I had expected Chidambaram to be a small temple town, but it turned out to be a thriving town way beyond its temples, though as a tourist all you get to hear is temples. I remember at breakfast in the hotel, I was chatting up with the gentleman serving the breakfast and I asked him what could you see besides the Natraja temple, he promptly came out with a list of temples one must visit, including certain Raghvendra temple. When I asked why he insists on visiting that temple, he said that is the favorite temple of Rajnikanth and hence must be visited. This was my first brush with the divine status of Rajnikanth in Tamil Nadu, as his liking for the temple makes it far more worthy of visiting. Anyway, I let that go, but did decide to go to the Kali Amman temple that was suggested by a friend and was within walking distance from the hotel, though you must think twice while walking in the sweltering climate of the land.
Kali Amman temple is a small temple, after the Natraja temple it actually looks tiny. This 13th century temple though has a soul that is not lost in the grandeur and the elaborate rituals. You can go around in a matter of minutes and sit back and feel the place. I saw many lemon vendors outside the temple only to realize that they are used for worship in this temple. The trident outside the temple has many lemons stuck to it. It seemed like a temple built by and for the common man with the only purpose of communicating with the divine and no other purpose like establishing the might through the dimensions of the temple.
I spoke to the people manning the Pooja tickets counter and with our limited language compatibility he told me about the temple, which he said was actually built by a king in 1229. He tried to tell me the importance of the temple but I could only sense it through his body language that I cannot convey in words here. I was hoping to buy a Natraja statue here, but the only shop I could find was too costly, probably meant only for the foreign tourist. I was told that Chidambaram is also a hub for gold and silver craft and lot of manual work is still done here. Gold is definitely a loved metal here.
Chidambaram is well connected to Chennai and other big cities of the state both by road and rail. Your intercity journey though may cost less than your intracity as the auto charges start from Rs 50/- onwards. Walk around the city to see a quintessential Tamil town.