Sacred Symbols – The Sacred Betel Leaf

Pan plays a very prominent role in socio-religious life of Hindus. There can be no auspicious occasion without pan. From a marriage song of eastern India it is gathered that the birth-place of pan is the Himalayas. It is said that Shiva and Parvati had sown the seeds of Pan. In April-May this sacred betel leaf is worshipped by the Barui, a group of pan cultivators of Bengal.

In a marriage ceremony a ritual called Bnddhi-Sraddha is performed where the bridegroom accepts the bride in name of departed souls of their ancestors. At this point, in the ancestral worship, thirty-two pan or betel leaves are required.

According to S. Sengupta, an authority on sacred trees, “Betel leaf is considered sacramental in Hindu religion. Its different positions stand for different symbols and it is said to be the seat of Goddess Lakshmi, i.e., Goddess of Wealth. It is said in Rajnirgha, that the very tip of the leaf stands for longevity, and basal portion is for fame, and the middle portion is the seat of Goddess Lakshmi. So chewing the middle portion (of pan) is a taboo to the Hindus.” Furthermore, ancient scriptures opine that pan or betel leaf in creases passion, sweetens the breath, and cures diseases of mouth.

According to Ayurvedic science, the betel leaf is very useful in cure of diseases which are caused by air, bile and phlegm. Vaidyas or physicians state that its juice is very helpful in curing various diseases. It is said that if it is fixed on the forehead it cures headache. The heated pan-juice, if poured in the infected ear, prevents pus formation. Pan is good for cure of cough, cold, etc. Thus Pan has become a part of Hindu life and remains a symbol of spiritual veneration as well.

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