Today we are going to speak about a herb that is considered an auspicious herb and is used in the worship of Lord Shiva. We are of course talking about Vilwa or Bael, Aegle marmalos, also called the Golden Apple or Bengal Quince. Vilwa is a tree native to India, Nepal and Myanmar. It is also present via naturalisation in countries like Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
Like the south Indian soapberry which is called Sapindus trifoliatus due to its tri fruit arrangement, the Vilwa has trifoliate leaf arrangement with each leaf having 3 distinct leaflets. The Vilwa is a true Indian native, tolerant of a wide range of temperatures and can grow in a wide range of soil pHs and in unusually cold or unusually warm climates.
Religious, spiritual and cultural significance of Vilwa:
The Vilwa’s trifoliate leaf arrangement is of great significance in Hinduism. On one level the 3 leaflets signify the trinity of Brahmi, Vishnu and Maheshwara. On another level, the trifoliate leaflets also signify the 3 eyes of Shiva and point to an unusually awakened and spiritually charged plant.
The Skanda Purana says that the Vilwa tree grew from the sweat of Goddess Parvati, so she is set to reside in her different avatars in various parts of the tree – for example, the branches of Vilwa are said to be Dakshayani, the Vilwa fruit is Goddess Katyayani and Goddess Gauri, its flowers.
Apart from literally embodying the Shaktis, the Vilwa tree is also supposed to be auspicious to Goddess Lakshmi. So culturally, it is considered good form to do a circumambulation of a Vilwa tree for good luck before starting any new venture – especially if the Vilwa tree is the Sthala Vriksha of a temple.
The leaves of Vilwa are considered unusually spiritually charged in Hinduism and is said to reverberate with sattvic energy. Many forms of Shiva which are worshipped for health and well being use Vilwa leaf in their spiritual practice.
For example: the temple of Lord Marundeeswarara in Chennai is said to be the place where Lord Shiva initiated Acharya Agastya into Siddha medicine. Here the Prasad of Lord Shiva, his sacred Ash (vibuthi) is given to devotees in Vilwa patra (Vilwa leaf) which has been sanctified by placing it on the Shiva linga in the temple. This Vilwa leaf is said to be miraculous in curing disease and promoting well being.
The Vilwa tree is so sacred that the Atharva Veda says that it is a great sin to burn and use Vilwa wood for fuel or cooking. Even today some of the Santhal sub tribes worship the Vilwa tree as a totemic deity.
Vilwa’s Ayurvedic properties:
Vilwa is an extremely important herb in Ayurveda. Acharya Charaka describes Vilwa as a Shothahara (anti inflammatory), Arshoghna (useful in treatment of haemorrhoids). Vilwa balances both excess Kapha and excess Vata, removes Ama or undigested waste in the body
Vilwa leaf is used in gastritis, lack of appetite and to cure colds and sinusitis. The leaf is an excellent external poultice for the eyes (when cleaned well0. The leaf is also used internally to cure pitta based complaints like ulcer, hypertension, jaundice, headache and other pitta aggravations.
Vilwa fruit is very commonly used in Ayurveda. The unripe fruit is intense, stimulates digestion and balances vata and kapha. It is used in acute diarrhoea and also helps in ulcerative colitis.
The ripe fruit is very heavy to digest and may disturb the doshas if taken without supervision.
Vilwa in Krya:
At Krya, we often use certain herbs across all our products for their high sattvic effect and general auspiciousness. For example, Amla is usually added to every single Krya product because of its rasayana nature and also because it is a highly spiritually charged fruit. Similarly Vilwa is another such herb.
Vilwa goes into Krya’s classic and Anti acne skin formulations for its anti inflammatory, dosha balancing and astringent and cooling effect on skin. The addition of this very valuable herb helps our Classic and Anti Acne range work on imbalanced pitta, cool and soothe the skin, help in toxin elimination in the skin and also help shrink size of the acne on skin.Besides its very obvious health benefits, Vilwa, we believe, helps charge our products with high spiritual energy.
So there you have it: that’s a brief glimpse into the properties of Aegle marmelos / Vilwa / Bael which goes many of Krya’s skin care products meant for pitta prakriti skin. As we have said before, Ayurvedic herbs are potent and strong, and must always be tailor made using the right anupana to suit your constitution. Do not attempt to self medicate. If you feel Vilwa could help you, please meet an Ayurvedic Vaidya who can diagnose your condition and prescribe Vilwa in the right dose and right format for you.
We do herb related posts at Krya to give you a glimpse into just how potent, powerful and good for us the plants used in Ayurveda are. We hope you found this post inspiring and useful. Do leave your thoughts and comments on this post below. If you would like us to write about a specific herb next Thursday, do leave that in your comments as well.