Throughout all of
eternity Lord Vishnu, the preserver, rests on
Shesha, the Cosmic Snake, in Vaikuntha. Once his
weight suddenly seemed to have greatly increased.
Shesha asked Vishnu “why are you so much heavier,
Lord?” The Lord answered “I have had a vision of
Shiva dancing his Cosmic Dance. I have expanded with
happiness at the sight.” Shesha requested Vishnu to
tell him all about Shiva’s Dance. And Lord Preserver
told him everything.
In the forest
called Daruvanna live a community of Rishis or Seers
in a hermitage. Through the performance of rituals
they had achieved great knowledge and power, but
they had not realized the importance of Divine
Grace. Shiva requested Vishnu to accompany him to
enlighten the Rishis, by showing them human power
and knowledge were helpless without Divine Grace. To
accomplish this purpose the two deities applied
their power of Maya or Illusion.Shiva entered the
hermitage of the Rishis as Bhikshatana or Mendicant.
With dazzling beauty, wearing only a mendicant’s
sandals or padukai, the wives and daughters of the
Rishis fell madly in love with him, forgetting
everything else, and completely loosing themselves.
himself into a beautiful woman called Mohini, and an
alluring dancer. As soon as the Rishis saw Mohini
dance before them, they too lost all sense and
rationality and with desire burning in their hearts
they followed Mohini around like madmen.
When some of the
Rishis realized what was happening they became
enraged and started a great magical fire sacrifice
against Shiva-Bhikshatana. First they called from
the fire tiger, but when it attacked Lord Shiva he
laughed, and killed the ferocious animal with his
hands, tearing off its skin and wearing it for a
loincloth. Next the Rishis send poisonous snakes,
which he draped around his arms and neck, as
jewelry. Then Shiva prepared to perform his Cosmic
Dance. His two other arms appeared and his third eye
shone in his forehead. The Rishis called a fierce
dwarf from their magical fire, but Shiva’s dancing
foot simply took him for a pedestal and danced.
Finally the Rishis send the fire itself to destroy
the Cosmic Dancer, but he just took it on to his
left hand. And from the mantras that the Rishis used
against him he made his anklets. Then the Lord
danced his Tandava or Cosmic Dance.
Its full power
made the Rishis fall to the ground. It made Vishnu
shake, and even Parvati, the goddess consort of
Shiva, who joined them to witness her husbands
dance, was overcome with fear. But the Lord danced
smiling, showing his raised foot. The Rishis
understood the Lord’s Divine Grace, and attained
realization. They started to dance themselves and
all of creation danced with them.
After Vishnu has
told Shesha about his vision of Shiva’s Cosmic
Dance, Shesha longs for only one thing: to see
Shiva’s dance himself. Vishnu grants him permission
to leave him for a while, so Shesha too will be able
to experience Shiva’s dance.
performed austerities for long ages, Shiva appeared
before him, and offers him the fulfillment of any
wish. Shesha has only one wish: to witness Shiva’s
In fulfillment of
Shesha’s wish, Shiva announced to him that he will
dance at the appropriate and tangible moment on
earth in the Sabha in the Tillai forest. This forest
is situated on the middle point of the earth, and
constituted its heart centre, the Lotus Space.
Through it passes the main energy nadi, or vein, of
our mother planet. This place is called Cit Ambara,
the Ether of Consciousness. Shiva told that he,
Shesha, would be born on earth from human parents,
and that he would be called Patanjali. After growing
up he will travel to Tillai, where he will meet
another saint, called Vyagrapada the Tigerfooted.
And both will perform tapas and worship, until the
appointed time for Shiva to perform his Cosmic Dance
in the Sabha has arrived.
All these things
foretold by Shiva to Shesha come to pass. As
Patanjali reached the Tillai forest he found on the
southern bank of the lotus pond the saint
Vyagrapada, worshipping the Mulasthana Linga and
performing austerities. Vyagrapada had come to the
Tillai forest following the advice of his father,
the Rishi Madhyandina. To worship the Mulasthana
Linga he used to gather flowers in the early
morning, but however early he collected the flowers,
insects had already damaged them. Deeply upset that
his worship was not as complete or perfect as he
aimed for, he cried to Lord Shiva to help him. In
answer to his prayer Shiva gave him tiger claws for
hand and feet, enabling him to find his way through
the thick forest at night to gather flowers long
before daybreak, before the insects could inflict
From then on both
saints did the worship and the austerities together,
as they waited for the appointed time for Shiva to
dance in the Sabha. As that time approached also the
3000 munivars (later called Deekshithars) arrived in
the forest to await the Lord’s dance.
When that day
arrived, it was announced with the sound of drums
and conches. A rain of flowers fell from heaven, and
in the Sabha appeared a light of a thousand suns and
moons. In the middle of this light mass appeared
Shiva’s form, dancing his Ananda Tandava, and
showing his Lotus Foot. His is an un-earthly beauty,
while his peaceful smile shines on all. He was
together with Parvati, who witnessed his dance. All
those present, Devatas, demons and humans rejoiced,
almost fainting, and all joined in his dance,
Then Shiva offered
the two saints to make a wish. They wished that
Shiva would forever perform his Ananda Tandava or
Dance of Bliss in the golden Sabha of Chidambaram,
for the entire world to experience. So that any
human who desired this could also reach His lifted
Lotus Foot and realize liberation.
Soon after the
king Sveta Varman came to the Tillai forest. This
king was forced to give up his kingdom after being
infected with a skin disease called ‘white spot’, a
form of leprosy. Lord Nataraja ordered the two
saints Vyagrapada and Patanjali to let the king take
a bath in the lotus pond, now called the Shiva
Ganga, that he may be healed. After re-emerging from
the water the king’s skin had become golden, his
name becoming Hiranya Varman or ‘golden coloured’.
And he was taken to the Sabha to see Nataraja’s
Ananda Tandava. Overtaken with emotions the king
fell on earth and offered his life-long service to
the Dancing Shiva.
He was consecrated
by the 3000 munivars, and received from Vyagrapada
the Tiger banner, signifying his kingship and valor.
The king then rebuild beautifully the temple and the
city around it. And established the main festivals
of the yearly cycle in the temple.