The ancient temple was built around the 5th century, although it was frequently renovated from then on. It's spread across 40 acres, and you can spend more than two hours exploring the spaces within it. "In Hindu literature, Chidambaram is one of the five holiest Shiva temples, each representing one of the five natural elements; Chidambaram is space. The other four temples in this category are: Thiruvanaikaval Jambukeswara (water), Kanchi Ekambareswara (earth), Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswara (fire) and Kalahasti Nathar (wind)." - Read entire Wiki
Women at the temple entrance:
Keep your shoes here:
One of the gates:
One of the several beggars that spend their days within the temple walls:
An old man takes a nap:
No photography is allowed in several parts of the temple, especially the interiors of the temple where all the deities are kept and worshipped. So most of the photographs are of the exteriors. Below is a stone carving detail. Note the scribbled chalk marks on the walls. It was sad to see that the temple was dirty, at some places graffiti covered ancient artwork, and even the recent renovation looked ugly. They used patches of cement is some places :(
Beautiful temple floor detail.
One of the ancient water bodies is shown below. The water comes from 8 underground wells below the surface. People bathe here by the steps, but its dangerous to go further in because of the underground water currents. You can also feed the frenzied fish, which is quite fun.
Another temple gate:
An ancient wishing well inside the temple. The triangular grooves on the sides look like steps that would help you climb down the well.
One part of the temple had been completely demolished! We had no idea why, and one of my friends who acted as our guide and is a local from Chidambaram said that this used to be a very beautiful structure. She had no idea what happened, since it was untouched just one year back. It's really sad to see that nothing is being maintained well here.
Souvenir shop outside the temple, selling statues of Natraj, the main deity at Chidambaram.