In Sanatan Vedic Dharma the tri foliate form of the Bel leaves symbolizes the Trishul (Trident).
What is Bel Patra?
The Bel fruit has a smooth, woody shell with a green, gray, or yellow peel. The shell is very hard but the fibrous yellow pulp inside is very soft and aromatic. The fruit can be eaten fresh or dried. In the Ayurveda system of medicine, Bel fruit and Bel Patra has been frequently used as therapeutic in different form and recipes.
Bel is administered for various ailments such as gastrointestinal diseases, piles, oedema, jaundice, vomiting, obesity, pediatric disorders, gynecological disorders, urinary complaints and also for rejuvenation. Research on this wonderful fruit have thrown up amazing facts, one of them being that the essential oil of the Bel tree is effective against 21 types of bacterial!
Why Bel Patra is offered to Lord Shiva?
Apart from the medicinal properties parts of Bel (fruit and leaves) have been used since millennia in performing religious rituals, especially for worshipping Lord Shiva.
It is regarded as one of the most sacred tree among the pantheon of sacred trees. In Sanatan Vedic Dharma the tri foliate form of the Bel leaves symbolizes the Trishul (Trident). It represents the three syllables of the sacred sound of AUM that is, A-Kaar, ‘U’ Kaar and the ‘M’ Kaar. It also symbolizes the three eyes of Lord Shiva.
As per Hindu mythology, the Bilva leaves or Bel Patra 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. The Shiva Purana claims that this leaf is amongst the six divine articles used to worship Lord Shiva.
According to 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.
How to choose Bel Patra?
While choosing the Bel leaves to offer on Shivling, make sure that there should not be more stripes on the Bel leaves. Many leaves of Belpatra have chakras and stripes which should not be used in worship. It is said that Belpatra containing Chakra and Vajra is considered to be fragmented.
While sorting for offering Bel leaves on Shravan Somvar, make sure that Bel leaves should not be cut or torn from anywhere. If you have not been able to collect more bel leaves, then one Belpatra can also work, but keep in mind that it should not be torn from anywhere.