Idu Dano Thillai Sthalam

Ah! So this is the sacred site of Thillai! Alas, I did not really know it all these days! Like a madman I wandered wondering is it this? or is it that? He promised to show the way and beckoned me here. In Varanasi, I have heard everyone refer to it as Kailasa (the holy abode of Shiva) but (till now) I did not observe and really know it.

NatarajaEven the names of some places carry power, don’t you think? You hear the name Kashi and think of Lord Shiva, of salvation, of Adi Shankaracharya being asked by a Chandala ‘Who are you asking to move aside, the body or the Aatman?’. When you think of Srirangam, you think immediately of the immensity of Sri Vishnu, of the banks of Kaveri, of ancient shlokas and hymns which reverberate to this day. Such is also the power of the name Thillai. The Nataraja Temple is the most celebrated of temples for the worshippers of Lord Shiva. How many wonderful songs have been dedicated to the dancing Lord here! But I never had the opportunity to see it until last week. I was on a temple tour and the last stop was at Chidambaram. If you would like to read of my travel experiences, click here.

Ah finally’ I said to myself as we stepped into the temple. It was crowded where people stood peering into the sanctum from outside. We paid for the archana and were allowed into the hall in front of the sanctum. It was difficult to see the deity as He is much decorated with garlands and jewels. We arrived just in time for the Abhishekam of the crystal Lingam. The priest showered the icon with sandalwood paste, with curd, with rice and with ash. As I saw this, I was taken back to a memory from my teen years. We, as a family, were visiting the shores of Ganges close to Delhi for a dip. I asked my grandmother doubtfully ‘Truly? Our sins are all washed away?’ . That night as we camped near the river, I had a lucid dream of being showered by holy ashes as I sat still in lotus position. The dream was startling in its clarity; I can still picture it today. I felt washed of all evil, born anew. I woke the next morning and my dip in the Ganges felt like a confirmation of my dream.

All these thoughts flashed through my eyes as I watched the abhishekam conclude with the ashes. My sixteen year old self did not have many sins to wash out; my fifty-four year old self is burdened heavily indeed. As the icon was showered with ashes, I felt my soul being showered by them as well. Tears flowed from my eyes as as I watched, feeling the magic that is Thillai ambalam (temple). And I sang to myself இது தானோ தில்லை ஸ்தலம்- Ah, so this is the sacred site of Thillai!

This wonderful song by Gopalakrishna Bharathi is set to raga Behag. To know more about this raga, click here.

I would very much like that you hear both the versions I present below. The first version is by Ranjani and Gayatri. It is reverential, with a sense of amazement almost. This is how I felt when I stepped into the temple.

The second version by Abhishek Raghuram is joyous, elated. It is a discovery, a wonder, a celebration. This is what I felt as I sat amongst the old stone pillars afterwards, thinking of my experience. The young man is in superb voice, I feel joyful every time I listen to this song!

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Composer : Gopalakrishna Bharathi
Raga : Behag
Language: Tamil

இது தானோ தில்லை ஸ்தலம்
இத்தனை நாளும் அறியேனே

அதுவோ இதுவோ என்று அலைந்திடும் பேயனை
கதி தருவேன் என்று கை காட்டி அழைத்திடும்

காசினியில் இதை கயிலை என்று எல்லோரும்
பேசக் கேட்டதே அன்றி பேணிப் பார்த்தறிந்திலேன் (alt: பார்த்தறிந்திடும் )

Transliteration :

idu dAno tillai sthalam
ittanai nALum aRiyEnE

aduvo iduvo endru alaindiDum pEyanai
gati taruvEn endru kai kATTI azhaittiDum

kAsiniyil idai kayilai endru ellOrum
pesak keTTadE andri pENip pArttaRindilEn (alt: pArttaRindiDum)


Ah! So this is the sacred site of Thillai!
Alas, I did not really know it all these days!

Like a madman I wandered wondering is it this? or is it that?
He promised to show the way and beckoned me here.

I have heard everyone refer to it as Kailasa (the holy abode of Shiva) of this world but (till now) I did not observe and really know it.

Note: I am unsure how to translate the alternate version as the sentence feels incomplete.


Filed under Abhishek Raghuram, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Gopalakrishna Bharathi, Ranjani Gayatri

17 responses to “Idu Dano Thillai Sthalam

  1. Ramesh

    As soon as I saw the title of your post, I expected you to feature the Ranjani Gayathri version. The virutham and the song together – absolutely divine rendering. Equally so their version of Kannanidam eduthu solladi. Mesmerizing.

    On the opposite end, don’t like Abhishek Raghuram’s version at all. In fact not a fan of his, even though he has a great voice. Just a personal taste and quirk !!

    Wonderful raga. I am very partial to ragas that have a Hindustani connection. Also a special affinity to this song as it features the temple very close to where I grew up. Although in those days I had little time for either the temple or this genre of music. I suppose one has to age to appreciate these 🙂

    You must be back “home” by now. Hope you had a good time in India.

    • Hi Ramesh, R&G were a very obvious choice, they sing this so very beautifully! I am addicted to it 🙂 As to AR, he has such an individual style that it seems to engender strong reactions of one kind or the other. Unlike you, I love his music and am eagerly to follow his development as a musician.

      So you grew up close to Chidambaram and still didn’t feel its magic? You are right, there are things in life which one appreciates only with maturity. Carnatic Music is music for the soul – and temples are the same, aren’t they? Perhaps when you next visit Chidambaram, you will remember RG’s beautiful rendition of this song and feel its magic 🙂

      I am back in my Australian home now after having a very busy time in India. Much as I enjoyed India, I am happy to be back home 🙂
      Cheers. Suja

  2. Chandramouli Subramanian

    Welcome back Suja! I eagerly look forward to your posts. This song on Thillai was sublime.

    • Hello Chandramouli, Oh! I am glad you found this song as sublime as I do! Behag is wonderful, isn’t it? I could listen to it all day!
      Cheers. Suja

  3. Narasimharaj

    “My sixteen year old self did not have many sins to wash out; my fifty-four year old self is burdened heavily indeed.”
    Indeed, the price of transformation from ‘innocence’ to ‘intricacies’ – over the years!!??

    That apart,,Suja, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Ranjani-Gayatri. However, my personal favorite is “Aadum Chidambaramo . . ” by ‘Amma’ MSS.

    It is incredible how you make time for researching and ‘posting’! How true, ‘a busy person has time or everything while the other kind has no time for anything!!” Keep ‘busy’ and keep ‘sharing’.
    Best Wishes.

    • Hi Raj, There are so many lovely songs on Chidambaram – Adum Chidambaramo as you mention, Kana Vendamo, Shiva Loka Nathanai, Iduvo Thillai. I chose the one which came to mind when I was in the temple. Thank you for appreciating my efforts in keeping up with the blog. At the moment, I do have some free time but at other times, I have to work hard to make time for posts. But its like having a child, one is obliged to look after it 🙂
      Cheers. Suja

  4. Idu Dano Thillai Sthalam:
    “KASIYINIL” is wrong…….it is kasiNIYIL” (is correct).
    K A S I N I means world; therefore KASINI-YIL KAYILAI means
    kailasam in this world I.e BOOLOKA KAILASAM.

  5. Krish

    Hi Suja,
    This song was rendered last night by one of our Balavihar gems, Srinidhi in front of my friend Ganesh’s dad who is 90 yrs old but very young at heart. He was an accountant at Rourkela steel plant but he was in to Carnatic Music & Bhajans. He has great pleasure in singing divine songs non stop. Last night, he liked this song and spontaneously revealed that the composer of this song is Gopalakrishna Bharathi but GB’s signature ‘Balakrishnan’ is missing in this song. Therefore, I googled this evening and landed in your wonderful blog. My sister-in-law, Uma who is in Houston learned this song from Savithri Sathyamurthy during one of her visits to Madras. She rendered this song beautifully at our place while exiting via Bombay. Abhishek is my favourite but RG is too good. However, this great song has great vibration and irrespective of artists has the power to mesmerize each & everyone. I did forward your blog to all the people assembled last night and also shared in the Facebook. I do meditation for the last ten years and Lord Shiva & Kartikeya are very dear to me. I have a longing for quite some time that I should visit Chidambaram one of these days and meditate. Incidentally, my village Kurungulam is about 20 miles south of this great abode of Lord Shiva. My niece is also your namesake.
    Capt. Krish Santhanam, CA.

    • Hello Krish, welcome to my blog 🙂 Thank you for sharing your experiences with this song, it was interesting to read its appeal across the ages..from a child in Balavihar to a 90 year old! Such is the power of music, isn’t it! You know that longing you feel? That is the Lord calling to you!! With your connection to Lord Shiva, Chidambaram is not to be missed – it has ‘that’ atmosphere, that nameless something which you feel only at the edges of your soul, the something which vibrates with an unmistakable spiritual energy. One day if I can I will return there, choosing a time when there are the least number of people. Festivities don’t interest me, just that ‘presence’, which, for me, is strongest in peace and quiet.
      Cheers. Suja

      • Krish

        Thanks, love for music has no age. Chidambaram is one of the destinations of my next visit to India.

  6. T N Ramakrishnan

    Hi Suja,
    Thank you for transporting us to the divine kshetrams in Tamil Nadu. RG’s rendition truly brings out the higher self in us even though for a brief moment. Like others have said, I have visited Thillai sthalam at an young age but only now, age 75, living in CA I am able to savor each and every syllable. RG rendering makes me realize this is how Gopalakrishnan would have emoted. I was fortunate to listen to Sanjay Subrahmanyam in Cleveland in 2002 when he rendered a soulful virutham Maanada Mazhuvaada followed by Thillaisthalam Enru….which brought tears and goose bumps to me. At the end of the concert, I went up to him and told him (along with 2 others) how he is able to bring out such feelings in us and he replied that they are already within each of us. The very thought of your experience in Chithambaram is likewise sufficient for me given my inability to travel. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience.


    • Welcome to my blog 🙂 Thank you for your lovely comment, it really makes it worth the efforts I take in keeping up with this blog when I see how my experiences reverberate with others. I too remember visiting some wonderful places in my youth without really appreciating their full worth. I wish I can do it all again! Sanjay Subrahmanian was very right wasn’t he..we can only truly feel what is already within us..very wise.
      Cheers. Suja

  7. pssundararajan

    by any chance this song featured in the movie ‘nandanar’ in which desigar played a role ?

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