The rudraksha is a traditional indian seed from the Elaeocarpus Ganitrus tree, more commonly known as the Rudraksha tree. These trees can be found in Northern India, Nepal, Burma and Southeast Asia. The rudraksha tree produces a purple/blue berry and when the flesh is removed the Rudraksha seed is revealed.
In India the rudraksha seed is considered to have metaphysical and medicinal qualities which manifest when worn or ingested. Some of these properties include giving clarity to the voice, lowering blood pressure and hypertension.
Each Rudraksha bead has a natural hole at the top and ridges on the sides. These ridges are known as ‘Mukhi’ or face[s]. A typical Rudraksha seed has 5 faces although one can find rudraksha’s with one face (known as Brahma) up to 21 faces.
Rudraksha, in Sanskrit stems from the words- Aksha, meaning eyes or the eyes, and Rudra- another name for the Indian God Shiva (creator, preserver and destroyer of the manifest universe). In other words- Rudraksha can be translated as – the eyes of Shiva.
Below is a text from Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad, in this text the legend of the Rudraksha seed is told, a description of the ‘best’ Rudraksha seed is given and the different aspects of the different ‘mukhi’ on a Rudraksha seed are explained. This text below was translated by R.A Sastri
Bhusunda asked Kalagni Rudra- ‘How is the origin of the Rudrakshas, and what is the effect wearing them’?
When, for the sake of destroying the Tripura (the three cities), I checked my Eyes; from them fell drops of water in the ground and became the Rudrakshas for the benefit of all.
Mere uttering their name produces the effect of the gift of ten cows. The seeing and handling of them produces twice the effect of the above. Beyond this, I am unable to describe more.
There are the following verses on this (Question). Wherefrom comes it? What is its name? How is it to be worn by men? How many faces does it contain? What are the mantras to be chanted when wearing it?
6. (Answer) I closed my eyes for the period of a thousand divine years. From my closed eyes drops of water fell down on the earth. Then the Eye-drops have become the great Rudraksha trees of the vegetable kingdom for the sake of blessing the devotees.
7. The wearing of it does remove the sin of the devotees committed during the day and the night. Seeing it produces one lac of virtues, and handling it, one crore. The wearing of it produces in man one hundred crores of virtues, the wearing and making japa of it produce in man one hundred millions of virtues.
The good bead is that which is well-shaped, sappy sound, well-sized and with thorns. One should reject the six kinds of the same, namely those that are made holes by worms, wounded, broken, without thorns, diseased and not well-shaped.
12. The best Rudraksha is that which has a natural hole. That bead is a secondary one which has a hole made by the effort of man.
13. The wise should wear in his body and limbs a garland of beads that are equally shaped, sappy, sound, pleasing, and big is size, tied in a silk thread.
14. That bead is known to be the best which produces a golden line when tested in a rubbing stone; and this the worshippers of Siva should wear.
Next Bhusunda addressed the Lord Kalagni Rudra. Tell me the different kinds of Rudrakshas, their nature, the result of wearing them, and also their different faces; and those that drive out evils and these that give the desired objects.
21. He answered: In this these are the slokas:-
22. The One-faced Rudraksha represents the Supreme Reality. Wearing it, one, with completely controlled senses merges in the Supreme Reality.
23. The Two-faced one, O the best of sages, represents Ardhnarisvara (the Lord with half-male and half-female form). By wearing this Ardhnarisvara always becomes pleased with him.
24. The Three-faced one represents the three sacred fires. The fire god becomes always pleased with him who wears this.
25. The Four-faced Rudraksha represents the four-faced Deity (Brahma). The four-faced god becomes ever pleased with him who wears this.
26. The Five-faced Rudraksha represents the five Brahmans (Sadyojata to Isana). The five-faced Brahman removes him from the sin of killing the human beings.
27. The Six-faced Rudraksha has Kartikeya (Subrahmanya) as its presiding Deity. The wearing of it brings forth a great wealth and a very good health. The wise should wear it to obtain brightness of the intellect. The great men say it has also Vinayaka as its presiding Deity.
28. The Seven-faced Rudraksha has the Sapta matris as its presiding deities. The wearing of it brings forth a great wealth and a very good health; and vouchsafes the wearer the personal purity and attainment of clearness of the mind.
29. The Eight-faced Rudraksha has the Ashtamatris as its presiding deities. It pleases the Eight Vasus and the goddess Ganga. The wearing of it will please the above gods, who are true to their words.
30. The Nine-faced Rudraksha has the nine Saktis as its presiding deities. The mere wearing of it pleases the nine Saktis.
31. The Ten-faced Rudraksha has Yama as its presiding Deity. A look at it will create effect lessness of his sins. There is no doubt in this.
32. The Eleven-faced Rudraksha has the Eleven Rudras as its presiding Deities. The great men say, the deities increase the prosperity of him who wears it always.
33. The Twelve-faced Rudraksha represents the great Vishnu and also the twelve Adityas. The wearer of it assumes the deity’s form.
34. The Thirteen-faced Rudraksha brings forth the desired objects and agreeable perfection. The mere wearing of it pleases Kamadeva.
35. The Fourteen-faced Rudraksha has its origin from the eyes of Rudra. It removes all the diseases. The wearer will have always a very good health.
36. He should avoid the prohibited food, namely, liquor, flesh, onion, white onion Suguru, Sleshmataka, and the village boar.
37. He becomes freed from all the sins, if he wears the Rudraksha on the days of Eclipse, Solstices, the beginning of each of the Solar month and of six months of new moon and full moon and on the complete days.
38. It is said the root of the Rudraksha tree is Brahma, the fibre of it is Vishnu, and the top Rudra, and the fruits are all the Devas.