The UNESCO has inscribed the three great living Chola temples, Thanjavur Brihadishvara temple, Brihadishvara temple at Gangaikondacholapuram and Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram in the year 2004, these temples were built by the Chola kings in-between 11th to 12th century CE. They testify to the brilliant achievements of the Chola in architecture, sculpture paining and bronze castings.
The Brihadishvara temple is one thousand years old. The great temple of Thanjavur was founded by Rajaraja I, a Chola king who reigned from 985 to 1014 CE. It was the jewel-in the crown of Raja Raja, an extraordinarily powerful king, a grand monarch with a style of his own, a conqueror who also understood art and architecture and a true devotee of Shiva. Shiva in this temple is known as Brihadishvara, the lord of the Universe. There are niches on three sides in two rows containing representation of deities such as Shiva, Vishnu with his consorts Sri Devi and Bhu Devi and also separate image of Lakshmi.