Pronunciation and Phonetics

Learning proper pronunciation can be done without much knowledge of phonetics, actually. A basic knowledge, however, helps to make pronunciation clearer and thus facilitates the process of learning how to speak a foreign language properly.

eAmbalam introduces a phonetic chart which is based on Dhevanagari script. The sounds of vowels and consonants and other speech sounds in Sanskrit and the languages which have completely or mostly borrowed from it can be covered with the help of the chart. A few other sounds common to some languages in this group and outside are also put in. Unique sounds of some languages are specified too.

Diacritical marks are used to aid perfect pronunciation. World over, these marks have been created and propagated by scholars to make understanding of the differences in speech sounds in different languages better. Team eAmbalam also has created a phonetic chart which helps even first timers to pronounce words accurately.

Our Phonetic chart is unique, comprehensive, learner friendly and is divided into four columns wherein:
  • In the first column, the letter is written with the associated diacritical mark.
  • In the second column, an example is given in Dhevanagari language containing the letter.
  • In the third column, an example is given in English, which contains the sound closes to the letter or instructions in few cases, to facilitate better understanding.
  • In the fourth column, an audio button is placed with the help of which you can hear the actual pronunciation of the letter.
An open minded approach with the above introduction and guidelines will definitely enable the user to understand the speech sounds of any language and pronounce it like a native, which is eAmbalam’s aim in this exercise.

Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English
A or a Aḍavu Arise
Ā or ā Ānanda Vast
I or i Indhira Sing
Ī or ī Īśha Meal
U or u U ṣhā Good
Ū or ū Ū rdhhva Boost
R or r Riṣh i Try
Ṛ or ṛ Ni ṛ uti Grr!
Lr or lr   Pronounce L and R together.
E or e Eka Ate
AI or ai Aikya Sight
O or o Ojas Robe
AU or au Audh ā rya Now
A M or am Śhiva m Drum
A HA or aha R ā ma ha Aha!
Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English

Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English
KA or ka Kavi Car
KHA or kha Khalu Mark -Him
GA or ga Gamana Gut
GHA or gha Ghata Ugh!
Ṅ A or ṅa Tura ṅ ga Ring
CHA or ca Chakra Chart
CHHA or cha Chhandas Branch
JA or ja Jagath Jug
JHA or jha Jhallari Fudge
NYA or nya Gnyana Knew
Ṭ A or ṭ Ṭ anka Top
ṬHA or ṭha Pāṭha Pothole
ḌA or da Ḍ amaruka Dog
Ḍ HA or ḍ ha Mūḍ ha Madhouse
Ṇ A or ṇ a Ga ṇ a Wander
THA or tha Thanu Health
THHA or thha Athha Theater
DHA or dha Dha śha This
DHHA or dhha Dhhana m Dha with an additional H sound
NA or na Namask ā raha Nut
PA or pa   Path ā ka Past
PHA or pha Phala m P with a H sound
BA or ba Bandhhu Ball
BHA or bha Bhadra Abhor
MA or ma Manas Money
YA or ya Yama Yummy
RA or ra Rajas Rub
LA or la Lath ā Lust
VA or WA, va /wa A śh va or A śhwa Water/Valour
ŚHA or śha Śhakthi Shutter
ṢHA or ṣ ha Ṣh a ṇ mukha Shunt
SA or sa Sarasvatī Sun
HA or ha Hari Hum
Ḷ A or ḷ a Ar āḷ a Bold
KṢHA or k ṣ ha Ak ṣh i Try to pronounce Ka, Sa & Ha – all at one time.
Extra Vowels in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada & Malayalam Scripts    
É or é Éṇi Angel
Ō or ō Ō m Ō M
ZHA Exclusive to Tamil & Malayalam Fold the tip of your tongue backwards and try to pronounce it with the aid of the audio button.
Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English

Chidhambaram temple

Name of the Temple

  • Thillai Natarāja Temple


  • Located in the town of Chidhambaram, East-Central Tamil Nadu
How to reach there?
  • By Air : The nearest airport to Chidhambaram is in Thiruchirāpaḷḷi (195 km). Take the National Highway 81 from the airport east. The Chennai airport is around 210 km away. From Chennai take the National Highway 32 south.
  • By Train : Chidhambaram railway station is around 2 km from the temple.
  • By Road : Chidhambaram is connected through the National Highway 32 from Chennai to Nagapattinam and the State Highway 70 from Parangipéṭṭai to Virudhāchalam.

Rulers/builders and Time Period


  • Chidhambaram's earliest structures were designed and erected by ancient craftsmen called Perumtacchan. The golden tiled roof for the Chith Ambalam (the vimānam) was laid by the Chola King Parānthaka I(907-950 CE)following which he was given the title - Thillaiyambalathhukku pon kūrai véyntha dhévan meaning the one who constructed the golden roof.
  • Kings Rājarāja Chola I(reign 985-1014 A.D.) and Kulotthunga Chola I(1070-1120 A.D.) made significant donations to the temple. Gold and riches to the temple were donated by Rājarāja Chola's daughter Kundhavai II while Chola king Vikrama Chola (1118-1135 A.D) made donations for the conduct of the daily rituals.
  • Naralokaviran, the general of king Kulothunga Chola I was responsible for building a shrine for child saint Thirugnyāna Sambanthar and installed a metal image inside it.


  • Thillai Kūtthan (Thillai Natarāja - Śhiva, Lord of Dance).

Architecture Style


  • Chidhambaram is a temple complex spread over 40 acres (160,000 m 2) in the heart of the city.
  • A classical Śhiva temple as per Āgama rules will have five prakārams (closed precincts of a temple) or circuits each separated by walls one within the other. The outer prakāram will be open to the sky except the innermost one. There will be a massive wooden or stone flag post exactly in line with the main deity. The layout and architecture of the temple is replete with philosophical meanings. The place where temple located is the center point of world's magnetic equator.
  • Three of the five Panchabhūthasthhala temples, those at Kālahasti, Kānchipuram and Chidhambaram all stand on a straight line exactly at 79 degree 41 minutes East longitude - truly an engineering, astrological and geographical wonder! Of the other two temples, The 9 gateways signify the 9 orifices in the human body.
  • The Ponnambalam or the Sanctum sanctorum is held by 28 pillars – representing the 28 āgamas or set methodologies for the worship of Shiva. The roof is held by a set of 64 beams representing the 64 forms of art and is held by several cross-beams representing the innumerable blood vessels. The roof has been laid by 21,600 golden tiles with the word ŚHIVĀYANAMAH inscribed on them representing 21600 breaths.
  • The golden tiles are fixed using 72,000 golden nails which represents the no. of nāḍis exists in human body. The roof is topped by a set of 9 sacred pots or kalaśhas, representing the 9 forms of energy. The artha mandapa(sanctum) has six pillars denoting the six Śhāstras (holy texts).
  • The temple has 9 gateways, and four of these have gateway towers or gopurams each with 7 storeys facing the East, South, West and North. The South gopuram called the Sokkasīyan Thirunilai ézhugopuram was constructed by a Pāṇḍya king identified from the presence of the dynasty's fish emblem sculpted on the ceiling. The Pāṇḍyas sculpted two fishes facing each other when they completed gopurams (and left it with one fish, in case it was incomplete).
  • The earliest and smallest of the four is West gopuram constructed around 1150 and there are no reliable evidence on the construction. The sculptures shows goddess fighting the buffalo-demon and warlike Skandha astride his peacock.
  • The North Gopuram was initiated around 1300 A.D. with the brick portion constructed by the Vijayanagara king Krishnadhevaraya (1509-1530 A.D.) in the 16th century.
  • The East Gopuram, was claimed to have been constructed by the Pallava King Kóperunsingan II (1243-1279 A.D.) as per epigrahical records and was repaired by Subbammal, the mother-in-law of the famous philanthropist Pachaiyappa Mudaliar (1754-1794 A.D.). The idols of Pachaiappa Mudaliar and his wife Iyalammal have been sculpted on the eastern gopuram. The Pachaiappa Trust to date has been responsible for various functions in the temple and also maintain the temple car.
  • The eastern gopuram is renowned for its complete enumeration of 108 poses of Indian classical dance – Bharathanatyam, detailed in small rectangular panels along the passage that leads to the gateway. Each gopuram has around fifty stone sculptures, with each repeating some portions from the other.
  • Chidhambaram is one of the five  Pancha Bhūtha Sthhalams , the holiest Śhiva temples each representing one of the five  classical elements .
  • Its bronze statues and stone sculptures depicting various deities and the famous Thillai trees ( Exocoeria agallocha ) of the surrounding forest reflect the highpoints of  early Chola  and Pallava art.
  • Its famed gold plated  gopuram  towers are medieval structural additions by the royals  Ādithya I ,  Paranthaka Chola I ,  Kopperunchinga I ,  Krishnadhevarāya  and  Jāthavarman Sundhara Pāndyan .
  • King  Kochengannan Chola  was born following prayers his parents offered at the temple and later in his life he refined its structure.

Special Reference to Fine Arts in the temple


  • Chidhambaram is the birthplace of the sculpture and bronze image representation of Shiva as the cosmic dancer, a Tamilian concept and motif in Chola art that has since become notable as a symbol of Hinduism.
  • The sculptures of Chidhambaram inspired the postures of Bharatha Nātyam. The Chidhambaram complex is admired for its five famous halls (ambalam or sabhai).
  • Several grand smaller shrines to the Hindu deities Ganeśha, Murugan, Vishnu and Śhivakāmi Amman contain Pāndyan and Nāyak architectural styles.
  • The temple is famous for its endowment from many water tanks, one of which links it to the Thillai Kāli temple.

Other Special Features


  • The shrine is the only Śhiva temple to have its main deity represented in this anthropomorphic form, as the Supreme Being who performs all cosmic activities.
  • The consort deity here is Śhivakāmi Amman (form of Amman - mother goddess and female energy).
  • Two other forms of Shiva are represented close to this in the vimāna (inner sanctum) of the temple - as a crystallised lingam - the most common representation of Śhiva in temples, and as the ether space classical element, represented with empty space and a garland of fifty one hanging golden vilvam leaves (Aegle marmelos).
  • Śhiva is captured in a pose as Natarāja performing the Ānanda Thāndava ("Dance of Delight") in the golden hall of the shrine Pon Ambalam.

Any Other/Remarks


  • The story of Chidhambaram begins with Śhiva strolling into the Thillai Vanam (vanam meaning forest and thillai trees - botanical name Exocoeria agallocha, a species of mangrove trees - which currently grows in the Pichavaram wetlands near Chidhambaram).
  • In the Thillai forests resided a group of sages or 'rihis' who believed in the supremacy of magic and that God can be controlled by rituals and mantras or magical words. Shiva strolled in the forest with resplendent beauty and brilliance, assuming the form of Bhikshātana, a simple mendicant seeking alms. He was followed by Vishnu as Mohini, here as his consort.
  • The sages and their wives were enchanted by the brilliance and the beauty of the handsome mendicant and his consort. On seeing their womenfolk enchanted, the rishis got enraged and invoke scores of serpents (nāgas) by performing magical 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 skin was used by Shiva as a shawl around his waist. The rishis 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, immobilized him and performed the Ánanda Thāndava (the dance of eternal bliss) and disclosed his true form. The sages surrender, realizing that Śhiva is the truth and he is beyond magic and rituals.

Special Reference to Performing Arts:


  • There is no reference to the temple in  Sangam literature  of the 1st to 5th centuries and the earliest mention is found in 6th century  Tamil literature .
  • The temple and the deity were immortalized in  Tamil  poetry in the works of  Thevāram  by three poet saints belonging to the 7th century –  Thirugnyāna Sambanthar ,  Thirunāvukkarasar  and  Sundaramūrthy Nāyanār .
  • Thirugnyāna Sambanthar has composed 2 songs in praise of the temple, Thirunāvukkarasar aka Appar 8 Thevārams in praise of Natarāja and Sundharar 1 song in praise of Natarāja. Sundarar commences his Thiruthondar thogai (the sacred list of Lord Śhiva's 63 devotees) paying his respects to the priests of the Thillai temple - "To the devotees of the priests at Thillai, I am a devotee".
  • The works of the first three saints, Thirumurai were stored in palm leaf manuscripts in the temple and were recovered by the Chola King  Rājarāja Chola  under the guidance of Nambiāndārnambi. 
  • Manikkavāsagar , the 10th century śhaivite poet has written two works, the first called  Tiruvāsakam  (The sacred utterances) which largely has been sung in Chidhambaram and the Thiruchitrambalakkovaiyar (aka Thirukovaiyar), which has been sung entirely in the temple. Manikkavasagar is said to have attained spiritual bliss at Chidhambaram.
  • The Chidhambaram Mahāthmīyam composed during the 12th century provides the subsequent evolution and Sanskritization of cults.


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