Bel Patra-A deeply revered leaf

Dr. Vikas Sharma, Arvind Badyal
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. One who offers a trifoliate bel patra to the Shivlinga with devotion, Lord Shiva blesses him/her with whatever he/she desires. Since every part of Bel tree is said to contain goddess Parvati, it is considered the ideal tree to worship lord Shiva. It is said that even if one touches the Bel patra, he/she is freed from all negativity, sins and ailments.
We, the Hindus, worship different forms of god, goddesses, 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 them. Among all these ‘Bilwa Patra’ is the one we offer to Lord Shiva. It 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 known as the destroyer of the world, is omnipotent and omnipresent. Shiva is said to have eight forms which are known as Ashtamurthi.
These eight forms of Shiva are: Sharva, Bhava, Rudra, Ugra, Bhima, Pashupati, Ishana and Mahadeva are said to be the earth, water, fire, wind, sky, yogi, sun and moon respectively.
There are many stories prevalent on this subject. But one story tells more about its importance which is very ancient. That story is the story of the “Samundar Manthan”. When both the gods and the demons churned the seas, many things came out during the churning, one of them was halal poison. This poison was such that poison could spread in the whole world, so Lord Shiva drank this poison for the welfare of the world and took it in his throat, due to which Lord Shiva is called Neelkanth. The effect of this poison was so terrible that Lord Shiva’s brain became warm and Lord Shiva became restless. Then the gods affected the water on Lord Shiva’s head. The coolness of the water provided relief to the brain, but the burning of the throat did not subside. Then the gods fed the leaves of Belpatra to Lord Shiva, because Belpatra has properties to reduce the effect of poison. Therefore, Belpatra leaf has special importance in the worship of Shiva
Shiva Purana regards this leaf as one of the six divine articles that are used to worship lord Shiva. It is also used in the worship of many Hindu deities. Even a fallen bel is never used as firewood, for fear of arousing Shiva’s wrath. Its wood is used only in sacrificial fires.
In the Hindu religion, Bel tree and Bel leaves are considered sacred and holy. It is believed that the leaves of this tree that are divided into three leaflets and as per Hindu mythology, the leaf also represents Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. To add to all the symbolism of the revered Bel leaf, it is known to be Lord Shiva’s favourite. According to ancient Hindu scriptures, the Bel tree emerged from sweat drops of Goddess Parvati, Lord Shiva’s wife. The Skanda Purana mentions that sweat droplets from the Goddess’ forehead fell on the Mandrachal mountain and a tree emerged. She named the tree Bilva and it is believed that she resides in all forms, in the tree. The Hindu scriptures have listed down several properties of the Bel leaf. The three shape leaf signifies three components named Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. While Sattva brings positive energy, Tamas is the negative force. The centre portion of the leaf is concentrated and said to balance the three. 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. In other words, 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.
Bael is believed to be a sacred plant which brings wellness and good luck to home. Placing bael plant in leaving room near a window, brings prosperity and stability. Planting these trees around home or temple is sanctifying and is equivalent to worshiping a Linga with bilva leaves and water. Bael, is one of the medicinally treasured tree species and is also known as begal-quince, golden apple and stone apple in India and a sacred tree in places where Hindus lives. Bael trees are usually planted near temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and routinely worshiped by the devotees. Bael is one of the most appreciated plants used in ayurvedic medicine by the Indian and other South Asian inhabitants in ancient history. According to the historical records, bael is used as a medicinal and food item since 5000 B.C. and known to human beings even when writing the famous Sanskrit epic-poem Ramayana. Bael mentioned in the renowned book Charaka Samhita, a comprehensive compilation of all the essential ayurvedic information, which identified bael as a necessary item in ayurvedic medicine. It holds much significance in Ayurveda due to its wide range of benefits. Bel leaves are naturally antibiotic and antifungal, which is beneficial for health. The extract of Bel leaf can control cholesterol levels in the blood. The juice called Bel sherbet is also made from the tree’s fruit which holds high medicinal values.
(The authors are from Division of Biochemistry, SKUAST-J)