Genus: Aegle marmelos
Common name: Wood apple / Bael / Bengal Quince / Golden Apple / Stone Apple / Japanese bitter orange / Bilwa
I had my first sip of the Bael Sherbet in New Delhi, on a hot afternoon when the server suggested I try it out. It was one of the most gratifying drinks I have ever had in my life.
The wood apple is a fleshy, seed filled fruit which has a very hard outer covering and needs to be broken with the help of a hammer. The fruit can be eaten fresh or dried and its juice can be strained out to make a lemonade like drink which is beneficial in cooling one down in the harsh summer heat.
The fruit is also called Shriphala which means the fruit of Shri. Shri is another name for Goddess laxmi who is the consort of Lord Vishnu.
Wood apple tree is considered a sacred tree in the devotion of Lord Shiva and wet leaves are offered in the worship of Lord Shiva. The belief is that if one offers the leaves with a pure and dedicated mind to Lord Shiva, all their negative energies are drained out.
One can keep the leaves of the tree around one’s workplace to cleanse it of negative forces. This is because the leaves emit positive energy and absorb negative one. I guess that’s why I see scores of people plucking them daily in the park.
It is said that the Belpatra or the three forked leaves of the wood apple tree represent the three universal gunas – Sattawa, Rajas and Tamas. Some say the trifoliate leaves represent the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh or simply also the trident of Lord Shiva. It is also said to represent the three eyes of Lord Shiva.
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One finds this tree planted near most temples of Shiva’s consort Parvati. Some legends claim that the Bael tree originated from the drops of sweat that fell from the brow of Goddess Parvati on Mt. Mandara. Another legend claims that Goddess Parvati used to offer 1000 lotus buds in her devotion to Shiva. One day she fell short of 2 buds. Remembering that Lord Shiva had compared her breasts to buds, she decided to cut and offer those. As soon as she cut one off, Lord Shiva appeared before her and pleased with her devotion, turned her cut breast into Bael fruit.
Its said that Shiva is very fond of the leaves of this tree as Goddess Parvati resides in this form in them. In fact its said that all her forms are represented in all parts of the tree.
- Girija in the roots
- Maheshwari in its trunk
- Dakshayani in its branches
- Parvati in its leaves
- Katyayani in its fruit
- Gauri in its flowers
In the Newar community of Nepal there is a very interesting custom surrounding the Bael tree. Young girls are said to be married off to the Bael fruit and this way a girl is never considered a widow (even if her husband dies) for she is forever married to Lord Kumar who is the son of Lord Shiva.
The tree has huge medicial properties and every part of the tree- from the root, leaf, fruit, seed and trunk are used to cure several human ailments.
I bet you didn’t every guess how sacred a tree can be to a deity? I was totally blown away by the connection with Lord Shiva and the wood apple tree. Wonder how you felt? Have you ever seen this tree or had the juice of its fruit?
Thursday Tree Love is a fabulous tree hop by the lovely Parul K Thakur who opens the blog hop every 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month. So if you have a gorgeous tree to share with us, please link up on her post.
Meantime you can have a look at the tree I shared last fortnight here