Rudraksha (Botanical name: Elaeocarpus ganitrus) is a large evergreen broad-leaved tree whose seed is traditionally used for prayer beads in Hinduism. The seeds are known as rudraksha, or rudraksh, Sanskrit: rudrākṣa (“Rudra’s eyes”). Rudraksha may be produced by several species of Elaeocarpus, however E. ganitrus is the principal species used in the making of organic jewellery or mala. The word Rudraksha has its etymological beginnings in the two Sanskrit words “Rudra” and “Aksha” meaning Lord Shiva and teardrops respectively.
According to “Shiva Purana”, Lord Shiva once went into deep meditation for the well being of all living creatures. When he woke up, he opened his eyes and tear drops fell on the Earth. These tear drops took the form of seeds that later on became the Rudraksha tree. Rudraksha therefore means ‘The Tear of Lord Shiva’.
The dry seed-capsules from the Rudraksha tree form the rudraksha beads, which are being used as a rosary and are also worn as a chain. According to methological epic “Shiv Purana”, Rudraksha was the favorite tree of Lord Shiva and it grew in Gauda land (present day Gangetic plains to foothills of Himalayas). Lord Shiva is always portrayed wearing rosaries of Rudraksha beads on his head, arms and hands. With this came the religious and spiritual significance of Rudraksha. It is believed that the seed of Rudraksha contains the secrets of the entire evolution of the cosmos within it. The sages and yogis of the Himalayas, who live according to the Eternal natural law of Sanatana Dharma, have always been wearing Rudraksha for centuries for a fearless life on their path to spiritual Enlightenment and Liberation. Devotees dedicated to Lord Shiva always wear Rudraksha as rosaries which are used in meditation; it helps to maintain good health, to gain self-empowerment and a fearless life. Rudraksha are noted for their divine protection and are worn on the body singly or as chains (Mala). The english name of the Eliocarpus is Utrasum Bead Tree or Woodenbegar.
The Rudraksha tree inhabits areas starting from Manila, Philippines and passing through Myanmar to entire North East India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. However, in present era, the Rudraksha tree is localized only in Eastern Nepal due to suitable climatic conditions. The Tree of Rudraksha is about 50-200 feet high. It may be 14.60 meters to 29.20 meters tall depending on the area and the climate. The diameter of trunk is upto 1.22 meter.
Rudraksha Beads: Rudraksha beads are the seeds of the Rudraksha fruit obtained from Rudraksha trees. Rudraksha beads are covered by an outer shell of blue color on fully ripening, so they are also called blueberry beads and the sweet tasting fruit flesh can be used for treatment of various diseases. It is kept in water for a number of days and then Rudraksha is taken out after peeling off the pulp and brushing it clean. As per the Vedic scriptures, Rudraksha beads possess mystical and divine properties and can nullify the effects of malefic planets to a great extent. They offer protection to the wearer. No other bead is considered to be as auspicious and powerful as a Rudraksha.
Properties: Rudraksha comes in four basic shades: white, red, brown and black. The different colours relate to the social / religious order of Varna-Ashrama-Dharma.
- White= for brahmana,
- Red= for kshatriya,
- Brown= for vaishya,
- Black= for shudra
The unique properties and divine powers of Rudraksha have been described in the authentic Shastras like the Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad, Padma Purana, Shiva Purana, Devi Purana and Bhagavat Purana. The benefits of this miraculous bead have been flowing to the users/ wearers from time immemorial. Rudraksha, is the most powerful and awesome bead ever, offering protection to its wearer. This bead can help you achieve all you want – a healthy mind, body and soul, a wealthy life that many dream of and only some achieve, and a happy soul. Rudraksha comes in many sizes and faces also called “mukhi” meaning “the clefts or furrows or faces on the surface. According to Shastra there are up to 38 mukhi or faces found on Rudraksha, but Rudraksha of 1 to 14 mukhi are the most commonly available ones. And 5 or 6 are the vast majority forms (See picture: Types of Rudraksha).
95% of the Rudraksha found are with 5 mukhi. It is very rough, hard and tough and can be boiled in hot water for hours without problem. This procedure is sometimes used for testing rare and expensive Rudraksha from the Market for its genuineness. To verify the authenticity of the numbers of mukhi, an x-ray photo can be taken as well (http://www.interessantes.at/). Each mukhi Rudraksha has unique properties and provides various scientific, medical and spiritual benefits. With the increasing belief in Lord Shiva and properties of Rudraksha the demand for these beads increasing day by day.
Ayurvedic properties: The bead of Rudraksha has Ayurveda qualities. Each Rudraksha have some preventive and curative medicinal value. The beads of Rudraksha, its bark leaves and outer shell of the beads all are used to cure various ailments like mental disorders, headache, fever skin diseases, and also to heal the wounds.Wearing and worshiping Rudraksha is beneficial to the nervous system, it controls blood pressure, paves towards mental stability, removal of stress and helps one to retain healthy body.
Image courtesy: Bhagwat Heritage