Rudraksha is a seed used as a bead for offering prayers to Lord Shiva in Hinduism. The seeds are worn as a necklace (mala) for protection. People also chant the ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ mantra with the beads as a reference for counting. The beads come in different segments (faces/mukh) and beads and some seeds are very rare and highly valued.
The word Rudraksha is a Sanskrit word, made up of two words, Rudra (one of the vedic names of Lord Shiva) and aksha, meaning eye. It thus means ‘Eye of Lord Shiva’. The deeper meaning of Aksh is the ‘soul’ or ‘knowledge’. In some translations, the word is said to be made of ‘Rudra’ + ‘Raksha’, where Raksha means ‘to protect’, which is why it is worn for protection.
When fully ripe, Rudraksha seeds are blue in color, and are called as blueberry beads.
Rudraksha beads can have many lines (mukhis) from 1 to 21. In Hinduism, the beads with 5 mukhis are considered most important and malas (garlands) are made out of 108 (+1) beads of the Rudraksha as a tradition. The garland is kept in hand while chanting the mantra for Lord Shiva, while moving one by one to the next bead as the chanting goes upto 108. The extra one bead is considered as a sacred mark for the beginning and end of the recital. The other combinations for the garland are 27+1 and 54+1.
Rudraksha mala is also used for meditation purposes to attain peace and sanctify the mind, body and soul, and helps in better concentration.
Rudraksha holds a lot of significance in the Upanishads and is said to relieve the stress, anxiety, heart problems, depression etc. in the wearer. It acts as a memory booster and improves concentration.
A special Rudraksha, called the GauriShankar Rudraksha, has no linings and is a combination of two beads joined naturally. It is said to be the Rudraksh of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva, who represent the union of a husband and wife. It is a powerful bead that is said to remove all obstacles and misunderstandings between a married couple.