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(1) Bel means Lataa in Hindi and Creeper in English.
(2) A fruit - wood-apple. It is called Bilva also. Its tree is a medium-sized deciduous tree. It has thorny branches and trifoliate leaves. It is a kind of fruit which is very hard from out side and fleshy from inside. Sometimes because of this hardness it is called Bel Patthar (stone). Its covering is really hard as stone. Its fruit is large and round with a greenish-grey woody shell. It has medicinal properties. Its leaves make poultice for the eyes and are good for diabetes and the roots help reduce fever. Its fruit is a remedy for dysentery. It is also believed to promote fertility.
Its fruit and leaves are normally offered to Shiv Jee on Pradosh day and Shiv Raatri day for their trifoliate shape signifies Shiva's three eyes. Since they have a cooling effect, they are offered to the Shiv Ling to soothe this hot-tempered deity. Even a fallen Bel is never used as firewood, for fear of arousing Shiva's wrath. Its wood is used only in sacrificial fires.
How Bel Grew?
(5) The Bhavishya Puraan says that after the Saagar Manthan, Lakshmee, who had just emerged from the ocean, rested in the Bel. It was the 9th bright day of Bhaadrapad Maas. Therefore, the Bel is worshipped every year on that day.
Bilva Ashtakam is a Sanskrit Stotra extolling the virtues of offering Bilva Patra or the sacred Bel Leaf to the Shiv Ling. Please visit the following site for the full Stotra in Sanskrit and its English translation thereof http://www.ganesh.us/mantara/bilvasthakam.html
book "Religious & Useful Plants of Nepal and India"
"Bilwaanaam darshanam punyam | sparshanam paap naashanam"
The greatness of Bilva was elaborately described in Bilva Ashtottar Satnaam Stotra. Bilva is a Vanaspati - "Vanaspati" means a tree giving fruits without giving flowers. The fruits of Bilva is nothing but Shiv Swaroop. The conception of Bilva Phal is nothing but Mahaa Prasaad and Sadaashiv shall be very much pleased by this action. What is the meaning of Bilva? According to Sri Unmattanadanatha Srisukta Bhaashyam - "Bilvam Halyam Kutchhit Roopam Bhinatteeti Bilvam". Bilva is so capable to eliminate and destroy all bad elements.
According to Skand Puraan, Lord Sadaashiv praised his better half comparing with Bilva," Twadeeyangaani Sarvaani Tasya Patraani Paarvatee" which indicates that the Holy tree of Bilwa is nothing but the body parts of Mother Paarvatee. The Bilva is also beloved to Lord Vishnu and Gogdess Mahaalakshmee. Shree Aadi-Shankaraachaarya in his Kanakdhaaraa Stotra praised Mahaalakshmee as follows
Bilwatavee madhya lasat saroje |
sahastra patre sukha sannivistaam
As such any one, either Shaiv or Vaishnava, may worship his deity with Bilva Patra without any doubt
Kaashee Kshetra Nivasamch Kaal Bhairav Darshanam
Greatness of Bilva Patra - Why Bel Leaves for Shiv
There are many references of Bilva Patra (Bel tree or Bel leaves as called in Hindee) and it is believed that the three leaves represent the three eyes of Lord Shiv and also the three Gun. The Bilva tree itself is so holy and auspicious that its worship or its significance is mentioned in many Puraan and other scriptures at various instances. Here is a narration of "greatness of Bilva" under 22nd chapter in Vidyeshwar Sanhitaa of Shiv Puraan.
The Bilva is the symbol of Lord Shiv. it is adored even by the gods. It is difficult to understand its greatness. It can only be known to a certain extent. Whatever holy center there is in the world finds a place under the root of Bilva. He who worships Mahaadev in the form of Ling at the root of Bilva tree becomes a purified soul, he shall certainly attain Shiv. He who pours water over his head at the root of a Bilva tree can be considered to have taken his bath in al sacred waters on the Earth. Verily he is holy. Seeing the water basin round the foot of the Bilva tree full of water, Shiv becomes greatly pleased. The man who worships the root of a Bilva tree offering scents and flowers attains the region of Shiv his happiness increases, his family flourishes. He who places a row of lighted lamps at the root of Bilva tree with reverence becomes endowed with the knowledge of truth and merges into Shiv. he who worships the Bilva tree abounding in fresh tender sprouts becomes free from sins. If a man piously feeds a devotee of Shiv at the root of a Bilva tree he reaps the fruit thereof, ten million times more than in the usual course. He who makes a gift of rice cooked in milk and ghee to a devotee of Shiv at the root of a Bilva tree will never become poor."
There is a belief among the wanderers in the hills that those who consume Bel leaves would never feel hunger or thirst. In most parts of Bangaal, Bel fruits are widely used and its juice is sold in summer season where it is believed to let the native withstand the hot mercury. It is no exaggeration to say that if one cant find a Bel tree, he may search for a colony or locality where Bangaalee live and chances are that you would find Bel trees there. It is practiced as a must that all Shiv temples have a Bilva tree within its precincts naturally. The best offering to Lord Shiv as per scriptures is simple water and the Bel leaves.
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 04/11/13