Chidambaram, the name of the city and the temple literally means "atmosphere of wisdom" or "clothed in thought", the temple architecture symbolises the connection between the arts and spirituality, creative activity and the divine. 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. The present temple was built in the 10th century when Chidambaram was the capital of the Chola dynasty. Most of the structure and plans currently seen in the Chidambaram complex, including the mandapas with their pillar carvings, the various shrines with polished granite sculptures, the sacred water pool and the early gopurams are from the 12th and 13th century, attributed to the late Chola and early Pandya kings.
The temple complex is spread over the area of 50 acres. The entrance of the main garbha griha has a curtain which is red in colour towards garbha griha (inside) and black towards outside. The curtain is the symbol of ignorance. Pujari of the temple opens the curtain pronouncing shivo hum, shivo hum loudly. Which means I am Shiv, and have the power to get rid of ignorance. The inner sanctum is actually empty; rather we must say that it is filled with space. The importance of space is emphasised here. Shabd sound is the element of space. Space is always connected. Dance of Shiva in space denotes the cosmic movement in space. It has a reason and has a beauty of its own. The Dance of Shiva is the book by Anand Coomarswami which is the compilation of fourteen essays related to composition and concept of beauty. Holistic understanding of beauty and having our own viewpoint on beauty even in the ancient times is something which we need to cherish as an intellectual feast.