Chidambaram Temple and the Podu Dikshitars

Chidambaram temple is owned by the Denomination of Podu  Dikhistars

“An interesting feature about  Chidambaram Temple is the system of management. It has no landed or other  endowments nor any dastik allowance and is the property of a class of Brahmins  peculiar to this town…” - Mr. W. Francis, Gazetteer of the South Arcot District  (1906)

“The Pagoda is the property of a  class of Brahmins known as Dikshadars” - Manual of South Arcot District by J H  Garstin M.C.S., Collector of South Arcot District (1878)

“The pagoda is the property of the  class of Deecshita Brahmins” - Glossary of the Madras Presidency by C.D.  Maclean (1893)

“The formal Committee of Dikshitars  is called “Podu Dikshitars”. This Committee meets at the “Perambalam” hall of  the temple. This Committee is the traditional administrator and protector of  this temple. Only Dikshitars have the right to perform worship in this great  temple of Chidambaram. Since this temple belongs to them as their personal  temple Dikshitars do not take any other avocations - Vaazviyar Kalanjiyam - an  encyclopedic work by Tamil University

There are many religious and  historical records to show that the temple belonged to the Community of Podu  Dikshitars, besides two judgments of the Hon’ble Division Bench of the Madras  High Court:

The Tamil Canonical works known as  Tirumurais clearly record that the Chidambaram temple is the temple of the Podu  Dikshitars and all rights of services within the temple complex is entirely  theirs. This has been most clearly recorded by the Tirumurais and by the chief  minister of the Chola Kingdom, St. Sekkizhar who authored the Periya Puranam, a  hagiology of Saiva Saints in the year 1140 C.E.

It is also amply clear that the  Sabhanayagar temple at Chidambaram is owned by the denomination of Podu  Dikshitars from the following two judgments of the Division Bench of the  Hon’ble High Court of Madras: [1] Marimuthu Dikshitar vs. State of Madras (1952  (1) MLJ 557); [2] Devaraja Shenoy vs. State of Madras (1952 (1) MLJ 481)

Temple Administration
The Podu Dikshitars of the  Chidambaram temple are both Archakas and Trustees of the temple from time  immemorial. The Chidambaram temple is ably administered by the Body of Podu  Dikshitars as per their temple constitution written centuries ago and printed  for the first time in 1849. Any Dikshitar gets his right to do sacramental  service to Lord Nataraja and participation in Temple Administration only after  his marriage. The Dikshitar who thus takes participation would not be  discriminated by age, education, capability or wealth. The Dikshitars would be  on duty at the temple 20 at a time and each batch of 20 stays for 20 days till  each has in his turn performed the complete tour of puja at the different  shrines of the temple where the daily pujas are held.

The 9 Management Committee members  of Podu Dikshitars are elected by lots on 31st March of each year. This  Committee looks after the daily administration of the temple but the major  decisions are taken only by the general assembly of Podu Dikshitars in a  democratic way. Though Dikshitars live in poverty, they never faulted in their  rectitude. The temple possesses invaluable offerings of jewellery made by  opulent people and Kings of Tamil Nadu. There are prescribed regulations for  physical verification of these (jewellery) once in 4 days, 20 days and six  months. These accounts remain perfect and are free from embezzlement till date.

Who are the Podu Dikshitars?
If one were to search the Globe for  a community or sect or clan that for more than 20 centuries has done the same  religious, social and cultural activities and is domiciled in the same place  throughout the 2000 years, one would not find such a community until one zeros  in on the geographic coordinates 1.399686°N, 79.693622°E, the exact location of  the ancient temple town of Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, in South India.

Chidambaram town was known as Tillai  till recent times, Chidambaram being the name of the Temple. The Podu  Dikshitars are also known as Tillai Vaazh Antanar or ‘the Brahmins of Tillai’  were associated with the temple from its inception. This unique clan was  originally three thousand in number and hence they were also known as Tillai  Moovayiravar or “The Three Thousand Brahmins of Tillai”. As per Sthala Puranas,  traditions and Saivite belief, the presiding deity of Chidambaram Temple, Lord  Nataraja, is one among the Tillai Brahmins. Lord Nataraja is their God of  worship and Leader of their clan.

Uniqueness of Chidambaram Podu Dikshitars
Chidambaram Dikshitars differ from  other Brahmins in many respects. They are found only in Chidambaram town and  form an endogamous clan. They do not have marriage alliances with any other  Brahmin sects, marry only from their own community, and are thus a closed  community. Their life, religion, education, training, culture and vocation  revolve around the Chidambaram Nataraja Temple. From the time of birth, they  are dedicated to the services of Nataraja and His Chidambaram Temple.

Podu Dikshitars are staunch  Saivites, among the foremost of Saivites. Servitorship is an important aspect  of Tamil Saivism. It is the belief of Saivites that Saint Sundaramurti was  ordained by Lord Siva to sing in praise of the great Saiva Devotees. Saint  Sundaramurti sang a hagiology of Saiva Devotees in eleven Tamil verses naming  63 individual devotees and the nine general classes of devotees. These devotees  are worshipped in all major Siva temples in Tamil Nadu. The pride of place  among all these Saivite devotees is accorded to the Podu Dikshitars of Tillai.  It is also a fundamental religious belief of Tamil Saivites that this  predominant position was accorded to this community of devotees by Lord Siva  Himself.

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