PANCHA SABHA IN THE TEMPLE

 

The Innermost Prakaram
The innermost sanctum of the temple, houses the grand images of Shiva (Nataraja) and Parvati (Shivakami) in the Chit Sabha or the hall of consciousness, adjoining which is the KanakaSabha or the Golden Hall, both these structures resting on a raised platform. The innermost Prakaram surrounds the Chit Sabha, and to the South West of Nataraja, is the shrine of Govindaraja Perumal facing east.

Chit Sabha- The Holiest Place Of The Temple
The Chit Sabha, the holiest shrine in the temple, is a wooden structure supported with wooden pillars, with a hut shaped roof. It is in this hall, that the images of Nataraja and Shivakami are housed, in front of a set of two curtains, the inner (invisible) one being red in color, the outer one being black in color.
To the right of Shiva, is the revered Chidambara rahasyam - or a representation of emptiness garlanded with golden vilva leaves. The curtain in front of the Chidambara Rahasyam, representing Lord Shiva (and Goddess Parvati) in the formless form ("Aroopam") is lifted ceremoniously during worship services, with offerings of lamps.
Worshipping the five eternal elements, the temple at Tiruvannamalai has a fire lingam, Kanchipuram has the earth lingam, Kalahasthi, the wind lingam, Jambhukeshvar (also spelt as Jambhukeshva) is water and Chidambaram, the sky lingam. So when the priest draws back the curtain from the inner shrine of the presiding deity in the Chit Sabha, there is no lingam or dancing Nataraja to be seen. Only space. This is the charming mystery of Chidambaram - 'Rahasyam'. The other meanings of this Rahasyam (secret) are passed on from disciple-Guru (teacher) basis, but can be found in books like 'Chidambaram mahatmyam' written in Sanskrit.
Also in the Chitsabha are images of Ratnasabhapati (Nataraja of Ruby), the 'Spatika Lingam' of Chandramauleeswara, Swarnakarshana Bhairavar, Mukhalingam, etc.

Kanaka Sabha Or The Golden Hall
The Golden Hall, or Kanaka Sabha is immediately in front of the Chit Sabha, both being on an elevated platform as mentioned before, with silver panelled doors in front. The Chit Sabha itself is a meter or so higher than the Kanaka Sabha and is reached by a flight of 5 silver plated steps, marking the five 'Aksharas' (syllables) of the "Panchakshara Mantram" (the five syllabled NamaShivaya).

Nritta Sabha Or The Hall Of Dance
Across from the Nataraja shrine in the second Prakaram is the Nritta Sabha or the hall of dance with some fine pillars, housing an image of Shiva in the 'Urdhva Tandava' posture, winning over Kali in a dance duel, and an image of Sarabheswara, another form of Shiva. The Nritta Sabha with fine pillars is in the form of a chariot drawn by horses.

Deva Sabha Or The House Of Gods
The Deva Sabha or the house of Gods is also in the second Prakaram, housing festival images of the Pancha Murtis (Somaskandar, Parvati, Vinayaka, Subramanya and Chandikeshwara) and other deities. Mulanathar, or the representation of Shiva as a Lingam is housed in the second Prakaram.  

The Outermost Prakaram
The outermost Prakaram is home to the grand Shivakami Amman temple, the Shivaganga tank and the 1000-pillared hall or the Raja Sabha, where Nataraja is brought during two annual festivals. Raja Sabha
The 1,000-pillared hall (ayiram-kal- mandapam) of Raja Sabha, measuring 103m long and 58m wide witnessed the victory celebrations of the Chola and Pandya kings. It is a great place for meditation