Shiva-Nataraja in the Thousand-Pillar-Hall of the Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India
Shiva-Nataraja in the Thousand-Pillar-Hall of the Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India

Pancha Sabhai Sthalangal refers to the temples of Nataraja, a form of the Hindu god Shiva[1] where he performed the Cosmic Dance Tandava.[2] Pancha indicates Five, Sabhai means hall and Stala means place. All these temples are located in Tamil Nadu, India. The five dance performances were Kali Tandava at Rathinachabai in Vada Aaranyeswarar Temple, Ananda Tandava at Porchabai in Natarajar Temple, Sandhya Tandava at Vellichabai in Meenakshi Amman Temple, Muni Tandava at Thamirachabai at Nellaiappar Temple and Tripura Tandava at Chithirachabai in Kutralanathar Temple.

The presiding deities are revered in the 7th century Tamil Saiva canonical work, the Tevaram, written by Tamil saint poets known as the nayanars and classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam. The four temples in Tamil Nadu are maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu.


The five places where Shiva performed cosmic dance are called Pancha sabhai Thalangal. There are five Sabhas within Chidambaram temple itself. Those are called Chitra sabhai (the sanctum), Porsabhai (hall preceding the sanctum), Nirutha Sabhai (the chariot shaped hall), Deva Sabhai (the hall where all the festival deities are housed) and Rajasabhai (the thousand pillared hall).[3]

As per Bharata Muni, Shiva is the originator of dance and he allowed Nandi to witness his performance. Tandava, the dance form, is derived from Tanda, the other name of Nandi. Shiva Tandava is classified into seven types, namely, Kali Tandava, Sandhya Tandava, Tripura Tandava, Anandha Tandava, Uma Tandava, Samhara Tandavaand Urdhwa Tandava.[4]

A few temples in Tamil Nadu are closely associated with Nataraja and have their own myths of dance along with the halls specific to their version of dance.[5] The seven dances of Shiva can be recognised as the varied facts of single theme viz. the Beauty and Bliss of the Absolute. Herein lies the aesthetic fact of the dance.

In the above classification of Shiva's dance, as mentioned in puranic literature the temples are found within the geographical and cultural limit of Tamil Nadu. Of the seven dances, the seventh dance, Ananda Thandava is representative and symbolic of the themes inherent in all other dances. The seventh is a composite ideal of the main tenets of Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy. The dance itself is a source of supreme aesthetic enjoyment of the beauty and bliss of god[6]

The Five Temples

Category Temple Location Element Tandava Image Details
Rathinachabai Vada Aaranyeswarar Temple Thiruvalangadu13°07′48″N 79°46′30″E / 13.13000°N 79.77500°E / 13.13000; 79.77500 Emerald Kali Tandava
Thiruvalangadu (18).jpg
At the request of Sage Munjikesa Karkodaka, Shiva reached the place. Kali challenged Shiva for a dance and said that she would give her right in the place to the Lord if He won. The dance began. Shiva dropped his ear ring on the ground, picked it by the toe of His left leg and fixed it back on his ear in the dance. Kali accepted her defeat and said that she could not do such a marvelous dance. Lord Shiva said that He alone was equal to Her and said further that those coming to worship him here, should worship her first to reap the full benefit of the worship. Since then, Kali has her own temple to grace the devotees.
Porchabai Natarajar Temple Chidambaram 11°23′58″N 79°41′36″E / 11.39944°N 79.69333°E / 11.39944; 79.69333 Gold Ananda Tandava
Chidambaram Temple.jpg
Chidambaram, the name of the city and the temple literally means "atmosphere of wisdom" or "clothed in thought", the temple architecture symbolizes the connection between the arts and spirituality, creative activity and the divine.[7][8][9] The temple wall carvings display all the 108 karanas from the Natya Shastra by Bharata Muni, and these postures form a foundation of Bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance.[7][10] Shiva as Nataraja is the primary deity of the temple, it reverentially presents major themes from Shaktism, Vaishnavism, and other traditions of Hinduism. The Chidambaram temple complex, for example, has the earliest known Amman or Devi temple in South India, a pre-13th-century Surya shrine with chariot, shrines for Ganesha, Murugan and Vishnu, one of the earliest known Shiva Ganga sacred pool, large mandapas for the convenience of pilgrims (choultry, ambalam or sabha) and other monuments.[11][12] Shiva himself is presented as the Nataraja performing the Ananda Tandava ("Dance of Delight") in the golden hall of the shrine Pon Ambalam.[13]
Vellichabai Meenakshi Amman Temple Madurai Silver Sandhya Tandava
Madurai, India.jpg
The temple is a historic Hindu temple located on the southern bank of the Vaigai River[14] in the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. It is dedicated to the goddess Meenakshi, a form of Parvati, and her consort, Sundareshwar, a form of Shiva.[15][16] The temple is at the center of the ancient temple city of Madurai mentioned in the Tamil Sangam literature, with the goddess temple mentioned in 6th-century-CE texts.[17]
Thamirachabai Nellaiappar Temple Tirunelveli Copper Muni Tandava
Nellaiappar temple tower.jpg
During Puranic times, the place was called Venuvana, a forest of bamboos. The deity in the current temple was believed have appeared inside the bamboo forest. Vishnu is believed to have witnessed the marriage between Shiva and Parvathi at this place. There is an image of Vishnu with a metallic Gindi, a vessel with a spout, in the temple depicting the legend.[18] Shiva is worshipped as Nellaiappar (also called Venuvananathar) represented by the lingam and his consort Parvati is depicted as Kanthimathi Amman.[18]
Chithirachabai Kutralanathar Temple Courtallam Art Tripura Tandava
The Kutraleeshwarar temple Gopuram.jpg
Kutralam is a popular tourist resort in Southern Tamil Nadu known for its waterfalls, amidst picturesque surroundings - and is a source of inspiration of many a literary work. The sage Agastyar, at Shiva's request, proceeded southward to stabilize the balance of the earth, and relieve the instability caused by the multitude of entities at Shiva's and Parvati's wedding in the Himalayas, to wait for a glimpse of the divine couple. There he is said to have created the Shivalingam here by shrinking an image of Vishnu, hence the name Kutralam. Architecturally the Chitrasabha resembles that of the other Nataraja Sabhas elsewhere in Tamil Nadu, and its interior is decked with hundreds of murals, depicting images from the Indian epics. Natarajar is brought here during festivals from the Kurumpalaveesar temple. The sthala vriksham is Kurum Palaa and the Theertham is Chitranadhi. Nataraja is sported with Nritya Thandavam posture.[19]


  1. ^ Historical dictionary of the Tamils.Vijaya Ramaswamy
  2. ^ The Dance of Siva: Religion, Art and Poetry in South IndiaDavid Smith
  3. ^ Dr. R., Selvaganapathy, ed. (2013). Saiva Encyclopaedia volume 1 - Thirumurai Thalangal. Chennai, India: Saint Sekkizhaar Human Resource Development Charitable Trust. pp. 631–2.
  4. ^ Neergundha, Nagaraj. Artha: A life Fostered by Silence. Notion Press. pp. 60–1. ISBN 9789352060962.
  5. ^ Rajarajan, R.K.K. (2014). "Pañcanṛtyasabhās: Dancing Halls Five". Religion of South Asia, Equinox Publishing, Sheffield. 8 (2): 197–216.
  6. ^ Encyclopaedia of the Śaivism . P 212 by Swami P. Anand, Swami Parmeshwaranand.
  7. ^ a b James G. Lochtefeld (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-8239-3179-8.
  8. ^ Donald Frederick Lakh; Edwin J. Van Kley (1993). South Asia. University of Chicago Press. pp. 1002–1003. ISBN 978-0-226-46754-2.
  9. ^ Chidambaram, Encyclopædia Britannica
  10. ^ Constance Jones; James D. Ryan (2006). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Infobase Publishing. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-8160-7564-5.
  11. ^ Barrett, Douglas (1964). "James C. Harle: Temple gateways in South India: the architecture and iconography of the Cidambaram gopuras". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. Cambridge University Press. 27 (2): 462–463. doi:10.1017/s0041977x00096063.
  12. ^ Pal 1988, p. 36
  13. ^ Ca Ve 1985
  14. ^ Vijaya Ramaswamy (2017). Historical Dictionary of the Tamils. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 9–10, 103, 210, 363–364. ISBN 978-1-5381-0686-0.
  15. ^ Rajarajan, R.K.K. 2005. Minaksi or Sundaresvara: Who is the first principle? South Indian History Congress Annual Proceedings XXV, Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, pp. 551-553.
  16. ^ Bharne, Vinayak; Krusche, Krupali (2014-09-18). Rediscovering the Hindu Temple: The Sacred Architecture and Urbanism of India. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 9781443867344.
  17. ^ "This Temple Is Covered in Thousands of Colorful Statues". National Geographic. 2 August 2017. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  18. ^ a b Ayyar, P. V. Jagadisa (1993). South Indian Shrines: Illustrated (2nd ed.). New Delhi: Asian Educational Service. p. 24. ISBN 81-206-0151-3.
  19. ^ V., Meena. Temples in South India. Kanniyakumari: Harikumar Arts. p. 9.



Pancha Sabhai Map