Narasimhaye’s Blog

Bilva – Lord Shiva’s Tree by Swami Vibhooti Saraswati

Posted on: October 30, 2008

Bilva – Lord Shiva’s Tree

by Swami Vibhooti Saraswati

Lakshmyaascha stana utpannam Mahaadeva sadaa priyam,
Bilva vriksham prayachchhaami eka bilvam Shivaarpanam.
Darshanam bilva vrikshasya sparshanam paapanaashanam,
Aghorapaapasamhaaram eka bilvam shivarpanam.

Born from the breasts of Goddess Lakshmi, the Bilva tree is ever
 dear to Mahadeva. So I ask this tree to offer a Bilva leaf to Lord
Shiva. To have darshan of the Bilva tree, and to touch it, frees
one from sin. The most terrible karma is destroyed when a Bilva
leaf is offered to Lord Shiva.
Sri Bilva Shtakam (v. 6–7)

Indians believe that the knowledge of medicinal plants is older
than history itself, that it was gifted hundreds of thousands of
years ago to the original inhabitants by Brahma, the divine creator
himself. Thus when the sages of the Ayurveda sought to heal human
suffering, they were able to draw on knowledge that had already been
evolving for millennia in the forests of India. One tree about which
they had a very deep knowledge was the Bilva tree. The science of
Ayurveda values the Bilva highly for the medicinal properties
contained in its root, fruit and leaves. According to Swami
Sivananda, it is a healing tree which cures all diseases caused
by vata (wind) and gives strength to the body.

About the Bilva tree
The Bilva tree grows in almost all parts of India, irrespective
of the nature of the soil, and is bitter, astringent and dry by
nature. Tall and austere, with a stern aspect, gnarled trunk and
sharp thorns, the Bilva is undoubtedly Lord Shiva’s tree. Shiva
is always worshipped with its leaves, and it is said that this
tree is much loved by him. It is to be found in all Shiva temples
throughout India. The Bilva is also found in Devi temples, where
it is worshipped. At midnight, on the evening before Durga and
Kali pooja (worship), a tantric ritual called Bel Varan is
performed with the appropriate mantras. A particular energy is
taken from the tree and placed in a kalash (pot). This energy
is then transferred to the statue of Durga or Kali to charge or
empower it for the coming pooja. The process is called prana 
pratishtha, the establishing of the life force in the statue.
When the pooja is over, the energy is released, a process called

The English name for Bilva is Bael, also called ‘stone apple’
as its rather large fruit is like pale yellow suns when ripe.
The Hindi appellation is Bel or Bael Sripal. In Sanskrit it is
also called Bilva or Sriphal. The botanical name for this tree
is Aegle Marmelops, and it belongs to the Rutaceae family. In
the Atharva Veda it is described as being so sacred that its
wood may not be burned for fuel. It is still worshipped today
as a totemic deity by the Santhal tribes in India.

Medicinal properties

The fruit has a hard wood-like rind, which is pale green when
unripe, turning pale yellow to brown as it ripens. Its pale tawny
flesh is sweet and astringent, containing tannin, which acts as
an astringent to the bowels. It has a pleasant, agreeable and
aromatic flavour, and provides an excellent dietary supplement.
This fruit contains gums, vegetable acid and a very small quantity
of sugar. It also contains white seeds and a tenacious transparent
gel. The pulp of the dried Bilva fruit, powdered and mixed with
arrowroot, is called ‘dietetic Bel’. It is both a sustaining food
and a curative medicine, and is traditionally called by Indians
‘the fruit of plenty’. Puranic legend calls it ‘the breasts of the
goddess of plenty’.

The unripe fruit is roasted with a covering of mud, and the softened
pulp mixed with water and sugar or buttermilk. It is more medicinal
than the ripe fruit, particularly if dried in the sun. According
to Swami Sivananda, “This is highly beneficial in sub-acute and
chronic dysentery or diarrhoea, and is particularly useful in
irregularity of bowels in children, because it acts as a mild
stimulant to the intestinal mucus membrane and therefore stops
diarrhoea, acting as a laxative when there is constipation.
The unripe fruit cures excess vata and kapha, indigestion,
stomach ache and dyspepsia.” A confection is made out of the
pulp with amrita and honey, which stops vomiting.

The half-ripe fruit is astringent, digestive and anti-diarrhoeal;
it binds the bowels.

The ripe fruit acts as a laxative, and is aromatic and cooling.
The juice is an appetiser and blood purifier.

The leaves
The dark trifoliate leaves symbolize the three eyes of Lord Shiva,
and contain a small percentage of Shiva’s alchemical substance –
mercury. These leaves have a very pleasant aroma, are used in the
worship of both Shiva and Devi, and form an essential ingredient
in tantric rituals. It is said that offerings of water sprinkled
on these leaves at any shrine will always remain fresh. Sri Bilva
Shtakam (v. 5) states, ‘Dantikoti sahasraani avamedhashtaani cha,
Koti kanya mahaadaanam eka bilvam Shivaarpanam’, which means
“Donating a thousand elephants, and horses, and giving daan
(offering) to crores of kanyas (virgin girls) is equivalent to
offering one Bilva leaf to Lord Shiva.”

The consumption of Bilva leaves alleviates diseases caused by
excess vata and kapha (mucus). They are also useful in diabetes
mellitus. For this a few leaves should be chewed daily and their
fresh juice drunk. They are diaphoretic (producing more
perspiration), thus reducing temperature and lowering fevers,
and an aphrodisiac. A decoction of leaves is a favourite remedy
for ailments that often occur during seasonal changes, such as
fever, flu and fatigue. There are sadhus who sustain themselves
on Bilva leaves alone. According to Swami Sivananda, “The fresh
juice of the leaves is given with the addition of black pepper
in cases of jaundice, and when diluted with water or honey, this
is highly praised remedy in catarrh and feverishness.”

The root is the most important part of the tree medicinally,
after removing the outer skin. A preparation made from the root
with ginger and toasted rice cures vomiting. For the treatment
of piles, dysentery and diarrhoea, a preparation is made from the
root mixed with the tuberous root of Padha. The oil extracted from
the Bilva root, boiled with the juice of Bilva leaves and applied
to the head is excellent for nasal catarrh and diseases of the ear.
The confection Vilvadi Lehiam is also made from this root.

The flowers cure diarrhoea, vomiting and thirst, while the gum of
the inside pulp of the fruit is an aphrodisiac (kama-vardhani).

The Bilva tree in the Shiva Purana

According to the Shiva Purana (7 AD) the Bilva tree is the manifest
form of Lord Shiva himself, while all the great tirthas (pilgrimage
places) are said to reside at its base. One who worships the
shivalingam while sitting under the Bilva, claims this great epic,
attains the state of Shiva. Washing the head by this tree is said
to be the equivalent of bathing in all the sacred rivers. One who
performs Bilva pooja with flowers and incense achieves Shiva loka,
the abode of pure consciousness, and has happiness and prosperity
bestowed upon them. The lighting of the deepak (lamp) before this
tree bestows knowledge and enables the devotee to merge in Lord
Shiva. The Shiva Purana also claims that if the devotee removes
the new leaves from one of the branches of that tree and worships
the tree with them, they will be freed from vice, while one who
feeds a devotee under the Bilva will grow in virtue. 

The hunter and the Bilva tree

The Shiva Purana also relates the following story or myth. Once
there was a cruel-hearted hunter by the name of Gurudruh who
lived in the lonely forest. On the auspicious day of Maha
Shivaratri he had to go out hunting because his family had
nothing to eat. Maha Shivaratri (the great night of Shiva) is
the most sacred time for fasts, prayers and offerings, when even
the most involuntary acts, if pleasing to Lord Shiva, are made
holy. By sunset Gurudruh had not been successful in the hunt.
Coming to a lake, he climbed a tree and waited for some
unsuspecting animal to come and drink. He did not notice that
the tree he had climbed was the Bilva tree. Neither did he notice
the shivalingam beneath it, nor the water pot hanging in the
branch just above it.

After some time a gentle deer came to quench her thirst, and
Gurudruh prepared to shoot. As he drew his bow, he accidentally
knocked the water pot hanging in the tree and some water fell
down on the shivalingam beneath, along with a few Bilva leaves.
Thus, unknowingly and unwittingly, Gurudruh had worshipped Shiva
in the first quarter of the night. As a result his heart was a
little purified by this act performed on such an auspicious night.
Meanwhile the deer, startled by the movement in the tree, looked
up and saw the hunter about to release his arrow. “Please do not
kill me just yet,” pleaded the deer. “I must first take care of
my children, and then I will return to be food for your family.
” The hunter, whose heart had been softened a little by the
accidental worship, on noticing the beauty of the deer, let her
go on condition that she would return on the morrow to give her
body as food for his family.

Later that same night, the sister of the deer came looking for
her. Once more the hunter took aim and once more, without his being
aware, the water and the Bilva leaves fell down upon the shivalingam.
Again, unknowingly, the hunter had worshipped Shiva in the second
quarter of the night. The effect of this was that Gurudruh’s heart
was further purified. His pranas softened a little more, and he
allowed this animal to also go and tend to its young, provided it
returned the next day to provide him and his family with food.

In the third quarter of the night, the mate of the first deer
came in search of her, and again the strange worship took place
as the hunter took aim for the third time. But the hunter’s heart
was beginning to melt due to the worship, and he let the deer’s
mate go also for the same reason and under the same conditions.
Later when the three deer met together, they discussed who should
go and offer themselves for the hunter’s food. Even the children
offered to give their lives. Finally the whole family decided to
surrender to the hunter together, for none of them could bear to
live without the others. Thus they set off towards the lake with
heavy hearts.

When they arrived at the Bilva tree, Gurudruh was very pleased and
relieved to see them, and he immediately prepared for the kill.
He took aim for the fourth time, but in the same accidental manner
as before, worship in the fourth quarter of the night took place
unknown to him. This final action of Gurudruh brought about a
complete change of heart and, as he was about to release the first
arrow, his heart overflowed with pity for the innocent deer. Tears
filled his eyes at the thought of all the animals he had killed in
the past, and slowly he lowered his bow. Greatly moved by the
selfless action of these animals, he felt ashamed and allowed the
whole family of deer to leave unharmed. Such is the purity and
spiritual power of the Bilva tree that, even without his knowledge
or conscious effort, the cruel-hearted hunter had been transformed
into a man of compassion and understanding, and was delivered from
his past bad karma by the grace of Shiva and the Bilva tree.

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  • Narasimhaye: If you are able to talk to your or sister and your girl cousins, you will be able to speak to any girl you like. Don't be shy. Try to be confident in
  • arjun: sir please help me I cannot talk to any girl I'm not frank and I am very afraid of doing things I think what the world will think I don't have confide
  • Narasimhaye: I meant do Puja , not pika sorry.
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