Lord Shiva is the All- Compassionate Hindu God, who swallowed the deadly poison ‘halahala’ to save the world from annihilation.
It is told, by munis (wise men) and sages, that when creation was complete, Lord Shiva and His Consort, Goddess Parvati went to live on the top of the Kailash Mountain in the Himalayas. Parvati Devi, one day, asked Lord Shiva-
“O Lord! Which of the many rituals observed by your devotees please you most?”
Lord Shiva replied-
“The fourteenth night of the new moon in the dark fortnight, during the month of Phalgun, is My Favorite Day. It is called Shivratri. My devotees give me greater happiness by fasting rather than ceremonial offerings of flowers, sweets and incense. They observe strict spiritual discipline in the day and worship me in four different forms during each of the four successive three-hour periods of the night. The offering of a few bael leaves is more precious to me than the most fragrant flower and the most expensive jewel. They bathe me in milk in the first period, in curd in the second, in clarified butter in the third and in honey, in the fourth and last period. In the morning, after the prescribed ceremonies, they break the fast. No ritual can compare with this simple routine in sanctity.”
It is interesting to note that the bael leaf that we offer in the ceremonial rituals to Lord Shiva is considered sacred as the bael tree grows near the Shiva temple and the leaf has the particularity of blossoming in the shape of a trishul- three small leaves in a tiny twig, one in the middle and, one on each side.