Completed in 1035 AD by the great Chola emperor Rajendra Chola I as a part of his new capital, this Chola dynasty era temple is similar in design, and has a similar name, as the older 11th century, Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur.
The Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple is smaller yet more refined than the Thanjavur Temple. Both are among the largest Shiva temples in South India and examples of Dravidian style temple architecture.
The temple is renowned for its bronze sculptures, artwork on its walls, the depiction of the sacred bull Nandi and the scale of its tower. The old city of Gangaikonda Cholapuram was the capital of the most powerful Chola empire from around 900 AD to 1215 AD.
The Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple remains an active temple even today. Four daily rituals, and many yearly festivals are held there. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Tamil Nadu.
The Archaeological Survey of India administers the temple as a protected heritage monument. UNESCO declared the temple as a World Heritage Site in 2004, along with the Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur and Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram. These three temples are referred to collectively as the Great Living Chola Temples.