Gangaikonda Cholapuram (Tamil: கங்கைகொண்ட சோழபுரம்) was erected as the capital of the Cholas by Rajendra Chola I, the son and successor of Rajaraja Chola, the great Chola who conquered a large area in South India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Sumatra, Kadaram (Kedah in Malaysia) at the beginning of the 11th century A.D. It occupies an important place in the history of India. As the capital of the Cholas from about 1025 A.D. for about 250 years, the city controlled the affairs of entire southern India, from the Tungabhadra in the north to Ceylon in the south and other south east Asian countries. The great temple of Siva at this place is next only to the Brihadisvara temple at Thanjavurin its monumental nature and surpasses it in sculptural quality.The Gangaikondaan temple is an architectural and engineering marvel because the shadow of the main tower never falls on the ground throughout the year.
The temple of Gangaikondacholisvara is approached through the northern entrance from the road. The passage passes through the enclosure wall and leads on to the inner court.
As one steps in, the great Vimana arrests the visitor's sight. The Vimana with its recessed corners and upward movement presents a striking contrast to the straight-sided pyramidal tower of Tanjavur. As it rises to a height of 160 feet and is shorter than the Tanjavur tower, it is often described as the feminine counterpart of the Tanjavur temple.