Rudraksha, a seed that comes from Elaeocarpus ganitrus, is used extensively in Hindu culture and by devout Shiva followers. Shaivism is one of the major traditions within Hinduism which reveres Shiva as the Supreme Being. The word Rudraksha is a compound from two Sanskrit words: rudra and aksa. Rudra, according to Hindu culture, is one of Lord Shiva’s Vedic names and aksa means teardrops. This translates to “Lord Shiva’s Teardrops.” There are various iterations of the word Rudraksha. Many sadhus and religious ascetics also refer to Rudraksha as Lord Shiva’s eyes or “under the protection of Lord Shiva.” They are used extensively as praying beads while chanting “Om Namah Shivaya,” and they have a deep history within our culture, making them one of the most sought after objects in Hinduism.
According to Hindu beliefs, the story of Tripurasura Samahara led to the origin of the Rudraksha. In the legend, a powerful trio of demons built three cities, one in heaven made of gold, one in the sky made of silver, and one on earth made of iron. When the demons started becoming arrogant, Vishnu and Brahma sought helped from Lord Shiva to stop them. Lord Shiva then used Aaghor, a fire weapon, to destroy the three evil beings, and was temporarily blinded by the dazzling light from the weapon. When he opened his eyes, he shed tears which turned into seeds and grew into Rudraksha trees. Another version of the tale says that when Lord Shiva opened his eyes after a long period of meditation, he shed tears because he was fulfilled with what he had achieved.
Rudraksha are usually symbolized by the number of mukhi (faces) on the seed. There can be as many as 21 faces on a single seed, with each mukhi signifying its importance and spiritual powers. Recently, a 27 face Rudraksha was found. The most supreme of all is the “One Mukhi Rudraksha” which symbolizes Lord Shiva himself. According to popular Hindu customs, the wearer of this bead is liberated by destroying all sins and thus the Rudrakha directly connects the one who wears it to the supreme powers of Lord Shiva.
According to Nath Sampradaya, a Hindu religious teacher, wearing Rudraksha necklaces provides spiritual healing, mental well-being and physical comfort. “It releases the sinner from their sins, provides them with ambitions and helps them fulfill their desires,” he shares. Religious ascetics also believe that wearing them nullifies malefic planets and that no necklace or bead is as auspicious and powerful as the Rudraksha. When it comes to the design of the necklace itself, there are 108 beads used to make it, which has a significant cultural aspect attached to it as well. There are endless iterations of the number 108 in Hinduism: 108 energy lines, 108 Upanishads, 108 earthly desires and so, so many more. The necklaces, used primarily by sadhus and devotees for religious chanting, also signify the start and end of the life cycle and denote a transcended state of mind.
The connection of Rudraskha to our physical well-being is as strong as that to our spiritual one. As these holy beads are believed to hold healing properties, wearing them can elevate your mood, your mental state and your overall health. Many sadhus believe that wearing the wrong type of beads can do more bad than not wearing any at all. “It is better to not wear one rather than wear a wrong one. The beads are a gift from Lord Shiva and wearing a wrong one is disrespectful to the almighty,” shares a sadhu in Pashupati. Each mukhi has a different property and meaning attached to it. Extremely rare and powerful, the one mukhi is the holy grail of them all and the most common is the five mukhi.
Rudraksha is a culmination of the spiritual, cosmic and physical representations of our beliefs. Strongly attached to our religion, these beads are mysterious in nature and have a close link with both our everyday life and the divine. Heavily used for meditation purposes to attain peace of mind and a healthy lifestyle, Rudraksha beads can be used by anyone who wishes to connect with Lord Shiva and attain stability and prosperity.
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