Tam: சிதம்பரம் c(h)itamparam
‘Dwelling of Consciousness’ [Thillai] Temple town, Tamil Nadu
From Skt: c(h)it, ‘consciousness’, ‘soul’; and Skt: ambaram, ‘dwelling’, garment’, ‘atmosphere’.
Chidambaram has at its centre the remarkable 9thC Sri Nataraj temple, mythical site of Siva’s ‘cosmic dance’.
The temple has 108 sculptures portraying the gestures and position of Bharat Natyam dance.
Its original name Thillai refers to the species of ‘milky’ mangrove [Exocoeria agallocha] that grows here and in abundance in the Pichivaram wetlands nearby. Its many English names indicate its toxic properties: blind-your-eye mangrove, blinding tree, poisonfish tree, and river poison tree.