The Pallavas, the Cholas, and the Pandyas are considered to be the most significant dynasties of the Early Medieval period in Tamil Nadu. The Pallavas and Cholas have made some exorbitant contribution to Dravida style (other two popular forms being Nagara and Vesara) of temple architecture.
The Great Living Chola temples are still considered magnificent marvels of architecture and important centers of worship attracting thousands of pilgrims to its footsteps. From intricately carved gopurams to huge complexes, these temples were not just places of worship but also center for educational and cultural activities.
Brihadishvara Temple − Built during the reign of Raja Raja Chola, the construction of this temple is recorded to have taken more than seven years. This temple is a mammoth masterpiece in the architecture of South India. It has a huge Nandi carved out of a single stone piece which is a popular segment of this temple. It is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple has an extraordinary gopuram and this granite structure leaves the spectator speechless by its beauty. The visitors enter the temple with a view of the gopurams and enters the Garba Griha passing the massive pillared hall i.e. the Mandapa.
Gangaikondacholapuram Temple − Gangaikondacholapuram Temple located at Kumbakonam is second important temple is the series of the Great Living Chola Temples which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The name Gangai-Konda-Cholapuram actually highlights the story of how King Rajendra Chola brought the water of river Ganga and constructed a reservoir. This temple has one of the best Shiva Lingas. It also houses the accounts of Chola Empire inscribed in the walls of the temple. The temple has one of the best carvings and iconography and is similar to the construction of Brihadishvara Temple.
Airavateshwara Temple − Airavateshwara Shiva Temple worships Lord Shiva as Airavata, the elephant of Lord Indra. According to the legends, Shiva was worshiped by the god of death, Yama over here. It was built in the 12th century during the reign of Raja Raja Chola II. There are different inscriptions in the temple walls which narrate the history of Cholas where the defeat of Chalukyan King Someshwara I is also recorded.