Gateway at Chillambram
Lithographer: Dibdin, Thomas Colman (1810-1893)
Medium: Lithograph, coloured
This is plate 22 in James Fergusson's 'Ancient Architecture in Hindoostan'. The temple town of Chidambaram is renowned as a place of worship of Shiva in his form as Nataraja, the cosmic dancer. Here Shiva struck his celebrated Ananda Tandava pose - a blissful dance. The Dancing Shiva was the favourite deity of the Chola kings who built the Nataraja temple in the 12th century and were crowned within its precinct, but the buildings were added to frequently up to the 20th century. The most splendid structures of the temple are the four lofty gopurams (or towers) in the four cardinal directions that constitute the gateways. The dance postures of the Bharata Natyam, the classical dance of the South, are revealed in the sculptures on the gateways. The temple still serves as an artistic, religious and cultural centre of the region and its dozens of bronze images of Shiva are still worshipped.