Four ancient monuments that are a must visit in Tamil Nadu


There are so many olden day architectural marvels that exist around us even today. While many monuments are beautiful and nice to visit, some of them make you go “WOW”. If you are living in and around Tamil Nadu or plan to visit this Southern State of India, and if you love exploring ancient temples in Tamil Nadu, add this list to your bucketlist. Nothing can be more sweeter than visiting these places, knowing their history and be glad you have been a part of an amazing history of more than 1000 years old. Scroll below to know more about these old but gold monuments of Tamil Nadu.

*Five Rathas*

Five Rathas built by Pallava Dynasty

Also known as Pancha Rathas, this was constructed during the reign of Pallava Dynasty. The rulers during the reign were King Mahendravarman I and his son Narasimhavarman I. The five monuments are dedicated to the five characters in Mahabharata. Each of these five structures is shaped like a chariot (rathas) and the entire place as such is said to be incomplete. The story behind the construction is still unknown.

Five Rathas built by Pallava Dynasty

Five Rathas built by Pallava Dynasty

Approximate Date: 630–680 A.D.
Dynasty: Pallava
Location: Mahabalipuram, East Coast Road, TN

Also, don’t miss the Butterball – a huge rock that defies gravity and the Shore Temple nearby.

Butterball in Mahabalipuram

Five Rathas built by Pallava Dynasty

*Gangai Konda Cholapuram*

This is a temple that is now etched in my heart. The vibration in this place is evident and there is so much history behind this great construction. The son of Raja Raja Chola – Rajendra Chola built this temple. It is said that he famously went all the way upto Bengal – Bihar, fought the battle with Pala Dynasty and won the war. To celebrate the victory, he brought some water from the holy Ganges into the well within this temple complex, hence the name Gangai Konda Cholan – Gangai (River Ganges) Konda (the act of winning) Chola (the descendant of the clan). The story is that even today the holy water is used to perform pooja on the idol.

The Nandi facing the main shrine is something that attracted us a lot. This is one of the biggest Nandi statues in India.

A different and huge Nandi in Tamil Nadu

One of the best archtectures of the Chola Dynasty

Gangai Konda Cholapuram Temple


Did you know?

  1. The biggest Shiva Lingam is in this temple
  2. One of the biggest Nandi statues in the world is here
  3. The Navagrahas is made out of one stone, unlike 9 separate idols that you can find everywhere else.

Approximate Date: 1012-1044 A.D.
Temple: Shiva
Dynasty: Chola
Location: Ariyalur, near Thanjavur

*Airavatesvara Temple*

Most artistic temple in Tamil Nadu

Talk about imagination, beauty, art and storytelling! Airavatesvara Temple is a dream that we lived and the cells in our body were awed with every passing inch. Again, a temple which is more than 900 years old, Raja Raja Chola II built this beauty in Darasuram Town.

Situated three kilometres away from Kumbakonam and very close to Swamimalai, this temple was called Raja Rajachuram and over a period of time became Darasuram. Don’t miss the chariot structure, the Nayanmaras and entire temple in itself actually. Every corner has a story and every stone is a piece of art.

Approximate Date: 1160  – 1162  A.D.
Temple: Shiva
Dynasty: Chola
Location: Darasuram

Pregnant women sculpture
Standing Pregnancy – can you believe it?

A story depicted in Darasuram temple


Chariot in Darasuram Temple
Don’t miss the Buddha statue beneath the Horse.


Painting in Darasuram Temple
Painting from those days using naturals colours

*Brihadeeshwar Temple aka Big Temple*

Big Temple, Tanjore

When you see this temple, every time, from a distance, you will wonder how something this majestic was pulled off in those olden, non-technology and non-google days. Just 1000 years old built by Raja Raja Chola I, this temple has used 1,30,000 tons of granite and is 216 feet high. Now, that’s a major feat in itself.

The entrance reminded me so much of Angkor Wat and only later did we come to realize that the Chola’s played a huge role in conquering Cambodia and thereby the influence. Everything in this temple is bound to give you goosebumps.

One of the Chola dynasties greatest architecture
This reminded us so much of Angkor Wat

The sculptures are impeccable too.

One of Chola dynasties greatest architecture
Don’t miss the inscriptions
One of Chola dynasties greatest architecture
The Brihadeeshwar Temple

The topmost structure above the sanctum sanctorum (above the vimanam) called Kumbam is 81 tons and is believed to be made out of a single rock. To position this rock on top, a 6 km ramp was built to all the way up, pulled by many elephants and horses for almost 6 years – 6 years ladies and gentlemen. The Nandi is also believed to be made from a single rock. The Shivan idol and the Nandi are one of the biggest idols in South India.

If you want to experience Magnum Opus – then this is it.


  1. Earlier, the temple was called Rajarajeshwar while the Marathas changed it to Brihadeeswar.
  2. This was a place for Bharatanatyam dancers to showcase their talent.
  3. There is no granite quarry within 50-60 km which only makes one wonder, how these stones were brought here in those days.

Approximate Date: 1003 and 1010 A.D.
Temple: Shiva
Dynasty: Chola
Location: Thanjavur

One of Chola dynasties greatest architecture

All these four are UNESCO Heritage sites and with care taken by the Archaeological Survey of India. Don’t miss any opportunity that comes your way to visit these places. Go on and travel back in time. No glue, no screws, no adhesives, no hinges, no nothing to keep them all together. IMAGINE 🙂 We can promise that this time is all about art, brilliance and pain but at the same time magnificent beauty. I’m proud to be born in this land 🙂

Also, if you want to know more about Thanjavur – where to stay, what to eat etc – click here 🙂




32 thoughts on “Four ancient monuments that are a must visit in Tamil Nadu”

  1. i’m not too familiar with india as i’ve never really been there (well, it’s not true cause i’ve been in delhi once for only like 12 hours), but i think the first time i heard anything about tamil nadu was from the book life of pi. 🙂

    anyway, i would love to take a pic of myself around the butterball too! 😀

    but apart from that, i think all the ancient monuments are worth to visit too. so i should totally consider to drop by tamil nadu if one day i get a chance to land in india. 🙂

    • Life of Pi 🙂

      If history and temple interests you, you will love Tamil Nadu. I hope you do get to explore these places Marya 🙂

    • Some times I wish time travel existed – atleast on record 😉 Would love to know how they came about creating such beauty!

  2. Preethika, this is a very beautiful story and I am proud to say I have visited at least one of them. The photography and information is stunning and I loved seeing it all! Keep up the good writing and I hope you can enjoy my stories of India too 🙂

  3. Oh wow!! All these temples are absolutely incredible! I’ve still not been to India, so this will definitely go on my list. That butterball rock is huge!

  4. Being a history buff, I enjoyed looking here and reading each entry, I learned something new (so my claim of being a history buff shouldn’t be taken seriously lol). This post just shows how different yet beautiful architecture in a different place could be. Thanks for the virtual tour!

    • Oh yes. Architecture is just one word but when you travel and realize what people have done those days is just amazing and shows talent in many different ways.

  5. It looks like you really enjoyed your trip to Tamil Nadu. The photos look so beautiful. I did not know the biggest Shiva statue is there. That is interesting.

  6. This is surprise to me. Indian has so many diverse experiences to offer for all the travellers around the globe. Your pics are wonderful and i am in love with them. Five rathas look so excellent and would love visit there once.

  7. I’ve always been awed by the temples of India: it’s details and the history that comes with it.. It’s quite surprising isn’t it how man have created such wonders even during ancient times where technology isn’t as well-established as it is today. Such inspiring structures to behold indeed! …
    You have definitely given me another list of gorgeous and breathtaking temples to visit! Thank you for sharing this Preethika! 🙂

    • My friends and I believe that those days, the technology or the precision of executing various things is something that we are yet to fully understand or discover. If I have to bring about one example – these things happened in a day and age when flying was almost impossible, yet the same story has traveled miles and you can clearly see in these depictions – the designs or the representation of an idol etc are all the same. To even think about what went on those days is pretty amazing. Thanks for stopping by Marvi 🙂

  8. Although all these other temples are so breathtakingly decorated, I love the ‘butterball’ – it’s so unique. But of course it’s amazing that you can unite four UNESCO sites in one post – it tells us a lot about the richness of that spot. I appreciated your detailed historic info and figures a lot, thank you.
    When I go to India – which hopefully will be very soon – I make sure to visit Thanjavur.

  9. Great post! I may be going to i do this year and I’ll have to add the Tamil region to my itenerary. Although as crazy as this sounds the think that looks the most interesting to me is that butterball rock. I would like to get a picture leaning up against it as well.

    • Haha I know 🙂 Everyone gets excited to see the butterball and to get a picture without anyone around is quite difficult. I hope you have fun here!

  10. So many stunning architectural delights of the South. I have only visited the temple in Mahabalipuram. Rest are quite unknown to me, but they look incredible. Love to visit them someday.

    • I agree with you – so many architectural delights. These places do take you back in time and I’m so glad that they are all well preserved!

  11. India is a place that’s on my list, but I don’t know very much about it. I definitely hadn’t heard of these temples, but they look very beautiful and you gave a lot great info about them! Would love to see them someday/

    • You must definitely visit India. There is just so much to do and if you do like exploring temples, there are so many is an understatement 🙂


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