Why Do We Offer BILVA PATRA (Bel Leaves) to lord SHIVA?
by Shekar Moily
As everybody is aware, India is a multi-religion country with diverse culture and tradition with their own meaning, significance and importance attached to it in all the religion without any compromise. However I must confess here is that Hindu religion has embedded with its own enriched, aromatic culture and traditions with scientifically proved meaning, significance behind it. But central theme, objective, significance is same in all the religions asking for the boon and divine intervention in our life and blesses and graces us with healthy and happy life, prosperity, wealth, peace and contentment.
We, the Hindus worship different forms of God, Goddess, deities with different beliefs and offering different items in materialistic form such as milk, fruits, ghee, flowers, incenses, grains, nuts, tender coconut, curd, sandalwood, honey to appease the God. Among all these ‘Bilwa Patra’is the one we offer to Lord Shiva, has its own importance, significance and meaning attached to it and has been proved scientifically as well.
Well, Lord Shiva being the Supreme God of the whole Universe and is one of the famous Trinity of Hinduism-Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, is responsible for the creation, protection and destruction of the world respectively. Lord Shiva is Symbolic of auspiciousness and well know as the destroyer of the world, is omnipotent and omnipresent.
Various forms of Lord Shiva
Shiva is said to have eight forms which is known as Ashtamurthi.
These eight forms of Shiva; Sharva, Bhava, Rudra, Ugra, Bhima, Pashupati, Ishana and Mahadeva are said to be the earth, water, fire, wind, sky, yogi, sun and moon respectively.
Basically, Shiva means the one who is auspicious and removes all sorrows. Hence, Shiva is the one who glows and makes others glow.
Rudra is the proto form of Shiva who was the principal deity of Vedic period. Rudra was prominently known as the destructive god of Vedic society. Puranic Shiva is a developed structure of Vedic Rudra in which so many other minor deities were assimilated.
Pashupati is that form of Rudra whose existence is attributed to Shiva. Pashupati is the Lord of beasts. He received the epithet Nilakanta because his throat became blue due to the consumption of poison which arose from the churning of the Great Ocean.
Worship of Shiva
Lord Shiva is worshipped mainly in two forms. The first form of worshipping is that of a Shivalinga and the other form is Murti (statue) form. The Linga worship of the Lord is most common and believed to be extremely sacred amongst the Hindus.
Shiva is usually worshiped in the form of Shivalinga which is the most popular manifestation of Lord Shiva and is represented by phallus. It is the most important symbol of Shiva.
One account says that, once Shiva was fascinated by seeing a charming woman and started following her. That woman was Lord Vishnu in the form of Mohini. As Shiva ran, his semen fell at various places and formed the drops to produce Lingas. This indicates that Linga is the very essence of Shiva’s personality. In Skanda Purana, Linga is said to be the abode of Shiva.
The Shivalinga symbolizes creation and cosmic energy. The worship of Shivalinga represents the union of Shiva and Shakti-Parvati resulting in the creation of the universe. Hence, he is worshipped in Shivalinga form.
What makes Shiva delighted?
Usually Lord Shiva is depicted as extremely ferocious and destructive in nature. However, Shiva is known for his benevolence at the same time. Even the slightest of devotion from the devotees make this god extremely happy.
Shiva Purana mentions the list of the things which make Shiva happy. These are, chanting of Mula mantra and Mahamrutyunjaya mantra; performing Abhishek (spiritual baths to him) by offering Bilva patra leaves (bel leaves), Rudraksha leaves, Dhotara flower and leaves.
Mainly water, milk, Panchamruta (combination of five nectars, Sugar, curd, honey, milk and Ghee) etc are used regularly for spiritual bath also known as Abhisheka or holy bath (Snan).Apart from these, some of the other common items used for Shiva Abhisheka are curd, cow milk, honey, tender coconut water, vibhuti (holey ash), panchamruta, bananas, sandalwood paste, ghee and haldi (turmeric powder)
In many temples, one finds a vessel hung over the Linga, called dhaarapaathra, continuously dripping water or water and milk onto the Linga in deference to Shiva’s desire for Abhisheka.
Bilva Patra offerings to Shiva
Another offering which is specially suggested for Shiva is Bilva patra, leaf of Bilva. Bilva is very auspicious tree which is mentioned in Atharvaveda, Iatareya Brahman and Shatapatha Brahman.
It is believed that the Bilva tree was created by Lord Brahma. However, the tree originated from the right hand of Lakshmi due to her long penance.
There is a legend which talks about the origin of this tree. Lakshmi used to offer 1000 lotuses to Lord Shiva on every puja. Once, two lotuses went missing from those thousand ones. At the time of worship when Lakshmi became extremely worried, Lord Vishnu said that Lakshmi’s two breasts are as pious and auspicious as lotus and that she can offer those to Shiva. Then she cut off her breasts and offered them to Shiva. Shiva was pleased by her devotion and blessed her that, now onwards her breasts will be there on the Bilva tree as fruits.
The triangular leaves or 3 leaflets of the Bilva tree are offered to Shiva as they are very dear to him. Bilva tree is considered as the form of Shiva. It is also said that the worship of Shiva which is done without offering Bilva leaf is fruitless.
How to select a good Bilva Patra?
While selecting Bilva leaves make sure the Chakra and the Bajra are not present on them. The Chakra is a white mark made by insects on the Bilva leaves, while the Bajra is the thick portion towards the stalk. The Bilva leaves used in pooja should be of 3 leaflets even if one of the leaves gets detached of three leaves then it is of no use.
1. LORD SHIVA IS TRADITIONALLY OFFERED BEL (BILVA) LEAVES DURING WORSHIP
Bel (Bilva) leaves, which are of Tri-foliate form, are placed on Shiva Lingam along with Shiva Mantras by the priests in Shiva temples during the month of Shravan. Bel Tree is a sacred tree having sacrificial importance .Its trifoliate leaf is symbolic of Trikaal or the Hindu Trinity of Devas namely Brahma Vishnu and Shiva .This tree is also called Wood apple and its botanical name is Aegle marmilos. Why is this leaf so sacred to Lord Shiva especially during Shravan month?
2. WHY ARE THE BEL LEAVES SO IMPORTANT FOR WORSHIPPING LORD SHIVA ?
Bel leaves are important as their trifoliate shape signifies Shiva’s three eyes as well as the three spokes of the lords Trishul .Since they have a cooling effect, they are offered to the Shivalinga to soothe this hot-tempered deity. Those who perform the puja of Shiva and Parvati devoutly, using the leaves, may be endowed with spiritual powers. Even a fallen bel is never used as firewood, for fear of arousing Shiva’s wrath. Its wood is used only in sacrificial fires.
3. THE TRIFOILATE BEL LEAF SIGNIFY LORD SHIVAS THREE EYES
In a battle with Devtas ,Tarakasur the demon gathered the most destructive things in the Universe and made a weapon to destroy the earth and to prevent Lord Shiva to establish the 51 Shakti-peeths formed out of the limbs of Sati fallen on Earth and prevent the Devtas getting power .Lord Shiva absorbed the weapon in his body .it formed the third eye ,the eye of destruction .It is opened by Lord Shiva only when he wants to totally destroy anybody .Some believe that the third eye signifies wisdom and is source of his untamed energy.
4. THE TRIFOILATE BEL LEAF ALSO SIGNIFY THE THREE GUNAS
The three segments of Bel leaf symbolically represents the three Gunas i.e. Tamas (physical body), Rajas (emotions) and satvic (intellect). The proportion of satvic component is more, hence the bel leaf has more capacity to absorb and emit satvic frequencies. If one uses these three i.e. physical, mental and intellectual in a balanced manner, the self or the soul attains liberation i.e. Moksha. Tridosh shanti …Adhi-Bhotik, Adhi -Atmic and Adhi- Devic .
5. THE SATVIC EFFECTS OF THE BEL LEAVES ARE THOUGHT TO BE AMAZING
It is believed that they reduce the raja-tama particles present in the atmosphere When the bel leaves are brought in proximity of a person suffering from negative energy like anger and destruction then the black energy present within him is reduced by the attraction of un manifest and manifest divine frequencies of chaitanya of Shiva form emitted from bel leafs in the form of circles which disintegrate the black energy thus reducing the negativity.
6. PURANIC LEGENDS CONNECTING BEL LEAVES WITH LORD SHIVA
According to the Agni Purana, on any auspicious day in Bhadra, Shiva should be worshipped with a daylong fast and the eating of bel leaves at night The Padma Purana and the Brahma Purana say that Shiva once hid in the bel to escape conquering demons .The Skanda Purana holds that the bel grew from Parvati’s perspiration, which fell to the ground while she performed penance. It also says that the various incarnations of Parvati reside in each part of the tree.
7. PURANIC LEGENDS CONNECTING BEL TREE AND FRUITS WITH LORD SHIVA
Brihaddharma Purana says Lakshmi prayed to Shiva every day and offered him 10,000 lotus buds. One day she fell short by two buds. Remembering that Vishnu had compared her breasts to lotus buds, she cut one off and offered it humbly. Before she could cut the other, Shiva, pleased with her, stopped her. Her cut breast became the fruit of the bel.Bhavishya Purana says after the samudra manthan, Lakshmi, emerged from the ocean on the ninth day of Bhadra and rested on the bel tree, so the bel is worshipped every year on that day.
8. THIS LEGEND OF DEVOTION TO SHIVA IS RECITED ON EVERY MAHASHIVRATRI
One night Lord Shiva’s devotee, a hunter, lost his way in the forest. While wandering at night, he heard a tiger growl. Frightened he scurried up the nearest tree that was a Bel tree. He spent the night up there, out of the reach of tigers. To keep himself awake, he kept plucking and dropping Bel leaves while chanting the name of Lord Shiva. The next morning, when he climbed down, he had unknowingly dropped thousands of leaves on a Shiva linga. The night-long worship pleased Lord Shiva who saved him from the tiger.
9. THE BILVASHAKTAM MANTRA IS CHANTED WHEN OFFERING BILVA LEAVES
Lakshmyaascha stana utpannam Mahaadeva sadaa priyam, Bilva vriksham prayachchhaami eka bilvam Shivaarpanam.Darshanam bilva vrikshasya sparshanam paapanaashanam, Aghorapaapasamhaaram eka bilvam shivarpanam.
The translation: Born from the heart of Goddess Lakshmi, the Bilva tree is ever dear to Mahadeva. So I ask this tree to offer one Bilva leaf to Lord Shiva. Even if one sees the Bilva tree, and touches it, he is surely freed from sin. The most terrible karma is destroyed when a Bilva leaf is offered to Lord Shiva.
10. GODDESSES LIVING ON THE BEL TREE
Skanda Purana narrates that one day while Parvati was resting some drops of sweat fell from her forehead on the mountain Mandara, from which grew the bel tree. Girija lives on the root, Maheswari on its shoulder, Dukshayani on its branches, Parvati among its leaves, Katyayani in its fruit, Gaori in its flowers while in thorns the numerous Saktis find a home. Lakshmi the Goddess of Wealth also lives in the bel tree.
11. MEDICINAL VALUE OF BEL TREE
Its roots ,fruits and leafs have been used from times immemorial in traditional systems of medicine particularly in Ayurveda .They are known to relieve diarrhea ,dysentery ,constipation ,peptic ulcer and respiratory infections .they are anti diabetic ,anti microbial ,anti inflammatory ,antipyretic ,analgesic ,cardio protective ,anti spermogenic ,aphrodisiac, anti cancer and radio protective . It is taken in the form of drink made from the fruit ( bel sharbat) chewing of leaves and powdered roots ,Patent medicines are also available .
12. SHOULD YOU PLANT A BEL TREE IN YOUR COMPOUND?
As the shade of this tree should not fall on the building and the people should never rest under the shade of these trees, Bel trees should not be planted in the open space surrounding the building as per Vastu Shastra. Except Neem most other trees including Bel emit carbon dioxide at night. Carbon dioxide is harmful to the human being .It is advised that they be planted on roadsides.
13. OM NAMAH SHIVAYA
Om Namah Shivaaya Shivaaya namaha, Shivaaya namah om Shivaaya namaha, namaha Shivaaya Shambhu Shankara namah Shivaaya, Girijaa Shankara namah Shivaaya Arunaachala Shiva namah Shivaaya