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
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.
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
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.