Rudraksha is commonly used to mean the seeds of the rudraksha tree, Elaeocarpus ganitrus.
Origin of the Rudraksha
The story of the origin of the Rudraksha bead is interesting. Once upon a time, Rudra came down to earth to see what all the hoopla was about. He also wanted to find out more about the odd invention of the Divine called the human race.
What Rudra found left him astounded. Not only did human beings live for an amazingly short period of time; while they were alive they raced around pursuing this and that, suffered frequently and spent a lot of time sleeping and being sick. Finally, just as they began to get the hang of being human, they slowed down, sputtered a bit and died.
The tragedy of the mortal scene moved Rudra to tears, and these tears fell in buckets. Where ever a tear touched the earth a “Rudra Tree” sprang up bearing the Rudraksha or “fruit” of Rudra. This was Rudra’s blessing to the human race as a remedy to their sorrows. People have worn them as a remedy for the ills of human life ever since. Thus ends a very touching story of one God’s compassion.
Properties of the Rudraksha
Much has been said about the Rudraksha. The beads are prized by their size and the clarity and number of faces. Small beads with clear “facets” are more valuable due to their rarity. The ultimate consideration was the number of facets and clarity. The usual number of facets or faces is five. They are considered generally auspicious.
Seven-faceted, eleven-faceted and so on have “special” purposes. The number one high-priced item is the single faced Rudraksha. It is “said” to be Shiva himself. Such a bead is extremely rare. They often fetch up to one thousand dollars. As any such rarity, fakes are extremely common and difficult to discern without scraping the beast and subjecting the residue to analysis. This of course damages the item, so buyer beware.
All of the yogi sects of India, especially the Naths, have made much use of the Rudraksha. The special significance of any mala is the vibrations and blessings which are brought to an already special and unique manifestation called the Rudraksha. In essence, rudraksha is a Saivite rosary, and many devotees wear a single bead hung on a string around their neck.
Adapted from a post by Sri Kapilnath to the INO mailing list.