आदित्यवर्णेतपसोधिजात: वनस्पति: तव वव्रिक्शोथ बिल्व​:

aadityavarnetapasodhijataha vanaspati tava vrikhsoth bilwahaa (Bel/Bilwa)

vanaspati : the one who gives fruit without flowers (Manusmriti chap 1 verse 47)

अपुषपा फलन्वितो ये ते वनस्पतय स्मृता

apushpa falanato ye te vanaspatayaa smrita

vriksha(Tree) : which gives flower as well as fruit

पुषपिण: फलिनशचैव व्रुक्शास्तुभयत: स्म्रुता:

pushpinaa falinashiva vrikshastubhayatahaa smrita

How is it possible that the bilwa vriksha is a vanaspati(Plant/Vegetation) as well as a vriksha (Tree)?

  • This seems like more of a Sanskrit question than a Hinduism question. In any case, I think that Bilva is just called a Vriksha or tree because it looks like a tree, even though it doesn't technically satisfy the definition of a tree in Sanskrit. So it's being identified a Vriksha on the basis of its appearance and a Vanaspati on the basis of its actual characteristics. – Keshav Srinivasan Mar 31 '15 at 20:29
  • At your request, I'm closing your question, since it's not so much a Hinduism question as a Sanskrit question. – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 1 '15 at 8:11

Here is Desiraju Hanumanta Rao's word-for-word translation of this Sri Suktam verse:

AdityavarNe tapaso.adhijAto vanaspatistava vR^ikSo.atha bilvaH |

tasya phalAni tapasAnudantumAyAntarAyAshcha bAhyA alakSmIH || 6

hè Aditya varNe= oh, in sun's splendour, glittering forth - oh, one dazzling in the cerise splendour of rising sun;

tava tapasaH adhijAtaH= by your, hermitic austerities, those that are born; such as;

vanaspatiH= plants, herbs, trees - that give fruits without flower-bearing - [here bilva tree yielding auspicious bilva fruits;

atha= here atha is shubhakara vAchaka, shubhAkshara - those that are auspicious;

bilvaH vR^ikSaH [asti] = bilva, trees [are there, isn't it];

tasya phalAni= its, fruits - bilva fruit of bilva tree;

tapasA= [by the power of your] hermitic austerities;

mA= in my respect - those [a+laskhmi-s] that are available in me;

yA antarA= those, that are inside;

yAH cha bAhyA= those, or else, that are peripheral on my body;

a+lakSmIH= those penuries;

nudantu = cast aside - let those fruits of bilva cast out miseries available either inside or outside of my being.

"Oh, shrI-devi, floridly splendorous like rising Sun, there emerged a vanaspati called bilva tree, for the sake of your undertaking hermetic practises under its shade, isn't it. Let those auspicious bilva fruits cast out penuries available either inside or outside of my being, for they are ripened with the radiance of your austerities... "; such as it is, oh, jAtaveda, this prayer of mine may please be communicated to that numen of plenitude, namely shrI... [6]

bilva fruits have emerged as j~nAna phalA-s of pArameshvara j~nAnam, where parameshvara is j~nAnamayam where His knowledge itself is tapas - yasya j~nAnamayam tapaH. Hence bilva fruits are called as shrI phala, and trees as shrI vR^iksha-s, and held auspicious. Because those trees have emerged from no les than parameshvara - sA hi sR^IramR^itA - goddess lakshmi chose them for her austerities. Those fruits are chitta doSha hara, remove mental imbalances to madness; shArIra doSha hara, remove bodily problems from skin allergies to leprosy, and they are j~nAna-pradA-s, yielding intellect, thus enabling internal and external plenitude of health. Hence this prayer is for well-being, through bilva media, for their cChAya, dala, phala-s - shade, leaves, and fruits are lively - shrI yukta.

As I said, I think the term "Bilva Vriksha" is just a common appellation for Bilva, because it looks like a tree (Vriksha), even if it doesn't technically meet the Sanskrit definition of Vriksha. So it is called Vriksha by virtue of its appearance, and Vanaspati by virtue of its actual characteristics.

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