Rudraksha, also rudraksh, Sanskrit: rudrākṣa ("Rudra's Tear Drops"), 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 used in the making of organic jewellery or mala.
Rudraksha, being organic, is preferentially worn without contact with metal; thus on a cord or thong rather than a chain.
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 bindu. 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 stringed, it is advised that they be strung with either a silk thread or a cotton thread. If the rudraksha is threaded, it is advised to change the thread every six months to prevent the thread 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. When bathing in cold water baths without chemical soaps, it is beneficial for the water to flow over it and upon the body. Wearing the mālā while in contact with chemical soaps and warm water is best avoided, however, as it can result in the rudraksha becoming brittle and eventually cracking.
The benefits of 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. This is because it is claimed to create a cocoon of the wearer's own energy. It is said that if the situation around one is not conducive to one's kind of energy, one will experience difficulty settling down. This was noted as being especially difficult for sadhus and sanyasis, as they were constantly moving, and were traditionally never supposed to rest their heads in the same places twice. Likewise, the rudraksha may be helpful for travellers and professionals who eat and sleep in a variety of places.
Sadhus or sanyasis living in the forest would have to resort to naturally available water sources. A common belief was that, if the rudraksha is held above the water, it would go clockwise if the water was good and drinkable. If it was unfit for consumption, it would go counter-clockwise. This test was also believed to be valid for other edibles.
When worn on a mālā, it was also said to ward off and act as a shield against "negative energies".
Naturally grown grooves, starting from the natural vertically or horizontally stalk* point reaching the opposite point, are termed as Mukhi/Face. Any kind of artificial modification by any means to complete the natural incompletely grown Mukhi/face cannot be considered as Natural Mukhi/Face.
Most rudraksha have a small opening* at the stalk point resulting from the extraction and cleaning process; which is further expanded by drilling to use the rudraksha for its benefits. (*opening might be limited to the surface or it might be present like a drill-hole)
Rudraksha’s surface should be hard and thorns should be well grooved as found in most of the Nepal rudraksha. Indonesian rudraksha has a different appearance. Rudraksha from India shows very high and deeply grooved thorns resembling natural deep hills and valleys.
Face appearance/Mukhi appearance
There are many examples of undeveloped, naturally joined, partially formed, or not formed faces in rudraksha from all the 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 while counting the numbers of the faces to qualify the rudraksha as per their cells and actually toss the price of the rudraksha to a lot. There is not a single standard used amongst traders to describe the method of counting a rudraksha's faces. Gjspc laboratory has introduced the world's first code of conduct and standard for rudraksha.
Description of the tree
Elaeocarpus ganitrus grows in the area from the Gangetic plain in the foothills of the Himalayas to South-East Asia, Nepal, Indonesia, New Guinea to Australia, Guam, and Hawaii. Rudraksha seeds are covered by an outer husk of blue colour when fully ripe, and for this reason are also known as blueberry beads. The blue colour is not derived from pigment but is structural. It is an evergreen tree that grows quickly. The rudraksha tree starts bearing fruit in three to four years. As the tree matures, the roots buttress rising up narrowly near the trunk and radiating out along the surface of the ground.
Rudraksha beads are the material from which mālās () are made. The term is used both for the berries themselves and as a term for the type of mālā made from them. In this sense, a rudraksha is a rosary, used for repetitive prayer (japa), a common aid to worship in Hinduism . Rudrakshas also used for the treatment of various diseases in traditional Indian medicine.
Seeds show variation in the number of grooves on their surface, and are classified on the basis of the number of divisions they have. Different qualities are attributed to rudraksha based on the number of grooves, or "faces" that it has. A common type has five divisions, and these are considered to be symbolic of the five faces of Shiva. It can only be worn with a black or red string or, rarely, a gold chain.
Rudraksha malas have been used by Hindus as rosaries from at least the 10th century  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 extreme fulfillment 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 in colour but turns black when dried. The central hard rudraksha uni-seed may have 1 to 21 faces.
Definition and meaning of the word Rudraksha
The word rudraksha is derived from two words - rudra (रुद्र) and aksha (अक्ष).
A. Aksha means eye. Rudra and aksha means the one who 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 means the one who weeps. 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
A. Creation of the rudraksha tree from the tears of grief shed by Shankar (or 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 have returned to their original unrighteous conduct, Shankar was grief-stricken, 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 up to 3000m above, or at, sea level. The rudraksha tree grows in a narrow opening, 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 amrutphal (Fruits of Nectar). They satisfy thirst.
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- "Rudraksha - Everything you need to know about it".
- The translation of rudrākṣa as "Rudra's Tear Drops" and definition as berries of Elaeocarpus ganitrus see: Stutley, p. 119.
- Stutley, M. (1985). The Illustrated Dictionary of Hindu Iconography. New Delhi, India: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. ISBN 81-215-1087-2.
- Koul, M. K. (2001-05-13). "Bond with the beads". Spectrum. India: The Tribune.
- 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.
- 108 beads in number
- For use both to refer to the beads and to a mālā see: Apte, p. 804.
- Das, Subhamoy. "The Holy Rudraksha: Super Seed".
- For the five-division type as signifying Shiva's five faces and terminology pañcānana, see: Stutley, p. 119.
- Seetha, K. N. (2008). Power of Rudraksha (4th ed.). Mumbai, India: Jaico Publishing House. ISBN 978-81-7992-844-8.
- Laatsch, M. (2010). Rudraksha. Die Perlen der shivaitischen Gebetsschnur in altertümlichen und modernen Quellen. Munich: Akademische Verlagsgemeinschaft München. ISBN 978-3-89975-411-7.
- Source : Sanatan’s Holy text ''Shiva''