temple and he said that there is no pooja performed on the DhyanaLinga. But i see him in the temple now and pooja performed for Linga. Can someone explain me that. Let me know if i interpreted anything wrong from his speech.

6 years 1 month ago

Pranams Sadguruji
If you had seen the Temple at Thiruvaroor, where " Patanjali" had attained Samadhi, we would be very grateful if you can throw more light on this place as well.

9 years 1 month ago

it is truly amazing... keep up the good work.

8 years 4 months ago

I have come to know the very importance of the temples built on those days.And also came to know that the temples are meant for the charging place of our system.
R.Ramesh babu

5 years 8 months ago

Bho shambho shiva shambho swayambho bho shambho shiva shambho swayambho bho shambho shiva shambho swayambho

9 years 1 month ago

Awesome!! I wish you consecrate millions of people just like You Sadhguruji...with the sense of "JUST DOING WHATS NEEDED AND SEEING THINGS N PEOPLE AS THEY ARE" this wolrd wil become such a b'ful place to live in... But ashamed to say the one who is saying this has big intentions, big aspirations but but but is not doin ath .. No actions only talks.... n thots...

8 years 2 months ago

thanks...Be god  with you

5 years 5 months ago

How can I contribute towards it...

9 years 1 month ago

amazing facts-GREAT NEWS.

8 years 2 months ago


3 years 10 months ago

can you please write an article about the pashupatinath temple of kathmandu. As I am a Nepali and would love to know about it as well as the linga which you have mentioned as pre vedic which is situated at the temple.

9 years 1 month ago

Its mammoth task...hats off to everyone who put enormous love and effort to cleaning the temple....I felt tears in my eyes...

8 years 2 months ago


9 years 1 month ago

Wonderful. I had tears in my eyes when I read this. We all see a lot of places like this- temples, parks, etc but just crib and move forward. Great to see Sadhguru setting an example and the Isha volunteers as always stepping up to the challenge. Now I am inspired to do a thorough cleaning of my house, which has been pending for some time now :)

6 years 11 months ago

Great service done by Isha Yoga. The reasons why temples are not
maintained by govt is unknown. These temples were taken over by Govt
forcibly and not maintained properly. Sadhguru is a boon to our society in these situation. Even when govt fails, he is able to get work done by people.

9 years 1 month ago

I visited the temple in December2010 with TTDC Tour.May I be a part of cleaning seva . Bravo! people who have done it. j.k.arora faridabad 121006.

6 years 1 month ago

Respected Sathguruji, Pathanjali made a sincere attempt to put us in the right direction...But we failed
We are suppose to pray God shown to us by Mother...when we continue to maintain our culture we may have to make sincere attempt to identify the Lord and act according to the will of the Lord...In my opinion we have to do some thing when we are active with the body and brain.
All other things look illusion...
When we loose the body and mind we just merge into the Universe the God.
Birth and death cycle is automatic and natural...Accordingly I feel that "At some point, a need will come that you want to get in touch with source of creation" is just a illusion and may not be real, as father and mother are our source of creation...Anbudan Tamilmani

8 years 11 months ago

Just wow

6 years 1 month ago

Even though the TN Govt symbol is a Temple, Chidambaram temple had to be brought from the clutches of the Govt after a big battle by Dr. Swamy. A way of life had become a culture which is now just symbolic superstition. Hence, Yogic living in this land is but mere symbolic worshipping. Yogic living has to become norm again in this land, and all around the world. Religion, castes will have to gradually disappear by consciously cultivating Yogic living.

8 years 11 months ago

Just wow