Gangaikondacholapuram was the capital of the Chola king, Rajendra Chola I and of his son Rajaraja Chola, who commenced his reign in the 11th century by conquering vast territories in South India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sumatra and Kedah. The Cholas of the period were superb mariners. These rulers, however, did not limit themselves to military conquest.
They enthusiastically patronized the arts such as poetry, drama, music and dance, architecture, education, science, and ship building. In fact, the beautiful Nataraja figure, glorified all over the world, was conceived during the Chola period when they built the famous Nataraja temple in Chidambaram..
The great temple of Siva in Gangaikondacholapuram is only marginally surpassed by the Brihadeeshwara temple at Thanjavur in sheer monumental scale and is considered an architectural and engineering marvel because the shadow of the main gopuram or tower never falls on the ground at any time, season or month.