The Rudraaksha is one of the most commonly used beads amongst Hindus. It is believed that any genuine Rudraaksha will always be beneficial to the person’s general health and well-being. How would one know whether what he has bought is a genuine Rudraaksha? All one needs to do is to put the beads in a glass of water. A genuine good quality Rudraaksha will sink to the bottom immediately. The tree on which the bead grows belongs to the species of Elaeocarpus Ganitrus. There are over 123 known varieties found almost all over the earth. As a tree it is impressively tall and, when in full bloom, it sports bunches of small, white and mildly fragrant flowers.
The flowers turn into apricot-shaped fruit which can be eaten. When the fruit ripens and the pulp is removed, a large round seed is seen. This is the Rudraaksha, which, after much cleaning and polishing, is used as a bead. The tree bears two types of fruit. The big variety is about the size of a marble, and the smaller variety can be as small as a pepper seed. The big beads are classified on the basis of the number of ‘mukhas’, that is, lines running from the top to the bottom similar to the longitudinal lines on a globe connecting the two poles. The beads have generally one to fourteen such lines. Beads with one line and those with fourteen lines are the most expensive, often costing up to US $625. Apart from the general classification, there are several unusually shaped beads like the Gauri-Shankar Rudraaksha which is two beads together by nature. There are beads with the crescent-shaped Rudraaksha , and there are the beads with the trident(trishul -the weapon of Bhagavan Shiva).
It is really fascinating to hold and examine theses varieties, to admire how nature herself produces those emblems of Bhagavan Shiva. It has been said that is because of these emblems of Shivaji on those beads, they have been associated with Bhagavan Shankar. The question remains: ‘Why is the Rudraaksha called that? The answer is given in the scriptural text, Shiva Puraan. The entire 25th Chapter of the first book of this Puraana is dedicated to the Rudraaksha. Bhagavan Shiva said that he was engaged in penance for thousands of Divine years. His mind in a flutter, out of sport, He opened His eyes from a desire of helping the worlds.
Drops of tears fell and on those spots cropped up the Rudraaksha plants. According to Bhagavan Shiva, there are four types of Rudraaksha. The colours are white,red, yellow and black. All people should wear the Rudraaksha of their own caste, otherwise it will not benefit these persons. The Shiva Puraan states that the lighter the Rudraaksha the more fruitful it is. No other necklace or garland is observed in the world to be so auspicious and fruitful as the Rudraaksha. It is recommended for the sake of destroying sins.