Divine Mysteries : The Ever Mysterious Chidambara Rahasyam
Chidambara Ragasiyam/Rahasyam (Tamil for “secret of Chidambaram”) is a Hindu belief that there is a secret message conveyed through the embossed figure near the shrine of Shiva in Chidambaram temple.
Since ancient times, it is believed that this is the place where Lord Shiva and Parvathi are present, but are invisible to the naked eyes of normal people. In the Chidambaram temple of Lord Nataraja, Chidambara Ragasiyam is hidden by a curtain (Maya). Darshan of Chidambara Ragasiyam is possible only when priests open the curtain (or Maya) for special poojas. People who are privileged to have a darshan of Chidambara Ragasiyam can merely see golden vilva leaves (Aegle Marmelos) signifying the presence of Lord Shiva and Parvathi in front of them. It is also believed that devout saints can see the Gods in their physical form, but no such cases have been officially reported.
The phrase “Chidambara Ragasiyam” really means something different. The pharse literally means a secret associated to Chidambaram – the place. Behind this is a real meaning to a secret. As described above there is a particular curtain kind of curtain which when removed enables us viewing the secret. The real significance of doing so is that, when the curtain which is “maya” is removed one can see his real self. And the seeing of oneself removing the curtain of maya is viewing the secret. According to legend, “Chidambara Ragasiyam” will never be revealed as it is the secret relating to a particular person who sees it removing the screen of “maya”. In the temple, when the poojas are performed and the screen is removed, one will be able to see the secret only when he applies this to his mind and soul.
Myth or Mystery?
The myth of Chidambara ragasiyam (secret) is that there is a place in the temple which is hidden and which you can visit to see the secret and that once you visit that hidden place, you learn there there is actually nothing, it is just an empty space. This gave rise to interpretations on what the secret was:
- There is no god.
- There is no idol in the secret place hence god is formless.
Who is right? But the fact is we all look for different things. For people who believe god is an idol and look at no idol then the secret is “no god”. For those who believe that god is not an idol and the “secret” does not show an idol then we can say that god is formless and not to be worshipped as an idol. For me, who does not believe there is a secret it is that there is no secret and life is as it is. And maybe the secret is that we all look for what we want. And it goes on and there could be other interpretations.
Lord Shiva dances here in Chidambaram. Before we speak of the Dance , we will explore the stage that is Chidambaram. A temple is called ‘Kovil’ in Tamil. It literally means ( Ko- il) the abode of the Lord. Whenever the mere name ‘kovil’ is mentioned, it specially means Chidambaram which is split as Chit ( gnana or wisdom) + Ambaram ( akasa or space) .
In South India, five temples were built for each of the five elements – Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space. These are the Pancha Bhuta Sthalas. Geographically, they are all within the Deccan Plateau – four in Tamil Nadu and one in Andhra Pradesh. The temple for water is in Thiruvanaikaval, fire is Thiruvannamalai, Kalahasti is air and Kanchipuram is earth. The temple for space is in Chidambaram.
What is the Rahasyam all about?
Among scholars and saints, the phrase “Chidambara Rahasya” has a more profound philosophical interpretation. The curtain unveils empty space. Emptiness is the truth being conveyed and Shiva Himself manifests Shakti in the form of conscious Emptiness, which bears this entire creation. Emptiness is pervaded by Time, Shiva. And the Mahakala Shiva, who is the lord of the universe, and who is, even though, the inherent consciousness of the conscious Emptiness, is pervaded by it. Conscious Matter is the result of copulation of Shiva and Shakti, or in other words, Time and Emptiness. Conscious matter forms the body of this visible creation. Its creator is Emptiness, which though bears all movements of the matter, remains beyond and unaffected by it. The essence of matter and emptiness is the lord of the universe Mahakala Shiva, who pervades everything and yet remains beyond everything.
To realise this thought, one has to unveil the “curtain of maya”. We are often encapsulated in our world of illusion and are obscured to the absolute reality. According to legend, “Chidambara Rahasya” will never be revealed as it is the secret relating to an individual and it is left to them to realise its true meaning.
What is Chidambara Ragasiyam (Chidambara Secret). The secret is hidden in plain-sight, that is the reason people are not able to see it. The secret is the ‘Curtain’ itself not Siva. Curtain represents the human Mind.
According to different interpretations: Siva & Sakthi are everywhere, why we have search behind the curtain, have you ever thought about this please. You can ask, how the curtain can be the secret, right? and your mind tells that the curtain was always there? right? then it also tells how a curtain can be the secret right? But the truth is, the Curtain that is being removed is the hidden secret. The curtain represents the human MIND. The moment mind is dropped you will see Siva. Now your mind asks for one more question, right? How to drop the mind? To whom this question “How to drop the mind?” arise? The answer will be ‘to me’. Then ask yourself who is that ‘me’ that is ‘Who am I”?. This is the method Ramana Maharishi suggests. His teaching is not new. This technique is said to be one among the 112 techniques given by Siva himself. Those who practice any one of these technique, will see (experience) the universe. It is not mandatory that you have to use the ‘Who am I” technique.