Raja Rajeshwara temple is regarded as one of the existing 108 ancient Shiva Temples of Kerala. It also has a prominent place amongst the numerous Shiva temples in South India. It had the tallest shikhara amongst the temples of its time. The Rajarajeshwara temple has a top of about 90 tonnes. If any problem is encountered in the other temples of South India, devotees seek a solution in this temple through a prasna, a traditional method of astrological decision making. The prasna is conducted on a peedha (a raised platform) outside the temple.
This temple was rebuilt into its present form in the early eleventh century. The quadrangular sanctum has a two-tiered pyramidal roof; in front of the sanctum is the namaskara mandapam, but the temple has no flagstaff, unlike others in Kerala. Non-Hindus are not permitted to enter.
The temple had two ancient and large seven-storey Gopurams that were destroyed by Tipu Sultan in the late eighteenth century The relics of these Gopurams are seen today lying all around the Eastern and Western entrances in the form of debris. The bases still remain, and from their imposing appearance and intricate sculptures, it is quite evident that they might have been grand edifices before their destruction. It is believed that a snake bit the commander of the army who was about to destroy the temple, and following this, the temple was spared from destruction.