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  1. #1
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    Dec 2009


    Default Temple of peace and harmony

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    The Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram, 250 km from Chennai, recently came into focus for all the wrong reasons.

    First, was the fight between the dikshithars or erstwhile custodians of the temple and the government and it was the latter who finally took control of the temple administration. Second, was the agitation by Communist parties for the opening of the Nandi Gate of the temple. But the temple is better known for its uniqueness in promoting amity between Hindus and Muslims as well as between Shaivaites and Vaishnavites.

    Many Muslims visit the temple every day and pray at Lord Nataraja's shrine. In this temple, Muslims are allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum and pray just like the Hindus do. According to Mahadeva Dikshithar, one of the trustees of the temple, "The Muslims from nearby areas as well as from other towns and cities visit the temple daily. They visit just like ordinary devotees; women wear the burqa, and watch the abhishekams and pray at the temple. Some even perform archanas in the name of Lord Nataraja and Goddess Sivagamasundari, the presiding deities of the temple."

    The temple has six pujas daily the first takes place early in the morning. Muslims can be seen even during the first puja which starts at six in the morning, and also during the last puja, which ends at 10 at night. The fifth century temple has both the shrines of Lord Shiva in the form of Nataraja in the dance posture and Govindaraja Perumal as Lord Vishnu. At Chidambaram, Lord Shiva is in a continuous dancing mode, in a state of eternal bliss aananda thaandava with his consort called Sivagami. A curtain covers this space, which when drawn, reveals strands of golden vilva leaves hung to indicate the Lord's presence. The curtain is dark on its exterior side and indicates ignorance and bright red on the interior side, indicating wisdom and bliss. The temple has all the 108 karnams or classic dance postures in Bharatanatyam, in the form of sculptures. In another temple town, at Thiruvidaimaruthur, 8 km from Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district, Hindus and Muslims reside on either side of the Mahalingaswamy temple. According to local residents, the Muslims have to pass through the temple to get to the other side of the town and many of them drop coins in the temple hundi on the way. M Jawahariullah, chief of the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam says, " India is a secular country and all religions get equal respect. There are records of many Muslim rulers donating land for construction of temples."
    ...being a human...



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