Yogi Mayuranatha: "Nataraja was so powerful. The purity and dedication of the priests inspiring. The stones ancient, emanating over a thousand years of devotion. A truly divine experience."
"Always worship this great God. Never fear Him. He is the Self of your self. He is closer than your own breath. His nature is love, and if you worship Him with devotion you will know love and be loving toward others." With these words from Gurudeva ringing in our ears on March 7th evening we three reached Chidambaram, called the Center of the Universe. Sadasivanatha told the two yogis how one day he was traveling with Gurudeva by train out of Chidambaram after some days of being at the feet of Nataraja. Across from them sat two European men sitting on both sides of a black box with the look of science on it. They told Gurudeva they were several years into a survey of the earth's gravitational field, mapping where it is strong and weak. They shared that it was at the Chidambaram temple that they had just recorded their highest reading ever. Seems Siva's home here is a heavy place indeed!
The next day was all about Siva Nataraja. Here the murthi does not show the more common form with flailing hair, which is for His Great Dance of Creation, Preservation and Dissolution. Here the hair is normal since the dance is quieter, one of joy and bliss.
Sheela Venkatakrishnan drove all the way from Chennai to guide us, and introduced us to Prakash Dikshitar who took us around the entire temple (to shrines that if located anywhere else would be major temples themselves, carved 1,200 years back) and brought us to the morning crystal lingam and ruby Nataraja abhishekam at 10am.
The 3-inch perfectly clear crystal is worshipped six times each day and the ruby (a 6-inch-tall Dancing Siva) once a day. The Dikshitars hold that this morning puja is absolutely necessary for the existence of the cosmos. It is, they say, akin to the message from the brain that tells the human heart to beat. Similarly, the puja creates a powerful force that keeps the life of the universe going.
The monks meditated in the Chariot Madapam afterwards, the place where Gurudeva often gave dikshas during Innersearch here.
During a banana-leaf lunch at the Dikshitar's home (it is 11 feet wide and 120 feet long and three generations live here, 20 of them in all), we learned something new about the Dikshatar's disciplines. Not only must a priest be married for him to perform the rites in the temple, but throughout their life each month during her retreat he is not allowed inside the temple. Next we visited the home of Ananta Nataraja Dikshitar, who guided us during so many visits here in the 70s, 80s and 90s. We meet his son Guru Murthi whom we knew well in the olden days, and his grandson Raju Dikshitar.
To our amazement Raju took a photo from the living room wall See it in the above slideshow), of Gurudeva and Sadasivanathaswami holding him and his younger sister in our laps. Seems they regard that moment as a special one in their lives and though it was about 1995 speak of it as if it were yesterday.
Raju arranged for us to attend the last puja of the day in the temple. Amazingly, he took us into the place where the abishakam is held, and we stood in that ancient chamber for an hour, just 8 feet from the crystal is it was worshipped, alone with the priests who ran past us with the efficiency of having done this thousands of times. It was a potent moment.
After the last arati, the priests cleared the chamber and we were alone with Siva in the night. Raju said, "This is a good time to talk to Siva. He can hear you better without all the noise." So we spoke with Him wishing a flood of blessedness upon all of Gurudeva's devotees. Then Raju said, "I pray now for the success of Gurudeva's mission. It is so important, what you are doing. We are so proud to know all of you. I pray for Iraivan to be completed as Gurudeva saw."
That ended our day and we left filled and thrilled with Siva's light and love.
Jayanatha: "We had a wonderful visit to the center of the Universe today. Our lineage has a kinship with Chidambaram's Dikshitars that became more obvious the longer we spent there. In the evening as the temple became quiet, we were invited into the inner prakaram to witness the Spattika Lingam abhishekam up close. Quite a blessing. For such a small crystal Lingam, it holds great power. The hall is topped with gold tiles equaling the number of breaths we take in a day, patterned to the number of Nadis in the human body. Nataraja is at the heart. This being the Akasha temple, there is also a chamber to the left of Nataraja where arati is done to empty space. Our kind of temple. We feel blessed to have had such an experience."