RAJA DEEKSHITHAR

THE TEMPLE OF THE DANCING SHIVA

Services for Devotees

Introduction
History
Temple Doctrine
Mahatmyam
Special Features
Rituals and Festivals
Daily worship
Deekshithars, Tillai Three Thousand
Mysterious Friday Evening
Opening Hours and Puja Timings
How to reach Chidambaram
Map to the Temple
 

RITUAL CYCLES AND TEMPLE FESTIVALS

 

During the year, according to the progression of the sun through the twelve signs of the zodiac, and in interaction with the monthly cycle of the moon, the temple celebrates many different festivals for the different deities that reside in the complex. The two main festivals though are the two great Chariot Festivals, performed for the presiding deity, Shiva Nataraja. As all other temples officiate only one chariot festival for the presiding deity, this is one more characteristic that sets this temple apart from others.

The more important of the two is performed at midwinter, in the month of Margari in the Tamil calendar. That is between the middle of December and the middle of January of the Western calendar. The festival is called Margari Tiruvadirai, the holy star Arudra in the month Margari, after the star under which this festival takes place.

The second festival is called Ani Tirumanjanam. It is celebrated at the time of mid-summer, between the middle of June and the middle of July. It is officiated under the star Uttara Phalguni. The dates of the festivals are calculated according to the lunar calendar, so the actual dates in the Western calendar vary every year.

The festival lasts eleven days and give the participants a spiritual experience through visual impact. The progress of the daily processions is designed as a visual yoga. The festival begins with the flag hoisting ceremony, performed in the early morning of the first day. After due invocation and the chanting of mantras by the Deekshithars, the banner of Shiva, displaying his vahana or vehicle, the divine bull Nandi, is hoisted on the flag mast in front of the Sabha, situated just in the third courtyard.

 

 

In the evening of the same day the first procession is taken out of the Panca Murti, the five deities. The main deity in the procession is Somaskanda, Shiva with Uma, his consort, and the baby Skanda, or Murugan, their second son. The second deity is Devi, the goddess. The third is Skanda as mature god with his two Shaktis or wives. The fourth deity is Ganesha, Shiva’s first son, with the elephant face. And the fifth is Chandikeshvara. Though a human birth, such a devotee of Shiva that he attained liberation and semi-divine status, because of the Lord’s grace.

This first day the murtis proceed without vahanas or vehicles. Every procession is repeated the following morning.

The second day Somaskanda’s vehicle is the Moon.

The third day the main murti is seated in the Sun.

The fourth day Shiva is Bhutapati, the Lord of the Demons and the Elements.

The fifth day Shiva is seated on Nandi, the divine bull, but actually his vehicle that day is the gopuram, the temple tower, which is above him during this procession.

The sixth day Shiva’s vehicle is the elephant, a reminder that he overcame the evil power that had taken the form of an elephant.

The seventh day Shiva, his consort Uma and the baby Skanda are seated on Mount Kailasa, the holy mountain which is his throne. It shows the ten-headed demon Ravana as having been subdued by Shiva, when Ravana tried to shake the mountain, to get his way before the Lord.

On the eighth day of the festival Shiva appears as Bhikshatana, the Mendicant who caused such havoc among the Rishis and their wives of the Daruvanna. His begging bowl is stretched out toward us, begging us to give up our attachments and selfishness.

Then, on the ninth day we reach the highlight of the festival. The murti of Nataraja himself, and of Parvati Devi are brought from the sanctum and carried on the shoulders of the Deekshithars and the devotees to the great chariots that have been made ready, and await them in the East Car Street. The chariots are pulled by the public around the four car streets of the city in a festive mood. An event that takes almost the whole day.

In the evening the images or murtis are again taken on the shoulders of the devotees, and are carried to the Hall of Thousand Pillars. There during the night from approximately 2.30 in the early morning till just before sunrise, a holy ablution or Abhishekam is performed.

The following morning all can see the Lord and Goddess dancing together as they are brought back to the sanctum.

The eleventh day of the festival is characterized as ‘carnival’. The five murtis are taken in the procession in a special palanquin, decorated with flowers and glass beads. Thus the festival is concluded in a festive and relaxed mood.

 

 

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