The town is believed to be of significant antiquity and has been ruled, at different times, by the Medieval Cholas, Later Cholas, Later Pandyas, Vijayanagar Empire, Marathas and the British. The town is known for the Thillai Nataraja Temple, and the annual chariot festival held in the months of December-January, tourism is the major occupation. Annamalai University, established in 1929 in Chidambaram, is one of the oldest and most prominent universities in the state.The traditional name of the temple complex, Chidambaram Tillai Nataraja-koothan Kovil. The mangrove forests house the ancient Tillai trees (Exocoeria agallocha) surrounding the shrine. The Tillai trees of the nearby Pichavaram wetlands, the second largest mangrove in the world, extend to the temple area. As per Hindu legend, god Shiva was strolling in Thillai Vanam. In the Thillai forests resided a group of sages who believed in the supremacy of magic and that god can be controlled by rituals and mantras. Shiva wanted to test the sages and strolled in the forest with assuming the form of Bhikshatana, a simple mendicant seeking alms. He was followed by his consort, Vishnu as Mohini. The sages and their wives were enchanted by the beauty of the pair. On seeing their womenfolk enchanted, the sages got enraged and invoked scores of serpents (nāgas) by performing rituals. Shiva lifted the serpents and donned them as ornaments on his matted locks, neck and waist. Further enraged, the sages invoked a fierce tiger, whose skins were used by Shiva as a shawl around his waist. Then followed a fierce elephant, which was devoured and ripped to death by Shiva (the sequence derived the name Gajasamharamurthy to Shiva). The sages gathered all their spiritual strength and invoked a powerful demon Muyalakan – a symbol of complete arrogance and ignorance. Shiva wore a gentle smile, stepped on the demon’s back, immobilised him and performed the Ánanda Tandava (the dance of eternal bliss) and disclosed his true form. The sages surrendered and understood the ultimate realisation that god cannot be controlled by the rituals.
Thillai Natarajar Temple or Chidambaram temple is a Tamil Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is known as one of the foremost of all temples (Kovil) in Shaivism and has influenced worship, architecture, sculpture and performance art for over two millennia, It’s also famous for the annual Natyanjali dance festival on Maha Shivaratri. The Sangam classics list chief architect Viduvelvidugu Perumthachchan as directing an early renovation of the shrine. The deity that presides here is Thillai Koothan (Thillai Nataraja – Shiva, The Lord of Dance).
Vaitheeswaran Temple or Pullirukkuvelur Temple Here Shiva is worshipped as Vaitheeswaran or the “God of healing” and it is believed that prayers to Vaitheeswaran can cure diseases. Vaitheeswaran is a Tamil derivative from vaidya (Doctor) and Ishvara (God / Master). The presiding deity is Sri Vaidyan Atha. He is the God of Healing. When pronouncing in Tamil, it sounds like “Vaideeswaran”. It is one of the nine Navagraha (nine planets) temples and is associated with the planet Mars (Angaraka). It is located 27 km from Chidambaram. The holy water of the Siddhamirtham tank within the temple complex contains nectar, and a holy dip is believed to cure all diseases. During the Ramayana period, Rama, Lakshmana and Saptarishi have worshipped the deity in this place. There is a pond at this temple called Jatayu Kundam (pot of Jatayu having holy ash of Vibhuti).
Tiruvetkalam Pasupatheswarar Temple located at Chidambaram in Cuddalore district. The presiding deity is Shiva. He is called as Pasupatheswarar. His consort is known as Satgunambal and Nalla Nayaki. The temple is built by Pallava kings strictly following the temple architecture rules with bricks. In the year 1914, this was renovated with stones by Peddha Perumal Chettiar of Kanadukathan. Presently, the temple is facing east with a three tier Rajagopuram. In the four pillars in Ambika shrines, there are sculptures depicting Arjuna storing his weapons, Arjuna performing penance standing on one leg, Lord Shiva in the guise of a hunter and Arjuna fighting with Lord. Lords Nardana Vinayaka, Siddhi Vinayaka, Anugraha Dakshinamurthy are in the prakara.