Ariyalur district is endowed with a large number of historically important places and temples.
GANGAIKONDACHOLISVARAR TEMPLE Ariyalur is best known for the Gangaikondacholisvarar temple in Gangaikondacholapuram, the biggest temple constructed during the reign of Rajendra-I in Ariyalur region. Following the conquest of the Gangetic plains in A.D. 1023 Rajendra-I built a great city called Gangaikondacholapauram and a Siva temple Gangaikondacholisvarar and a lake Chola Gangam in commemoration of his victory. The place, the temple and the lake (Chola Gangam) are the living embodiments of the heroism of the Tamils who unfurled the Chola's Tiger flag on the banks of the River Ganges. He also shifted his capital from Thanjavur to this newly built town.
From his period to the end of the Chola family rule in A.D.1279 this city was the capital for the Chola Empire for a period of 256 years. The gigantic stone temple which he built in this place is rich repository of beautiful sculptures of middle Chola period. This city is celebrated in the literature of Muvar ula of Ottakuttar and Kalingattuparani of Jayankondar.
GANGAIKONDACHOLISVARAR TEMPLE Rajendra's Gangetic expedition was over by his 11th regal year (A.D.1023). The earliest reference which mentions the city of Gangaikondacholapuram is a record of A. D. 1027 of him. Hence it is evident that the city was built in memory of his great victory between A.D. 1023 and 1027. The recently discovered Esalam Copper plates of A.D. 1036 of Rajendra-I give concrete evidence that he built the Gangaikondacholisvarar temple. Another record of A.D. 1068 of Virarajendra in Gangaikondacholapuram which is the earliest record in the temple mentions about the grant of villages to the Gangaikondacholisvarar temple by Rajendra-I in his 24th year (A.D. 1036).
GANGAIKONDACHOLISVARAR TEMPLE This temple is a living history of the Cholas in stone from the period of Rajendra-I and a beautiful gallery of Chola art and architecture. Many sculptures brought from Andhra, Karnataka and Bengal as war trophies are also preserved in the temple and in the nearby villages. Chandesura Anugraha Murthy and Sarasvathy are the most beautiful sculptures of the temple.
At present it is under the control of ASI and the HR&CE and recently the UNESCO declared the temple as one of the world heritage monument.
MELAPALUVUR The ancient name of this village was Mannuperumpaluvur, Periyapaluvur and Melaipaluvur. It was the capital of the Paluvettaraiyar Chiefs who were from Kerala and ruled Ariyalur area as feudatories of the Chola Kings from Aditya I to Rajendra Chola I. Paluvettaraiyar Kumaran Kandan , Kumaran Maravan, Kandan Amudan and Maravan Kandan were some of the important Kings of this family. The Sundaresvarar temple in this place dates back to the period of Aditya Chola-I. Its name was Pagaividai Isvaram.
KILAIYUR The eastern part of this village is called Kilaiyur which was called as Avani Kandarvapuram during the period of the Cholas. It was a mercantile town of itinerant trade guilds. The Siva temple at Kilaiyur was called Avani gandarva Isvaram and built in A.D. 884 during the 13th year of Aditya-I by Paluvettaraiyar chief Kumaran Kandan. This temple is one of the finest stone temples and one of the best preserved early Chola temples offering different architectural styles with an array of beautiful and charming sculptures.
Chola Kings had marital alliances with the Paluvettaraiyar family. Parantaka Chola married Arumolinangai who was the daughter of the Paluvettaraiyar Chief Kumaran Maravan and the Chola King Arinjaya Chola was born to this princess. Uttamachola (970-986) also married a princess of this family. Panchavanmadevi, wife of Rajaraja-I was also a native of Avani Kandarvapuram and she was a dancing girl of the temple. The Chola Kings seem to have had their minting factory at this Capital.
KARIVETTI The Karaivetti Birds Sanctuary with an area of 453.71 ha. has been notified under section 18(1) of Wildlife Protection Act 1972 as per Government Order No.219 E&F (FR.VI) Dept dt. 10.06.1997. The sanctuary is basically an irrigation tank that receives water from the Mettur dam from September onwards which is supplemented by the northeast monsoons from October till January. The sanctuary is one of the most important fresh water feeding ground for migratory water birds in the state of Tamil Nadu. One of the largest tanks in the state, it has recorded the largest congregation of water birds among all the tanks in the state. Of the 188 species of birds recorded in the sanctuary, 82 are water birds. Among the important visitors to the tank is the endangered Bar Headed Goose. The best time to visit the sanctuary for bird watching is April-May.