Malas are some of the most popular and cherished tools for meditation. Usually made up of 108 beads, they are a simple yet effective way to keep track of counting and ground you in the present during meditation. Malas can be made from all sorts of different materials. But you’ve probably noticed that many are made of special seeds known as Rudraksha seeds.

What are Rudraksha Seeds?

Rudraksha seeds come from the Elaeocarpus granitrus trees that grow naturally in Nepal and throughout Southeast Asia. The seeds are found within tree’s ripe blue-colored fruit, and as a result, are sometimes referred to as blueberry beads. They have a naturally pitted texture and vary greatly in size, ranging from 3mm to as large as 40mm (about the size of a walnut).

The Origin of Rudraksha Seeds

Rudraksha seeds have been used in malas and jewelry for thousands of years and are considered sacred within Hinduism. According to legend, Rudraksha seeds originally came from the tears of Lord Shiva. In fact, the word Rudraksha means “eyes of Shiva” (Akshais Sanskrit for “eyes” and Rudrais another name for Shiva). It is said that after meditating for thousands of years on the welfare of mankind, Shiva began crying out of compassion. From these tears the first Rudraksha seeds were planted and grew into fruit-bearing trees. Lord Shiva Himself is often depicted wearing Rudraksha seeds. Other enlightened figures, such as Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, are also said to have worn Rudraksha seeds.

Benefits and Power of Rudraksha Seeds

According to Hindu scripture, Rudraksha seeds have many spiritual and healing properties. They offer protection, help guard against negative energy, and inspire good fortune. They calm the mind and bless with wearer with peace and prosperity. According to some, Rudraksha seeds create a safe “cocoon” of the wearer’s energy, which is especially helpful for those who frequently travel. Rudraksha seeds are also said to have special electromagnetic and vibrational energies. Some believe these energies help lower one’s blood pressure and have a positive effect on the heart, kidneys, and nervous system.

Rudraksha Mukhis

Rudraksha seeds feature natural grooves and pits. Many practitioners appreciate their grainy texture, as it feels good on the hands and helps physically ground the mind. However, if you look at a Rudraksha seed, you may notice that it has distinct sides, or faces. These are known as mukhis. Rudraksha seeds can have as many as 21 mukhis, and each number of mukhis has a special significance. The most sought-after Rudraksha seeds have five mukhis, with the number five representing Lord Shiva Himself.

Caring for Rudraksha Malas

It is good practice to treat Rudraksha malas with care and respect. When not in use, Rudraksha malas can be stored in a cool, dry place. When using or wearing a Rudraksha mala, it is recommended that the seeds touch your skin directly. Avoid wearing Rudraksha seeds in the shower or bath, as getting them wet regularly will cause them to dry and crack. If you need to clean your Rudraksha mala, you can do so every other month: use only gentle running water (warm, not hot) and a mild soap. To keep them lasting longer, regularly oil them with sandalwood oil or olive oil.