Sacred Symbols – Rudraksha: The Tears of Shiva

The most powerful deity in the Trinity is Rudra whose aura spreads an enigmatic spell over the Hindu mythology. The first reference to Rudra is found in the Rigveda. This culminated into a full-fledged character, Shiva, in the later days of the Puranas. The word Rudra originated from the Sanskrit rud or rodden which means to cry or crying, thus Rudra is one who cries. According to the Devi Bhagavata Skandha , Rudra was born from the fury of Brahma. The story of Rudra’s birth can be traced from the Pauranic Encyclopaedia where it is said that even before the creation of Prajapatis, Brahma created Sanandana, Sanaka, Sanatana and Sanatkumara. Unfortunately these four beings were not interested in progeny. This made Brahma furious and he was prepared to destroy the three worlds, Swarga, Morto and Patal The three worlds shone in the radiance that emanated from the fire of Brahma’s fury. From his shining eyebrows, curved with anger, a figure of unbearable radiance appeared. This was the birth of Rudra who had three eyes, a blue complexion and cried continuously. Brahma asked him, “Why are you crying?” and the boy replied: “I must be named”, and he was given seven other names, Bhava,Sarava, Isana, Pashupati, Bhima, Ugar and Mahadeva. Rudra is thus called by eight names.

Rudraksha means the tears and eyes of Rudra. In the last century John Garrett traced that ‘the meaning of the world is Rudra’s (Shiva’s) eye (Akshu) and then also tears (Rud)? One school of thought believes that Shiva, during a war with the asuras or demons, having burned three cities, wept at the loss of lives. The tears that fell on the ground sprang up as shrubs, producing berries which were called rudraksha.

The rudraksha has always been an important symbol in the Hindu way of life. Interpreting Shastras Swami Prabhanandgiri said that “whosoever wears the rudraksha mala, after death he never goes to yonilokor circle of rebirth, rather he gets shivalok. “According to Rudrakshajabolopanishad, ‘The man (wearer of the Rudraksha) should abstain from spirituous liquor, flesh, garlic, onions, raddish, the fruit of the Slesmakata tree (tamarisk) and Vidavatha, And who follows all these gets emancipation through the Rudraksha.

An incident in the Devi Bhagavata Skandha II explains how the rudraksha came to be honoured in the Hindu way of life. Once there lived an asura chief who was mighty and valiant. His name was Tripura. He defeated the Devas (gods) and Deva Chief and became emperor of the asuras. The Devas (gods) were very grieved and went to Shiva. Then Shiva thought for awhile, on how to kill Tripura. With open eyes, he sat for a thousand divine years or thirty-six lakh human years. After this prolonged length of time, Shiva winked his eyes and tears fell from them. The rudraksha tree grew from these tears. Twelve types of rudraksha came into being from the Sun, and from Moon emerged sixteen kinds of rudraksha and finally from the Fire came ten kinds of rudraksha. Those which originated from the Sun are of blood colour, those from the Moon are white and those from the Fire are black. Moreover, the Rudrakskajabolopanishad states thatRudrakshas are also classified according to the four castes or Vamas, viz., Brahmana, Ksatriya, Vaisya and Sudra. An authority, Dr. T.R. Sharma, noted that ‘Those four trees bore four beads of white, red, tawny and black colours. Thus, the Brahmanas should use white beads, the Ksatriyas should use the red beads, the Vaisyas should use the tawny-coloured beads and the Sudras should use the black ones.”

The rudraksha tree is one of the many species of flora which belong to the Elaeocarpus family, which according to the Wealth of India, 1952, is ‘a large genus of trees distributed from south and east Asia through Malaysia to Australia and the Pacific Island.’ In the Indian subcontinent these trees are found primarily in Nepal. Other sources record that the trees from the Elaeocarpus family are found in Nepal, Bihar, Bengal, Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Bombay. Amongst the various types twenty-five species are found in India. These are mainly Elaeocarpus fermgineus, Elaeocarpus lanceacfolius roxb, Elaeocarpus serratus linn, Elaeocarpus tuberculatus roxb and others. However, the rudraksha is specifically identified as the Elaeocarpus ganitms roxb.

In 1906 Dietrich Brandis wrote that the rudraksha tree grows to a height of sixty feet. It has white flowers which are shorter than its leaves. According to the CSIR Dictionary of Flora the tree has oblong leaves and the flowers emerge from the old leaf axils, the fruits are ‘drupes deep or bluish purple, globose or obovoid enclosing a hard, longitudinally grooved, tuberclad, normally five-celled, mukhee, stone.’ Consequently Dietrich Brandis recorded in the Indian Tree hat the fruits are spherical and hard and have varied sizes which range from three quarter to an inch in diameter. The TantraShastra claims that the smaller rudraksha has less beneficial power. However, according to the Rudrakshajabolopanishad, the rudrakshas of bigger size are the best and rudraksha of the size of Badari Fruit (Jujube) is of middle quality and that of the size of chick-pea is of inferior quality.

In 1864, Lt. Col. Kerber Drvry recorded that the flowering time is in February. However, sadhu lore claims that in Nepal, in an annual cycle, one or two rare one-rnukhee rudrakshas are found and the tree often goes without fruit for years. The rudraksha is cleaned, polished and used as beads and rosaries. According to Kerber Drvry “the hard grooved seeds are frequently worn as beads by Brahmins and fakirs and when set in gold are sold as ornaments in England.” Every rudraksha has cells or mukhees which differ in number. This is what distinguishes each from the other. After consulting various sources we can conclude that twenty-one varieties exist. Those with five cells are the most abundant and sell very cheaply while the rarest are the 23 and 26 mukhees, Imitation rudrakshas are very common and flood the market. Many religious centres like Haridwar and Varanasi have flora similar to the rudraksha which belong to the Elaeocarpus family and are called Bhadrakshas.

Dr. Narayandatt Shrimali, an expert in this field, said that the authenticity of a rudraksha can be checked by two tests. One is that if a rudraksha kept between two copper coins or coils, swings, it is genuine. If not, it is a fake. In the second test a true rudraksha is one which will sink in water or milk and a fake one should float. Another school of thought claims that if one places a rudraksha in water it will begin to emanate heat after twenty or twenty-five minutes. However, despite all these tests only experts can identify the true rudraksha.

Rudrakshas are in three colours, red and black are the most common while white is rarely seen. But as Dr. Shrimali states there are yellow rudrakshas as well. Every rudraksha differs from the other by the number of vein-like faces or mukhees. Various types of malas or necklaces are made from the rudrakshas of different mukhees which gives them their name. A mala made up of twenty-one mukhee rudraksha is called the Indra mala. This is said to be one of the rarest. It is said that only five people own these malas. Moreover, according to the hearsay nothing in this world is unattainable for the person who wears the Indra mala, as it gives him all the wealth he wants as well as fulfils all his desires.

Special mantras accompany the wearing of the rudraksha mala. The Sivapurana states the mantras for the purification or Shuddhikaran of rudraksha of one to fourteen mukhees. The mantrafor the one mukhee is om hinngnamaha, two mukhee, om namaha, three mukhee, ornklingnamaha, four mukhee, om hiring namaha, five mukhee, om hiring namaha, six mukhee, om hiring huang namaha, seven mukhee, om huang namaha, eight mukhee, OK huang namaha, nine mukhee, om hirang huang namaha, ten mukhee, omhiringnamaha, eleven mukhee, om hing huang namaha, twelve mukhee, omkrongshrongroo namaha, thirteen mukhee, om king namaha, and finally for the fourteen mukhee, om namaha. However, it is said that even without the chanting of mantras cosmic vibrations envelop the wearer. ‘The Jabolok Upanishad further elaborates the mode of wearing the rudraksha. It says that he who wears ten rudraksha on the neck, twenty-two on the head, six in each ear, twelve on each hand, sixteen on each of the upper arms, one on each eye, one on the lock of hair and a hundred and eight on the chest is in reality Sri Nilkantha Paramsiva himself.

The Bhagavata, Sivapurana and Smritis elucidate the individual interpretation of the rudraksha and the significance of each number of mukhee. For example it mentions how one can absolve oneself of the sin of a particular crime by wearing a rudraksha of a certain number of mukhees. It also explains the ayurvedic, theosophic and materialistic utility of the rudraksha.

The one mukhee rudraksha represents Shiva himself and is one of the rarest. This rudraksha represents three symbols of Lord Shiva, the trishula, linga and sarpa or snake. The one who wears this one mukhee rudraksha gets remission from Brahmin hatya or killing, which is considered the gravest sin. According to the Tantra Shastras only the Mahabhogi of Shankar can own this rudraksha. The person who owns the one mukhee rudraksha will not lack anything. It enhances the positive thought level and helps to unfold the dimensions of human personality. With this the person is elevated and can become the richest in the land.

The two mukhee rudraksha is called Gaunshankara which according to the Shastras represents ardha nanshwara, or the image of God and Goddess together. This is generally meant for all Shaivites and it is belieVed that the one who wears this is absolved from all sins committed intentionally or unintentionally. It controls sexual desire, develops a smooth concentration, mental peace and enhances the growth of philosophic personality which awakens the KundalinL Its hypnotic effect is widely acknowledged.

The three mukhee rudraksha represents Agni and Agni represents purification. It is believed that this washes away the sin of stree hatya or killing. According to the Shastras it cures fever and gives strength to the weak as it makes the wearer active and free from disease. Its powers are such that it can help the unemployed find jobs.

The four-faced or mukhee rudraksha symbolises Brahma. It washes away the sin of nara hatya or murder of a man. It is believed that this benefits students as it sharpens the mind and increases the ability to absorb and memorise. It also has medicinal qualities and can cure if boiled in milk and given to a mentally retarded person for twenty days.

Kalagni or the fire of death is represented by the five mukhee rudraksha. According to a Pauranic source ‘one gets remission from sins incurred byeating food which ought not to have been eaten and enjoying a woman who ought not to have been enjoyed.’ The Shastras say that this is suitable for a person with heart disease and reduces the fear of poisonous snakes. This rudraksha is also prescribed for a person with disturbed mind as it facilitates peace of mind. It is also believed that with this rudraksha a person can win over his enemy.

The six mukhee rudraksha stands for Kartikeva, the sixfaced god. Bv wearing this on the right hand one gets rid of all sins including Brahmin hatya or murder. The Tantra Shastra says that it helps in developing siddhi or success in any work. It also shows amazing results in the development of trade. Whoever wears this suffers from no materialistic desires. It cures diseases like hysteria, fainting, blood pressure and feminine problems.

The seven mukhee rudraksha represents Kamadeva and has the power to absolve the wearer from sins like the theft of gold. According to the Jyotish Shastra it counteracts a child’s bad planetary posidons. Dr. Shrimali says that whoever wears this rudraksha will not die a violent or premature death. One also gets rid of trauma of magi or petimal.

Vinayaka, the general of the great army, is symbolised by the eight rr2ukhee udraksha. Pauranic sources claim that it has the power to erase deceit such as passing off poor quality rice as genuine, keeping false weights and measures and such forth. The tantnk school of thought says that it helps to acquire concentration and mental peace especially if one wants to awaken the kundalini. The eight mukhee rudraksha suits a businessman especially if he wants to acquire wealth. It also cures paralytic strokes.

The nine mukhee rudraksha represents Bhairava and is worn on the left hand. It has the power to make the wearer as mighty as a god which in turn leads to salvation. This is a rare kind as it is the embodiment of the nine powers of the god. It especially suits the devotees ofDurga. Pauranic sources claim that it rids a person of the sins incurred by killing a child in the womb a thousand times and killing Brahmins a hundred times. It is also a cure for all diseases related to the heart.

The rare ten mukhee rudraksha represents the figure of Janardana and protects the wearer from evil spirits and brahma rakshs. It also acts as a protection against snakebite. According to the tantrik interpretations, the ten mukhee rudraksha represents Yama and protects the wearer against the ill-effects of tantrik power. It also has great medicinal qualities and can cure a patient of whooping cough if he drinks the milk in which this rudraksha has been stirred thrice.

The eleven mukhee rudraksha represents the eleven forms of Shiva. Worn on the head, it bestows upon the wearer the benefits of performing the horse sacrifice. Women generally wear the eleven mukhee rudraksha as it not only improves the ability to bear children but also increases the longevity of their husbands. It controls the spread of contagious diseases.

The twelve-faced rudraksha is the dwelling place of the twelve Adityas. It is worn on the ear to appease the Sun God. It guards the wearer against any injury incurred from the horns and teeth of animals, various diseases and anxiety. The wearer assumes a god-like aura and is respected by all. According to the Shastras the twelve mukheerudraksha also represents Vishnu and is worn by those who aspire to be brahmacharis or bachelors. It is believed that the wearer will radiate with brightness and resist the lure of his indnyas or senses.

The one who wears the thirteen-faced rudraksha will be equal to Kartikeya. The Shastras say that it also represents Kamadeva. Only the very fortunate can wear this rudraksha as it has the ability to fulfil every wish and earns the wearer respect and stability. For those who desire beauty, it should be stirred in milk which is then drunk regularly. The person who wears the fourteen mukhee rudraksha is transformed into the real Paramsiva. It also represents Tripurari. According to the Jabolok Upanishad this is the eye of Shiva. It is a protection against diseases.

The fifteen mukhee rudraksha represents Pashupati and benefits those who want spiritual enhancement of mind and body. Its supernatural power guards its owner against theft. The seventeen mukhee rudraksha represents the god Vishwakarma. It is believed that the one who wears a mala of this rudraksha will achieve not only sudden wealth but also spiritual power. The earth is symbolised by the eighteen mukhee rudraksha. It is specially meant for women and children as it protects the former against premature delivery and the latter against disease.

The nineteen mukhee rudraksha embodies Narayana himself. It fulfils all materialistic desires as it sharpens the business acumen. The twenty mukhee rudraksha represents Brahma. It enhances knowledge as well as bestows mental peace. It also improves the visual power.

Finally, the twenty-one mukhee rudraksha is the rarest of them all, and is the embodiment of Kuber or god of wealth. This is worn by the one who wants to acquire worldly pleasures, happiness and luxury. It makes the wearer rich and negates any kind of adversity.

The Devi Bhagavatarnssys that one is benefited by simply looking at or touching a rudraksha. Many examples prove the splendour or mahima of the rudraksha, Swami Sachidanandan said that when the world realises the totality of the rudraksha’s mahima nothing will be impossible. In England, Paul Hume, in his celebrated study, concluded that nothing is impossible with the rudraksha, it can make one rich, change one’s fate as well as hypnotise or influence people. Elsewhere in the world, its therapeutic effect has been positive as it is known to cure diseases like cancer and ease personal trauma.

The rudraksha is thus more than a mere bead or shrub which is found in abundance in the Himalayan region. It has existed through the ages in this ancient land as not only a spiritual symbol but also as a medicinal remedy, a source of materialistic as well as spiritual attainment.

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