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Date: Fri Jun 23 1995 - 09:44:23 PDT
Here is a connection between Laksmi and Bilva. Verse 6 of Sri Sukta mentions the word Bilva. aditya varno tapaso dhijato vanaspatis tava vrksotha bilvah tasya phalani tapasa nudantu mayantarayas ca bahya alaksmih "(Oh Laksmi!) Whose complexion is like that of the morning sun, a vanaspati called by the name Bilva was brought forth by your devout austerity. Through your favour may the fruits of this tree drive away my misfortunes and destitution caused my internal organs (mind and intelligence) as well as those by external ones (hands, feet, mouth, ears, eyes and genital)." Bilva (aegle marmelos) is the Indian Wood Apple tree. It is commonly called the Bel tree. It's delicious fruit when unripe can be used medicinally. The leaves are used in the worship of Lord Siva, just as Tulasi is used in the worship of Lord Visnu. Mahalaksmi is installed in temples as an idol carrying a lotus in her right hand and a Bilva fruit in her left (Agni Purana, Chpt 50). According to Vamana Purana Bilva appeared in the hand of Laksmi devi. Also there is a story in Skanda Purana stating that, once Lord Visnu was worshipping Lord Siva and ran out of offerings. Laksmi devi by the power of her austerity created the Bilva tree, the leaves of which were then used by Lord Visnu to complete his worship of Lord Siva. During the life of Ramanujacharya there is a story about the controversy about Lord Venkatesvara in Tirupati. Due to the fact that Bilva leaves are also used in His worship, some people were saying that Lord Balaji must be Siva. Ramanuja argued that since Bilva is also sacred to Laskmi (not just Siva) and since Lasksmi is the eternal consort of Lord Visnu, that whatever (Bilva) was accepted by her (Laksmi) would also be, by Him (Visnu). In this regard he (Ramanuja) quoted the above mentioned verse from Sri Sukta. Bilva is also mentioned three times in the Laksmi Tantra (Pancaratra Agama). The first time in connection with doing penance under the tree. The second mentions that a Visnu temple could be constructed in a Bilva grove. And thirdly that if one performs some sort of japa on an amalaki and a bilva fruit and then throws them on the ground in front of the King's treasury, this will cause jewels, gold, precious cloth, etc, etc, to rain from the sky.