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This granite temple, a World Heritage Site built by the Chola kings 1,000 years ago, stands in a vast courtyard, surrounded by a number of subsidiary shrines. The central temple was built -- at great expense -- by the Chola Rajaraja I for the worship of Shiva, and non-Hindus may not enter. Pyramidal in shape, the monumental tower or vimana over the inner sanctum rises almost 70m (230 ft.) and is visible for miles around. It's capped by an octagonal cupola carved from a single block of granite that was hauled into place along a ramp that is said to have been 6km (3 3/4 miles) long. Within the sanctum is a 4m (13-ft.) lingam; facing the sanctum, a colossal 25-ton Nandi monolith (Nandi being the vehicle for Shiva), carved from solid granite, dominates the courtyard. Numerous extant inscriptions on the molded plinth describe the enormous wealth of the temple (much of it booty from Rajaraja's successful campaigns), as well as the copious acts of ritual and celebration that took place here. In its heyday, an enormous staff was maintained to attend to the temple's varied activities; these included everything from administration to procuring dancing girls.