The temple had its foundations laid out by the Tamil emperor Arulmozhivarman, popularly called Rajaraja Chola I,(Tamil: இராஜராஜ சோழன்,Rājarāja Choļan ?) in 1002 CE , as the first of the great Tamil Chola building projects. According to tradition, the temple was built by the Chola king Rajar
aja in compliance of a command given to him in his dream. The scale and grandeur is in the Chola tradition. An axial and symmetrical geometry rules the temple layout. Temples from this period and the following two centuries are an expression of the Tamils (Chola) wealth, power and artistic expertise. The emergence of such features as the multifaceted columns with projecting square capitals signal the arrival of the new Chola style.
The Brihadeeswarar Temple was built to be the royal temple to display the emperor's vision of his power and his relationship to the universal order. The temple was the site of the major royal ceremonies such as anointed the emperor and linking him with its deity, Shiva, and the daily rituals of the deities were mirrored by those of the king.
The temple maintained a staff of 600 people in various capacities. Besides the Brahmins priest, these included record-keepers, musicians, scholars, and craftsman of every type as well as housekeeping staff.In those days the temple remained a hub of business activities for the flower merchants,milk vendors, oil merchants, ghee merchants, all of whom made a regular supply of their respective goods for the temple for its pujas and during festival seasons.Moreover as evidenced by the inscriptions that found in the compound wall of this temple, the temple had always been serving as a platform for the dancers who excelled in the traditional dance form of Bharatha Natyam. Even today, the Brihadeeswarar Temple remains India's largest.
The temple is also an architectural exemplar showcasing the pure form of the Dravida type of temple architecture and representative of the Chola Empire ideology and the Tamil civilisation in Southern India. The temples "testify to the brilliant achievements of the Chola in architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting". Built in 1010 AD by Raja Raja Chola in Thanjavur, Brahadishwara Temple also popularly known as the ‘Big Temple’ has turned 1000 years.