|Species:|| A. marmelos|
| Aegle marmelos|
Bael is indigenous to dry forests on hills and plains of central and southern India, southern Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. It is cultivated throughout India, as well as in Sri Lanka, northern Malay Peninsula, Java in the Philippines and Fiji Islands
Alternative names Edit
It is also popularly known as Vilam Palam (tamil விளாம் பழம்),Bilva, Bilwa, Bel, Kuvalam, Koovalam, Madtoum, or Beli fruit, Bengal quince, stone apple,Maredu (in Telugu), and wood apple. The tree, which is the only species in the genus.
Aegle, grows up to 18 meters tall and bears thorns and fragrant flowers. It has a woody-skinned, smooth fruit 5-15 cm in diameter. The skin of some forms of the fruit is so hard it must be cracked open with a hammer. It has numerous seeds, which are densely covered with fibrous hairs and are embedded in a thick, gluey, aromatic pulp.
The fruit is eaten fresh or dried. If fresh, the juice is strained and sweetened to make a drink similar to lemonade, and is also used in making sharbat, a refreshing drink where the pulp is mixed with lime juice. If the fruit is to be dried, it is usually sliced first and left to dry by the heat of the sun. The hard leathery slices are then placed in a pan with several litres of water which is then boiled and simmered. As for other parts of the plant, the leaves and small shoots are eaten as salad greens.
The Tamil Siddhars used koovilam (Tamil:கூவிளம், as Aegle Marmelos is called for many purposes. The leaves are used to cure sinusitis, dyspepsia and anorexia. A confection ("iLakam" in Tamil)(Tamil:இளகம் made of this fruit is used to cure tuberculosis, loss of appetite, emaciation etc. There are several such pharmacopoeia in Siddha medicine. 
Use in religious rituals Edit
The fruit is also used in religious rituals and as a ayurvedic remedy for such ailments as diarrhea, dysentery, intestinal parasites, dryness of the eyes, and the common cold. It is a very powerful antidote for chronic constipation.
In Hinduism, Bel(Bilwa) tree is very sacred. It is used in worshipping of God Shiva. Hindus believe that God Shiva will be pleased with Bilwa Pattra Puja. The importance of this tree in worshipping of Shiva is mentioned in several sacred books.
Further reading Edit
- Bael Fruit entry in Fruits of Warm Climates by J. F. Morton
- "Bael Fruit". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.
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