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This article is about the rudraksha (or rudraksh) seed. For video, see Rudraksh (film). For the principal source of the seeds, see Elaeocarpus ganitrus
Rudraksha tree, Elaeocarpus ganitrus
Collection of five-faced rudrakshas
Rudraksh Fruits

Rudraksha, also rudraksh, Sanskrit: rudrākṣa (Sanskrit: रूद्राक्ष)("Rudra's [Shiva's] Teardrops"), is a seed traditionally used for prayer beads in Hinduism. The seed is produced by several species of large evergreen broad-leaved tree in the genus Elaeocarpus, with Elaeocarpus ganitrus being the principal species. Rudrakshas are primarily used in India as beads for organic jewellery and mala and are valued similar to semi-precious stones. As such, they are also the source of superstitious claims similar to beliefs related to magnetic or crystal bracelets, faith healing and other medical pseudoscience.


usually the beads of Rudraksha are strung together as a mālā. Traditionally, it is believed that the number of beads used should be 108 plus one. The extra bead is the "meru", bindu or "guru bead". If the mālā lacks a bindu, the energy is said to become cyclical and wearers who are sensitive may become dizzy.

When the beads are strung, it is advisable to do so with either a silk or a cotton thread. It is then advised to change the thread every six months to prevent it from snapping and the 109 beads from scattering. The Rudraksha mālā may also be strung with either copper, silver or gold, typically by a jeweler. A common issue with mālās wired with such metals is the mālā being tied too tightly. This may result in the insides of the Rudraksha seeds cracking and crumbling from excessive pressure. Thus, it is necessary to ensure that the mālā is tied loosely.

The mālā can be worn all the time, including when showering. Wearers may believe that it is beneficial to allow bath water to flow over the beads on on the body when bathing in cold water without chemical soaps. Wearing the mālā while in contact with chemical soaps and warm water is best avoided, however, as it can result in the Rudrakshas becoming brittle and eventually cracking.[1]


Rudraksha beads are believed to provide good support for those who are constantly on the move and who eat and sleep in a variety of places[citation needed]. This is because they are claimed to create a cocoon made of the wearer's own energy[citation needed]. It is said that if the situation around one is not conducive to one's kind of energy, one will experience difficulty settling down[citation needed]. This was noted as being especially difficult for sadhus and sannyasis, as they were constantly moving, and were traditionally never supposed to rest their heads in the same place twice. Likewise, the Rudraksha may be helpful for travellers and professionals who eat and sleep in a variety of places[citation needed].

Sadhus or sannyasis living in the forest would have to resort to naturally available water sources. A common belief was that, if a Rudraksha were held above the water on a string, it would turn clockwise if the water was good and drinkable. If it was unfit for consumption, it would go counter-clockwise[citation needed]. This test was also believed to be valid for other edibles[citation needed].

When worn on a mālā, Rudrakshas were also said to ward off and shield against "negative energies".


Rudraksha is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the name Rudra ("Shiva") and akṣa ("Teardrops").[2][3]

Value and Mukhi definition[edit]

Rudrakshas are valued and graded similar to ssemiprecious stones in India and the quality is judged primarily by the size, texture, color and the number of facets (or "mukhis" - naturally occurring grooves in the pod running vertically or horizontally from the stalk). Naturally occurring facets are valued higher than facets that are manually created or modified in a pod.

Most Rudrakshas have a small opening at the stalk point resulting from the extraction and cleaning process; this is sometimes further expanded by drilling, so as to allow the Rudraksha to be used for its benefits. The opening might be limited to the surface or it might be like a drill-hole.

Depending on the quantity of the grooves present on the bead, beads are named and traded in the industry. The 1-mukhi Rudraksha is one of the rarest types, whereas 5-mukhi Rudrakshas are the most commonly used and available.


Size is always measured in millimeters.

Surface Texture[edit]

A Rudraksha's surface should be hard and the projections should be well grooved, as found in most of the Nepalese Rudrakshas. Indonesian Rudraksha has a different appearance. Rudraksha from India shows very high and deeply grooved projections resembling natural deep hills and valleys.

Face appearance/Mukhi appearance[edit]

There are many examples of undeveloped, naturally joined, partially formed, or unformed faces in Rudraksha from all locations. Fully developed faces are the easiest one to count and can command greater value than their normal market standards. Undeveloped faces, joint faces, partially formed faces, and unformed faces create confusion among traders, and can actually alter the price of the Rudraksha considerably. There is not a single standard used amongst traders to describe the method of counting a Rudraksha's faces.


Sometimes an incomplete groove is completed by human process to increase the sellability of the bead or to fetch more other words, to fool the customer. Such work on grooves is done with basic tools like saw blades, files, etc. A Rudraksha face should be naturally formed not made by any human effort; if any Rudraksha has any modified faces, those faces should not "count", and the bead should be classed as Modified or Tempered Rudraksha.


Few Rudraksha are ground or sawn for proper mounting jewellery. GJSPC Laboratory considers this as worked Rudraksha. The grinding/sawing should be negligible; as long as it is, the Rudraksha should not be termed as Modified, as the grinding or drilling is not done to improve the appearance of any mukhi or face, it is just done to facilitatethe bead's usage and wearability.

Contamination and Treatment[edit]

If incorrectly maintained, Rudraksha pods are susceptible to fungal infection which can affect their integrity and value. Sellers may wrap Rudrakshas in cotton cloth to avoid surface contact and pesticides to preserve the dried pod.

Some sellers may use vegetable or mineral oils to coat and protect the surface and/or darken the colour of the pod. Many sellers include a note if explicitly using treatments that affect the color.

Description of the tree[edit]

Elaeocarpus ganitrus grows in the area from the Gangetic plain in the foothills of the Himalayas to Southeast Asia, Nepal, Indonesia, New Guinea to Australia, Guam, and Hawaii.[4] Rudraksha seeds are covered by an outer husk of blue when fully ripe, and for this reason are also known as blueberry beads. The blue colour is not derived from pigment but is structural.[5] It is an evergreen tree that grows quickly. The Rudraksha tree starts bearing fruit in three to four years from germination. As the tree matures, the roots form buttresses, rising up near the trunk and radiating out along the surface of the ground.

Spiritual use[edit]

Prayer beads made of rudraksha seeds

Rudraksha beads are the material from which mālās ([6]) are made. The term is used both for the berries themselves and as a term for the type of mālā made from them.[7] In this sense, a Rudraksha is a rosary, used for repetitive prayer (japa), a common aid to worship in Hinduism and other faiths. Rudrakshas are also used for the treatment of various diseases in traditional Indian medicine.[8]

A common type has five divisions, and these are considered to be symbolic of the five faces of Shiva. It should only be worn on a black or red string/thread or, rarely, a gold chain.[9][10]

Rudraksha malas have been used by Hindus as rosaries from at least the 10th century [11] for meditation purposes and to sanctify the mind, body and soul. The word rudraksha is derived from Rudra (Shiva—the Hindu god of all living creatures) and aksha (eyes). One Hindu legend says that once Lord Shiva opened His eyes after a long period yogic meditation, and because of strong feelings He shed a tear. This single tear from Shiva's eye grew into the rudraksha tree. It is believed that by wearing the Rudraksha bead one will have the protection of Lord Shiva. The Rudraksha fruit is blue, but turns black when dried. The central hard seed may have 1 to 21 faces.

Definition and meaning of the word Rudraksha[edit]

The word rudraksha is derived from two words - rudra (रुद्र) and aksha (अक्ष).

A. Aksha means "Teardrops". Rudra and aksha together mean "the one that is capable of looking at and doing everything" (for example, the third eye). Aksha also means "axis". Since the eye can rotate on one axis, it too is known as "aksha".

B. Rudra is one of Shiva's Vedic names. A (अ) means to receive and ksha (क्ष) means to give. Hence, aksha (अक्ष) denotes the ability to receive or give. Rudraksha is the one that has the ability to wipe our tears and provide happiness.

The rudra (rudhir, rudraksha) tree[edit]

A. Creation of the rudraksha tree from the tears of deepest meditation shed by Rudra ( Shiva ) upon seeing the unrighteous conduct of demon Tarakasur's sons, and their destruction by Shiva :

"Through their righteous conduct and devotion unto Shiva, Tarakasur's sons Tadinmali, Tarakaksh and Kamalaksh, attained divinity. After some time, seeing that they had returned to their original unrighteous conduct, Shankar (Shiva) was grief-stricken and went into deepest meditation, and His eyes were filled with tears. A few of these tears fell onto the earth; a tree sprang up from these, which came to be known as the Rudraksha tree. Later, Shiva destroyed the sons of Tarakasur." -Gurudev Dr. Kateswamiji

B. General information on the Rudraksha tree: found from sea level up to 3000m above. The Rudraksha tree grows in a narrow space, not on open ground. Its leaves resemble those of tamarind or nux vomica, but are longer. It yields one to two thousand fruits annually. The Yatis (Ascetics) in the Himalayas survive only on these fruits. These fruits are also known as amritphal (Fruits of Nectar). They satisfy thirst.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rudraksha - Everything you need to know about it". 
  2. ^ The translation of rudrākṣa as "Rudra's Teardrops" and definition as berries of Elaeocarpus ganitrus see: Stutley, p. 119.
  3. ^ Stutley, M. (1985). The Illustrated Dictionary of Hindu Iconography. New Delhi, India: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. ISBN 81-215-1087-2. 
  4. ^ Koul, M. K. (2001-05-13). "Bond with the beads". Spectrum. India: The Tribune. 
  5. ^ Lee, D. W. (1991). "Ultrastructural Basis and Function of Iridescent Blue Color of Fruits in Elaeocarpus". Nature. 349 (6306): 260–262. doi:10.1038/349260a0. 
  6. ^ 108 beads in number
  7. ^ For use both to refer to the beads and to a mālā see: Apte, p. 804.[citation needed]
  8. ^ Das, Subhamoy. "The Holy Rudraksha: Super Seed". 
  9. ^ For the five-division type as signifying Shiva's five faces and terminology pañcānana, see: Stutley, p. 119.
  10. ^ Seetha, K. N. (2008). Power of Rudraksha (4th ed.). Mumbai, India: Jaico Publishing House. ISBN 978-81-7992-844-8. 
  11. ^ Laatsch, M. (2010). Rudraksha. Die Perlen der shivaitischen Gebetsschnur in altertümlichen und modernen Quellen. Munich: Akademische Verlagsgemeinschaft München. ISBN 978-3-89975-411-7. 
  12. ^ Source : Sanatan's Holy text ''Shiva''