Before we jump to the temples of the Cholas we need to understand what brought about their forms and the prototypes for the same. Their predecessors the Pallavas had by now mastered the art of carving temples into live rock. The rathas and the shore temple are the standing examples of Pallava architecture in Mahabalipuram and the Kailashnatha temple is at Kanchipuram. They house dieties from both Shaivite and vaishnavite iconography.
Lets take a glimpse at the architectural forms at Kailashnatha temple, Kanchipuram. Look closely at the Gopuram. Its the structural version of the sculptural representation of the shrine models as seen in Mahabalipuram. The pillars are mounted on yali figures. The yalis also adorn the sub shrines around the main sanctum which is rich in indian iconography. Each sub shrine marks a part of the outer wall, a sort of fortification a little different from what we get to see at shore temple Mahabs.
The main gopuram though small is very similar to that found on the Bhima ratha. Its a clear understanding here that the subshrines have shallow porches and are a miniature version of that found at the Varaha cave at Mahabalipuram.
The pallavas definitely had their had at structural temple architecture. This was probably one of the larger temples they built. Its very interesting to notice that the Kailashnatha temple though rich in iconography, the sculptures are not life size as that in Mahabalipuram or Ellora. In later temples they will taken on much smaller forms as in the pillars of later Chola temples.