I am a marketing professional holding a postgraduate degree in management. I live in Chennai and have traveled extensively in Tamil Nadu.
Chidambaram is a coastal town on the East Coast Road south of Chennai and Pondicherry. It is known for the famous Nataraja temple built in the 10th century. The period from the 9th to the 13th century BC—when the area was under the rule of the Chola dynasty—is considered the golden age in Tamil Nadu. A trip to Chidambaram will take you back in time to the Chola period.
Top 8 Places to Visit in Chidambaram
- Chidambaram Nataraja Temple
- Pichavaram Mangrove Forest
- Gangaikonda Cholapuram
- Silappathikaram Art Gallery, Poompuhar
- Poompuhar Beach
- Vaitheeswaran Temple
Please read on to learn more about the beautiful places in and around Chidambaram.
1. Chidambaram Nataraja Temple
This ancient temple was built by the Chola emperors in the 10th century BC for Lord Shiva. The other name for the temple is Thillai Nataraja Temple. Chidambaram town was earlier known as Thillai, meaning mangrove trees. The largest mangrove forest in Tamil Nadu is in Pichavaram, near Chidambaram.
Lord Shiva depicted in a dancing posture is a specialty in this temple. One should not miss the colorful artworks on the temple walls depicting various legends. After the Chola dynasty, the Vijayanagara rulers played a major part in protecting the temple until the 17th century. It has stood the test of time for over a millennium.
2. Pichavaram Mangrove Forest
The largest mangrove forest in Tamil Nadu is on the outskirts of Chidambaram, known as Pichavaram. This is one of the most picturesque locations in the whole of Tamil Nadu. It is only a short driving distance from Chidambaram. The boat ride is a memorable experience here.
The Mangrove forests provide an illusion of being larger than what it is when viewed from inside. The boats glide through the narrow canals where trees from either side arch towards each other, forming a green canopy. It is a beautiful little world cut off from its surroundings. Pristine waters, mangrove forests and blue skies are a treat for the eyes.
3. Tharangambadi (Tranquebar)
Tharangambadi is a port town reachable within an hour of drive-time from Chidambaram. It was under Danish occupation for a long period before becoming part of the British Empire. The Danish name for this town is Tranquebar.
The Dutch built Fort Dansborg in the 17th century on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. This town is a reminder of the many connections Tamil Nadu had with the western world in the distant past. The New Jerusalem Church built by Dutch in 1718 is another attraction in Tharangambadi.
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4. Gangaikonda Cholapuram
The city was founded by Raja Raja Chola to commemorate his conquest in North India by defeating the Pala dynasty. Gangaikonda Cholapuram means "the town of the Chola king who conquered the river Ganges" in Tamil.
The old city of Gangaikonda Cholapuram has been destroyed in several wars over the years. The only reminder of its glorious past is the Lord Maha Shiva Temple. Built in the Dravidian style of architecture, the magnificence of the temple has to be seen to be believed. The temple has a 9-storey, 55-meter tower. It has some resemblance to the Periya Koil in Thanjavur, built by another Chola king.
5. Silappathikaram Art Gallery, Poompuhar
Poompuhar is a town 44 km south of Chidambaram. It used to be an ancient port city known as Kaveri Poompattinam during the Chola era. The town does not have any ancient monuments from the past, but it is home to the Silappathikaram Art Gallery built in the 20th century. It is a 7-storey building with artwork related to the old Tamil epic, Silappathikaram.
6. Poompuhar Beach
Poompuhar beach is one of the most ancient beaches in Tamil Nadu. It is a natural beach that is 3 km long, with the mouth of the Kaveri river at its southern end. One should visit the mouth of the Kaveri river where it joins the sea. The beach itself is rocky, but appeals to those who seek solitude as it is less commercialized.
A lighthouse and a memorial as a tall tower are the other attractions in Poompuhar Beach. Since it is an offbeat attraction, the crowd is thin on most days. It is better to visit on a weekend or else the place will likely look deserted, devoid of any tourists.
Mayiladuthurai or Mayavaram was ruled by Cholas and several other empires. It is at a distance of 27 km from Chidambaram. The Chola influence can be seen even today in Mayuranathasamy Temple's architecture. This temple was built during the medieval Chola period.
The Kaveri river flowing through the town ensures that the countryside stays green. The paddy fields in the nearby villages are a treat to the eyes.
8. Vaitheeswaran Temple
Vaitheeswaran Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is at a distance of 27 km from Chidambaram. Vaitheeswaran means “God of healing” in Tamil. A holy dip in the temple tank is believed to cure all diseases. This town is famous for Nadi astrology.
Nadi astrology works on the premise that the past, present and future lives of all humans were foreseen and written in leaves by Hindu sages. The Nadi leaves cover the full life history of a person from birth to death. The texts are written in ancient Tamil script known as Vatteluttu. A Tamil sage called Agathiyar is believed to have written these scripts.
Travel and Stay
Chidambaram is well connected by road and rail. It takes about five hours to reach Chidambaram by road from Chennai. The train connecting Chidambaram with Chennai or Trichy is rightly named the Cholan Express.
Hotel Saradha Ram in Chidambaram is a good place to stay because of its central location and good South Indian food. For the romantic at heart, there is an interesting option called "the Bungalow on the Beach" at Tharangambadi. Once an official residence used by Danish officials, it has since been converted into a heritage hotel.
© 2021 Mohan Babu