What is Rudraksha?

The word ‘Rudraksha’ holds deep significance in the Hindu mythology. The etymological beginnings lay in two Sanskrit wordsRudra’ which stands for the Hindu Lord Shiva and ‘Aksha’ which means teardrop. As a legend goes, once Lord Shiva undertook a prolonged meditation for the betterment of all living creatures. On waking up, he opened his eyes. This is when a few teardrops of his fell on earth and it is these tear drops which served as seeds for the Rudraksha tree. The dry seed-capsules of the Rudraksha tree form the Rudraksha beads. The term Rudraksha is used to signify both the tree and the beads as the Sanskrit word ‘Rudraksham’ means the fruit as well as the tree.


RudrakshaThe evergreen Rudraksha tree grows fast and is found in hilly areas. It is found in areas from the Gangetic Plain in the Himalayan foothills up till South-East Asia. It is also found in Indonesia, New Guinea to Australia, Guam, and Hawaii. They are also called blueberry beads. The tree starts bearing fruit in three to four years.



There are differences in the number of grooves on the surface of the seeds on the basis of which the classification of the seeds are made. Generally, Rudraksha seeds have five divisions. These are thought to be representative of the five faces of Lord Shiva. The ‘mala’ is strung with a red string or attached as a pendant to a gold chain.


There is some difference of opinion as to how many kinds of Rudraksha exist. According to the Purana, there are fourteen kinds of Rudraksha. These are called Mukhi or faceted Rudraksha. The faces of the Rudraksha are the lines found on the surface of the beads which go from it’s top to the bottom. As mentioned above, it is the number of lines which is the decisive factor when it comes to the classification of Rudraksha into different kinds. There is mention of even 21 Mukhi Rudraksha in other religious scriptures written by other saints.



Rudraksha mala‘Malas’ or necklaces are made from Rudraksha beads. There are 108 beads in the necklace since this number has great significance in the Hindu mythology. This ‘mala’ is used as a rosary for repetitive chanting also known as ‘japa’ in Sanskrit. It is commonly used during many of the Hindu prayer rituals. Rudraksha is also used for treatment of various diseases in traditional Indian medicine.


The use of the Rudraksha Mala as a rosary dates back to the 10th century. It was used by the Hindus as well as by the Sikhs and the Buddhists for purposes of meditation. It was considered that it sanctifies the mind, body and soul. There has been mention of the Rudraksha in many religious scriptures like Shreemaddevibhagwat, ShivmahaPurana, Padma Purana, ling Purana, Ashtamalikopnishad, Vrihajjabalopnishad,  Nirnayasindhoo, Mahakaal Sanmhita, Mantramaharnava, Rudrakshajabalopnishad, Shivaswarodaya and Sarvollastantra.


Popular images of Lord Shiva show him wearing Rudraksha malas on his head, arms and hands. This is where the religious significance of Rudraksha arose from. It is believed that the Rudraksha beads contain the secret of evolution. It has been worn by those who follow the Sanatana Dharma since these sages believe that it will lead them to true Enlightenment and Liberation. They believe that the Rudraksha beads have the power to communicate with the mind and the body thus enabling them to exercise control over their minds. This will in turn allow them meditate for longer periods of time. Some people have opined that modern medical research has come up with results that prove the electro-magnetic properties of the Rudraksha beads. This apparently has positive effects on the cardiovascular and central nervous systems of those who wear them.


According to some, the Rudraksha symbolizes the link between earth and heaven. It is believed that all sins committed by an individual who wears a Rudraksha are alleviated. In fact, the belief is so strong that those who criticized it are considered to be sinners. The Rudraksha has a high position in the Tantric faith. It is a thing of worship since it is considered to be a source of good luck, good health, prosperity, success, and financial gains and capable of eradicating all evil forces. It is also believed that the Rudraksha beads have medical uses. For example, some home remedies include the application of a paste of the Rudraksha bead with a little lemon juice on a snake bite. It is believed to give energy if dipped in bathing water.


The strong beliefs regarding the powers of the Rudraksha have evolved with time. There has also been considerable moulding of the scriptures and considerable changes have been made as mouth publicity took the role of spreading awareness regarding it’s powers.

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