--> Skip to main content

Importance Of Rudraksha Mala In Hinduism

Ardent devotees of Lord Shiva, wear a string of beads known as the Rudraksha Mala, which they use for counting when saying their mantra. Here is a look at the importance of Rudraksha Mala in Hinduism and its religious significance.

The name rudraksha is a compound of the two Sanskrit words ‘Rudra’ meaning Shiva and ‘aksha’ meaning eye, so the rudraksha is the eye of Siva. This is the mythological third eye implying spiritual sight or Realization.

The number of beads on the string varies according to the way it is worn. Even today one can see sadhus wearing these beads in their earlobes, round their wrists, on the crown of the head, tight round the neck or falling like a garland on the chest.
  • Three beads are worn in each ear,
  • Twelve round each wrist,
  • Thirty-six over the crown of the head,
  • Thirty-two or twenty-seven tightly round the neck, and
  • Hundred and eight when worn as a garland.

It is this last form of mala which is generally used for counting the repetition of a mantra, although the 'Padma Purana' declares that the use of the mala of twenty-seven beads gives special potency to the mantra.

These beads are seeds of the rudraksha tree which grows in the Himalayas. Both the Skanda Purana and the Padma Purana speak highly of the efficacy of wearing them. Two Sanskrit shastras, the Upadesa Kandam and the Suta Samhita give extensive accounts of saints who attained liberation through them.

The seeds can be of four colours. The most highly prized are white, then reddish, then golden and lastly dark. The first and third varieties are rare, the other two common; so their traditional order of superiority is not on a basis of rarity.

A seed has a soft core through which a hole is pierced for threading it.

A number of lines run over the surface from end to end of this core, dividing the surface up into a number of crescent shaped sections. Beads with five sections are the most common, but there may be any number from one up to fourteen.

According to the Yoga Sara spiritual powers corresponding to the gods abide in the beads according to the number of sections or ' faces ' and this, therefore, determines the type of mantra for which they are suited. 
  1. A bead with one face is sacred to Shiva; 
  2. with two to Shiva and his Shakti, Parvati;
  3. with three to Agni, the God of Fire;
  4. with four to Brahma; 
  5. with five to Kalasi, that is Shiva as destroyer of Yama, the God of Death;
  6. with six to Subrahmanya or Skanda;
  7. with seven to Adisesha;
  8. with eight to Ganapati or Ganesh;
  9. with nine to Bhairava, that is Siva in his ferocious aspect;
  10. with ten to Vishnu;
  11. with eleven to Ekadasa Rudras, that is the Eleven Rudras;
  12. with twelve to Surya, the Sun;
  13. with thirteen to Kamdev, the God of Love; and
  14. with fourteen to Nilakanta, that is Siva the Blue-Throated.

A sadhaka is expected to choose his beads to suit his mantra. The most favored rudraksha mala among devotees is that with six faces, that is the mala of Subrahmanya, who is the second son of Shiva and Parvati and is the God of War.

There is a famous story describing the origin of the rudraksha. Three, asura or demon brothers, Vidyunmali, Tharakaksha and Kamalaksha performed such austerities that they were able thereby to extort boons from Siva. Thereby they made themselves invincible and acquired three flying citadels of gold, silver and iron respectively in which they roamed the earth and conquered not only this world but the world of the gods. That is to say that by their occult powers they were able to dominate not only this world but the subtle worlds also. But even such powers evaporate before the, Face of Truth. The devas prayed to Shiva in their distress and he appeared before the asuras with a terrible look and yet at the same, time a smile, as Truth is terrible to him who has rebelled against it and yet at the same time is compassionate. The citadels were burnt up and the asuras destroyed. At that same moment a tear fell from the eye of the Lord and, falling to earth, became a rudraksha seed from which sprouted a tree bearing rudraksha seeds for the welfare of the world.

Source – The meaning and use of the Rosary in Hinduism by Prof N.R. Krishnamurti published in the April 1966 Issue of the The Mountain Path Magazine.