Once upon a time in varanasi there lived a hunter named Suswara.He lived with his wife and child in a small hut.One particular day,hunter wandered all over the jungle whole day and at night forget his way back home.Due to fear of wild animals at night time he climbed a tree to safeguard himself.
He could not sleep the whole night due to fear of wild animals so he spent whole night plucking leaves from the tree he was sitting and dropping them on the ground.The tree he was sitting was of bela and another unknown fact to him was there existed a shivalinga just beneath the branch he was sitting.So unknowingly he was offering bela to shivalinga.That night happened to be Shivaratri so the hunter had unknowingly kept a night long vigil and worshipped Shiva.
The story above has different versions and is told differently in different places but today let’s try to understand what the story may symbolise.
Various wild animals live in the jungle: Here Jungle represents human mind and wild animals in jungle resemble negativities like lust,anger,greed,infatuation,jealousy and hatred which keep wandering in our mind.
Suswara(name of hunter): Suswara means “one melodious voice”.This may indicate purity of intent and speech which is actually outcome of mental purity.
Varanasi(the origin place of hunter): Vara refers to the forehead while nasi means the nose.The point where both meet is Varanasi i.e the point midway between eyebrows.This point is called ‘aagya chakra’ which is regarded as a nexus of the three nadis: ida, pingala and sushumna.A spiritual aspirant who concentrates his or her mind on this point gains concentration and gradual control over his senses. The killing of the animals thus indicates control over one’s vasanas [latent tendencies].
Bela tree: Bela tree resembles spinal column.The tree’s leaves are special:each stalk has three leaflets.The three leaflets represent three nadis mentioned above.The climbing of the tree represents the ascent of the kundalini shakti from the muladhara to the aagya chakra.
Awake whole night: Keeping awake is symbolic of the kind of awareness and oneness of purpose that a spiritual aspirant needs to reach the goal. He cannot afford to be slack even for a moment.
Shiva: Shiva is the Supreme Consciousness that illuminates the three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep. Offering the threefold bilva leaves to the Shivalinga heralds the return to a level of consciousness beyond the three states, which is the fourth state, turiya. The dawning of that state is consonant with the awakening of the individual.
(special note, bela tree mentioned in the story is scientifically named as Aegle Mermelos)