The Great Living Chola Temples were built by kings of the Chola Empire, which stretched over all of south India and the neighbouring islands. These temples highlight the brilliant achievements of the Cholas in architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting.
The site includes three great 11th- and 12th-century Temples: the Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the Brihadisvara Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram.
The Temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram, built by Rajendra I, was completed in 1035. Its 53-m vimana (sanctum tower) has recessed corners and a graceful upward curving movement, contrasting with the straight and severe tower at Thanjavur.
The Airavatesvara temple complex, built by Rajaraja II, at Darasuram features a 24-m vimana and a stone image of Shiva.
The temples are classified as ‘Living’ Chola Temples as they are still visited, worshiped in and used as they were when they were constructed. In 2014, the millennium celebration of the coronation of the Rajendra Chola was celebrated in the temples over two days.