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 used in the making of organic jewellery or mala.

Rudraksha, being organic, is preferably worn in ways that do not involve 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 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. When bathing in cold water without chemical soaps, it is beneficial for the water to flow over the mala and onto the body. 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 . This is because they are claimed to create a cocoon made 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 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 .

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 . This test was also believed to be valid for other edibles .

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]

Mukhi definition

Naturally occurring grooves, starting from the natural vertical or horizontal stalk point and reaching the opposite point, are termed as "mukhi" or faces. Any face formed by any kind of artificial modification to complete the natural, incompletely grown mukhi cannot be considered a "real" mukhi.

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.

Rudraksha Grading Standards

Like precious gemstones & minerals, Rudrakshas come in different qualities. Most of the users choose them according to the faces and the size.

IGL Laboratories NEW DELHI have worked hard with the traders, suppliers, users and researchers to develop a standard for Rudraksha identification & quality grading. IGL LABORATORIES tested and reported Rudrakshas are now accepted and trusted worldwide among wholesalers, retailers, consumers & various famous saints and sadhus. There are ten quality factors, and one should consider all of them to evaluate the quality of a Rudraksha bead:

  1. Size
  2. Shape
  3. Colour
  4. Surface Texture
  5. Face appearance/Mukhi appearance
  6. Modification
  7. Worked
  8. Treatment
  9. Contamination
  10. Heft (only for loose pcs)formation


Size is always measured in millimeters. Bigger beads are always appreciated in the trade and they fetch more money than smaller sizes in the same mukhi category, but value also varies by quantity of mukhi & place of origin.


No Rudrkasha is cut or polished like a gemstone.

IGL Laboratory has divided the Shape into 2 categories:


Although most Rudrakshas are medium brown, certain processes can darken or improve the colour. GJSPC laboratory has seen Rudrakshas in cream to almost dark-chocolate colors.

IGL Laboratory grades Rudraksha colour in 12 grades starting from Rudra G to RUDRA R, Rudra G being the lightest colour and Rudra R the darkest.

Surface Texture

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

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. GJSPC Laboratory has introduced the world's first code of conduct and standard for Rudraksha grading and trading.


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

Rudraksha is the fruit of a few special trees, and they can be attacked by various fungal infections which can actually reduce the seeds' medicinal and chemical effect during their storage and other daily routine business practices. As per GJSPC Laboratory, Rudraksha should be free from all kind of surface and interior fungal contaminations in order for the seeds' medicinal, astrological and magnetic effects on the human body and environment tobe preserved. Many traders store Rudraksha in cotton cloth, also using pesticides to keep the surface of the Rudrakshas from damage. As per GJSPC Laboratory, using such pesticides to save surface is allowed and accepted. But if any chemical or chemicals used to protect the surface also darkens the colour or improves the appearance, the bead cannot be considered as naturally coloured Rudraksha.

Most of the traders use mustard oil, natural colours, and organic colours if they are going to protect the surface or darken the colour of Rudrakshas. As per GJSPC Laboratory, use of oil alone to protect the surface is an accepted trade practice, but if coloured oil being used, then the following comment will be attached: "Colour of the Rudraksha has been enhanced by coloured oil."


Most rudrakshas sink in water; this is also used as a simple test to separate real Rudraksha beads from all the fake versions. But it does not always indicate high quality. A contaminated bead may float, or might sink to the bottom. GJSPC Laboratory also check beads for Heft and record that as High, Medium & Low depending on the reaction of each bead in water.

Description of the tree

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

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

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

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

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rudraksha.


In Ancient Time Rudraksha's were used to detect Presence of Poison in Food

  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.
  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''
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