The temple is managed and administered hereditarily by the Chidambaram Dikshitar – a class of Vaideeka Brahmins whom, legends say, were brought here, from Mt. Kailas, by Saint Patanjali, specifically for the performance of the daily rituals and maintenance of the Chidambaram temple.

. These Deekshithars follow the Vedic rituals, unlike the Sivachariyars or Adhisaivars – who follow the agamic rituals for the worship of Lord Shiva. The rituals for the temple were collated from the Vedas and set by Patanjali, who is said to have inducted the Deekshithars into the worship of Lord Shiva as Nataraja.

In ancient times the Deekshithars, the community of hereditary priests were known as Muvariyavar, or the 3000 of Tillai. The Chidambaram Mahatmyam recounts of their arrival in Tillai just as Lord Nataraja started his dance there. Thus they were the chosen guardians of the Lord’s worship and of the temple from its very conception.

Their relation to Lord Nataraja is a very intimate and powerful one, which is expressed by the legend that once the 3000 were requested by Brahma to perform a Vedic sacrifice in heaven. At their return they counted to make sure all had returned safely. But however they counted, they found only 2999. All were very upset, until a voice from the Sabha called out and announced that He Himself, Lord Nataraja, was the 3000th Deekshithar. Today they number around 360.

Although considered as among the Shiva Brahmans or Ayars, they form a completely separate group. Not only is their philosophy and temple doctrine different from other social groups and other temples, but also their way of life is very different from the society around them.

In general, every married male member of the Deekshithar family gets a turn to perform the rituals at the temple and can serve as the chief priest for the day. Married Deekshithars are also entitled a share of the temple's revenue.

A Deekshithar has to wear his hair long, with a tonsure all around the rim. The hair is pulled to the left side and tied into a bun. This reflects their awareness of cosmology. It also expresses some aspects of the temple philosophy. They follow the teaching of Baudhayana Maharishi. Male and female energies are inseparable and both essential for the process of cosmos. The Deekshithars acknowledge their female side by wearing their hair long and in a bun, on the left side of the body, which is considered the female side.

The Chidambaram temple is unique in countless ways, but one outstanding feature is without doubt the way in which its priestly community is organized. It is possible the oldest and longest functioning democracy in the world. The community is called Podu Deekshithars, which means ‘the gathering of Deekshithars’. Every Deekshithar has one vote in the general assembly, which takes place every twenty days. The daily management is in the hand of a team of nine members, one of which will be selected to be the Secretary of the temple for one year. The duties of the Secretary of the temple are to preside over all the activities in connection with the daily management, as well as to represent the temple towards the outside world. All ritual duties in the temple are performed through a strict rotation system. Special honorary functions, like presiding over the great Chariot Festivals, or other special ritual functions are accredited by drawing a name from the list of community’s members.

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