It is said that one mustn’t place a broken or deformed Bilva Patra (Aegle Marmelos) as an offering upon the Shivling.
It is not that by offering a broken leaf or deformed leaf one may incur wrath of Shivji – that’s a total misconception. Shiva is beyond annoyance towards anyone with a heart filled with devotion – whether one makes an offering or not.
The shape of the Bilva Patra (also known as Bel leaf or Bael Leaf) is tri sected or Trifoliate and it somewhat resembles the Trishul (The trident held by Shiva) which is known to be Shiva’s chosen weapon.
It is believed by devotees that The bilva Patra is Shiv Bhagwan’s favorite leaf hence they place these as offerings just as one would do with any manifestation of Bhagwan.
As per Hindu scriptures such as Vedas and Puranas The Bilva Patra has immense significance in Puja Rituals. The Trifoliate Leaf signifies the Holy Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Hence by taking back such a leaf as prasad after the puja one is comforted by the idea that the blessings are carried back home from the Hoy Trinity and absorbed Shiva Energy from the Shivling. Many people place this absorbed leaf in their drawers or between books.
The Rig Veda mentions that the Bael Leaf is symbolic of Shiva’s three Eyes. Hence to invoke the blessings of the Third Eye the trifoliate leaf is considered auspicious. While the leaf segments on the left and right are taken as the two eyes the middle segment (which is usually bigger or more prominent) is considered to be the third eye. All Shiva devotees are well aware of the significance of the Third Eye.
To further add to the auspiciousness of the Bilva Patra – most devotees look at it as a sembelance of the holiest of holy Hindu Symbols the Aum
Referring back to the topic – A broken leaf would signify a missing Divine entity or an incomplete Trident hence people refrain from placing that as an offering. After all, for the best Entity – only the best must be offered in devotion.
The Bael Leaf is also important for it’s medicinal values as is the entire Wood Apple plant. The Bael fruits, leaves as well as roots are all therupaetic for various ailments but we are focusing on the spiritual aspect of the leaves in particular. It is also believed that sometimes one may come across a four segmented or four leaved Bilva patra and only the chosen ones are able to find these. In this case, offering such a leaf is extremely auspicious as the fourth segment symbolises the path to Eternity.
There is yet another significance of this leaf in an ayurvedic aspect. The three segments are linked to the breathing in and out of the air having touched through the three nadis – Ida, Pingla and Sushumna – creating a balance in our bodies.
In my own search at finding answers I have learnt this much. As I understand more about this, I might write further on the topic in coming times.
Picture Credits : Pandit Ketan @Shree Ram mandir, Nairobi.