|For Illustrative Purpose Only|
THE main temple of Chidambaram is devoted to Lord Shiva. Shiva along with Vishnu and Bramha form the main trio of Hindu gods. The most common form of Shiva worship is in the form of a Shivlinga. What makes Chidambaram different is that it has a variety of symbolism hidden in the whole temple.
Chidambaram temple has the Lord Shiva in form of a Nataraj. A dancing Shiva who performs the cosmic dance for eternity and in the process drives away ignorance and gives abhay or shelter and solace to the devotees. He performs the cosmic dance for destruction Tandava Nrutya so as to tear down a weary universe and make way for renewal and rebirth. The Shiva form is perfectly poised with his entire balance only on a single toe. It is a belief that Chidambaram and specifically the spot where the toe of the main deity rests is the magnetic equator of the earth.
But, the temple has more secrets to offer and decode. Just to the right of the main deity is a space covered by a shimmering curtain with golden threads woven into the weave. The curtain has golden bilva leaves and inscriptions on it. It is dark black outside and a bright red on the inside. On special days and during special prayers the devotees are given a glimpse of what lies behind the curtain. Many go with hope of seeing some form of Shiva or Shakti his consort. All they see is just empty space and a garland of gold bilva leaves hanging in the air!
The philosophical meaning for many is that god represents the vast emptiness of space. The curtain is nothing but a symbol of illusion and when the illusion is taken away all we are left with the vast emptiness of space. When you remove the veil of illusion and desires, you experience the vast infinite inner space. For a few moments your mind becomes free from thoughts. We realize that there is some secret of which we have had a small glimpse, like a flash, and this experience brings a transformation in life. The journey that each devotee must make is that from ignorance to bliss. From seeing manifestations of god towards the realization that god is formless and permeates each and every bit of matter and space.
But aside from philosophical meaning, many people subscribe that the position of the curtain, the signs and symbols on it and the arrangements of the bilva garland signify something physically secret in the temple. The premise is bolstered by the fact that in ancient times the temple had a vast library of palm manuscripts. These contained ancient knowledge and vast stores of the sayings and discoveries of the saints from thousands of years. Chola Kings are supposed to have donated a lot of gold and given vast amounts of endowments but that are also believed to have ensured that the library is closely guarded and the manuscripts in the temple records disappear.
The belief goes that it will take a flash of insight and a mind of clear conscience to decode the symbolism behind the curtain, its inscriptions and the position of the golden bilva leaves in the empty space. Perhaps it will lead to hidden secrets or buried manuscripts. The finder of such knowledge will wield enormous influence and power in the world. There have been calls to use ground penetrating radar to see if there are hidden chambers in the vast underground complex.
For now all one can do at the Chidambaram Rahasya is to contemplate the meaning of the symbols and wait for a flash divine intervention. Perhaps, they can discover the location of the ancient manuscripts which give clues to the secret shastras buried a thousand years before the first Chola king ever came to power.
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