The much celebrated 'ponnambalam' (temple with golden roof) at Thillai (Chidambaram) was just a few days of journey away. Thiruvarur, the most important 'Sapta Vitanka Sthalam’, which had the patronage of the cholas right from the days of Manuneedhi Cholan and Musukuntha Cholan, was also nearby. So were numerous temples referred to as 'padal petra sthalangal' - temples where the Saivite saints Appar, Sundarar, Sambanthar and Manikkavasagar had sung Thevaram hymns (religious hyms praising the deeds of Lord Shiva). Then, what made Rajaraja Cholan build a massive temple in his capital city?
Few centuries back, the Pallavas had given a new dimension to art and architecture. Under their patronage rose the majestic Rathas, Shore Temple and Yali Caves at Mamallapuram. Rajasimma Pallavan built two splendid temples in Kanchipuram 'Parameswara Vinnagaram' and 'Kailasanathar Kovil'. The latter, dedicated to Lord Siva, held Rajaraja Cholan's attention. He called it 'kachchipettu periya thali' (The Big Temple of Kanchipuram).
Rajaraja Cholan's dreams and aspirations were always huge. The visionary he was in all matters, there is no wonder that he envisaged a huge temple to celebrate the power of divinity.
Many a people, have wondered why he chose to build an imposing monument. Did he want to showcase the power and might of his empire by building something colossal? Did he want to stamp his authority and tell the world, 'Look what I have accomplished?' Did he want to get rid of sins wrought by years of warfare or get a magical cure to a disease of unknown origin, as some people claim?
May be the reason was simple.
He wanted to show the whole world the towering presence of God that is everlasting against human life that is highly evanescent...