Kottarakara Maha Ganapathy temple, Kerala where prime god is made of wood.

Kottarakara Maha Ganapathy temple, Kerala. upload.wikimedia.org

Kottarakara Maha Ganapathy temple, Kerala. vatemples.com

The pretty old  Kottarakkara Sree Mahaganapathy Kshethram, about 25 km from Kollam,  is an important pilgrim center  in Kerala, As far as I know in Kerala , the worship of Maha Ganapathy is not as popular as in other states like Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, in particular. As a matter of fact, Vinayaga Chathurhi was  popularized in Maharashtra in the pre-independence day spear headed by Bal Gangadar Tilak during the peak of freedom struggle.  It is mentioned that  Kathakali, the world famous art form of Kerala, was first  ever  performed at the Kottarakkara  Maha Ganapathy Temple. During the time of Kottarakara Thampiran the debut performance of Kathakali (originated here) was performed in this temple.

Temple elephants, Maha Ganaphy temple, kerala.kottarakaramahaganapathi.org

 Ganesh Chathurthi puja at Maha ganapahy temple, kerala.kottarakaramahaganapathi.org

In this temple there are many other Hindu deities such as  god Shiva, goddess Parvati, god  Ganesha, god Murugan (Karthikeya), native god Ayyappan, and Nagaraja. But, here the main and presiding deity is god Ganapathy and the offerings made in the temple kitchen - Madapalli go to him. Why all gods except Parvati and  Ganapathy are facing the east direction  is not known. 

 As  for the image of Ganapthy enshrined here, it is said that   It is said that famous  temple architect Perumthachan while working on the Sreekovil (garbagriha) of the Shiva temple here  got a chance to notice a firm and straight root of a jackfruit tree. He cut the root and carved a Ganapathy  murthi  out of it  which is now being worshipped as the famous Kottarakkara Ganapathy.

The main pujas here,  as wished by the devotees, are  Udayasthamana pooja,  Mahaganapathi homam and Pushpanjali. People embarking  on a new venture, business, education, wedding, etc., would normally prefer Ganapathy Homan.  This  is commonly done in all auspicious functions for the prosperity, welfare and success of the family.  Doing Ganapathi homam with devotion and religious fervor on the sanctified premises of a temple is considered a right choice.  

The main offerings of the temple are Unniyappam which is popular in this area as  well as in the surrounding places. The offering of Unniyappam was introduced by  Perumthachan  to the Ganapathi murthy which he himself carved  it.  This sweet item id made from  rice flower, well ripened banana (kadalipazham), ghee, sugar and coconuts, etc. 

In this Ganapathy temple the puja schedule is a long one - very one hour or with in 15 minutes, the Tantris conduct some kind of puja  periodically and his includes kala pujas    Usha kala puja in the morning Uchasreebali (Ucchi kala puja), evening Depardhana  and after Rakala puja, Nadayadappu around 8 Pm. An important puja protocol of this temple is daily between 4-30 am to 5.30 am  Abhishekam  and Ashtadravya  Ganapathy homam are held eith dedication. Udayasthamana Pooja gains much importance here and is done by devotees for welfare and to have children in family. As part of it Unniyappam is made from  the morning to late evening.

In the state of Kerala Hindus look upon god Ganapathy as Vigneswara - remover of obstacles. He is the god of wisdom and the leader of Ganas and is capable of handling any tough situation. 

There are ae stories as to the origin of Ganapathy snd the commonly accepted one is he was conjured up by Consort  Parvati (while God Shiva was out wandering around) with an elephant head and four arms to guard her when she was  alone.