What is the significance of adorning rudraksha when performing ritualistic worship?


‘Along with Shiva all the deities of His retinue are simple and are easily satisfied. They do not require a temple as a residence. They can live atop a mountain, beneath a tree, on a pimpal tree or anywhere else peacefully. They also do not aspire for an offering of food (mahanaivedya). Offering a coconut is sufficient to appease them.’

Preparing for the ritualistic worship

1. Application of holy ash (bhasma)

One should not commence the ritualistic worship of Lord Shiva without application of holy ash (bhasma). More information on holy ash is provided in point ‘Holy ash (bhasma)’.

1.1 The ritual of creating holy ash

‘Pure holy ash is that which is produced from a cake of cowdung collected before falling to the ground. [The importance of cowdung is given in ‘Science of Spirituality : Vol. 5 – Path of Devotion (Bhaktiyoga)’.] This holy ash is fit for application only after it is consecrated with the efficacious Gayatri mantra. One who has not completed the purashcharan of the Gayatri mantra may purify the ash by chanting any other efficacious Shivamantra.’

1.2 What is used as holy ash?

  • Cowdung is burnt to prepare holy ash. This is mostly used as the average person is unable to tolerate human ash.
  • Earth from the site of an ancient sacrificial fire (yadnya).
  • Holy ash from a mountain at Gangapur.
  • Human ash: This is used by sorcerers (tantriks).

1.3 Where should holy ash be applied?

  • 1. Along with a mantra

    Holy ash should be placed on the palm along with
    the chanting of mantras such as ‘Sadyojat’, etc.
    It should be consecrated with mantras
    such as ‘Agniritya, etc. – 200
    Uttering mantras such as ‘Manastoken’ etc. the holy ash
    should be rubbed with the thumb,
    Along with mantras such as the ‘Tryambak
    it should be applied to the forehead. – 201
    Chanting the ‘Tryayushemantra it should be
    applied to the forehead and arms,
    Thus amidst chanting of the same mantras the holy ash
    should be applied to different parts of the body. – 202

    Shri Gurucharitra, Adhyay 29
  • 2. Along with spiritual emotion (bhav)

    One who does not know mantras should
    apply it with pure spiritual emotion.
    If one uses it wholeheartedly, its glory is great !

    Shri Gurucharitra 29:218

1.4 Tripundra

Tripundra refers to the three horizontal stripes of holy ash.

A. How should they be applied ?

Brahmans (priests) should smear their bodies with holy ash before commencement of various rituals such as rites for departed souls (shraddhas), sacrificial fires (yadnya and hom), ritualistic worship (puja) and Vaishvadev. The ritual of application of holy ash is in the Brahmakarma section of the Rugveda. It can be summarised as – after sipping water from the palm (achman) and performing pranayam, soak some holy ash on the palm of the left hand. Then using the second, middle and ring fingers of the right hand smear it across the forehead horizontally, apply it to the face, chest, neck, arms, sides of the abdomen, sex organs and legs amidst chanting of mantras such as ‘Om agniriti bhasma, Vayuriti bhasma (ॐ अग्‍निरिति भस्‍म, वायुरिति भस्‍म)’ etc. After applying all over the body chant the Name of Shiva thrice.

First using the middle and ring fingers
it should be applied to the forehead.
Then with the thumb, the middle line
should be drawn in the reverse direction.

Shri Gurucharitra 29:204

Meaning: First the upper and lower stripes should be drawn from left to right using the middle and ring fingers. Then the middle stripe should be drawn from right to left using the thumb. [Since the stripes are drawn in both directions instead of the right or left channel, it facilitates activation of the Sushumna channel (nadi).]

The tripundra should be shaped like eyebrows. Often a dot of holy ash is applied in the middle of these three stripes.

B. Implied meaning of the three stripes

  • According to Shri Gurucharitra (29:205-211)
      The stripes
    Upper Middle Lower
    Letter a (अ) u (उ) m (म)
    Fire Garhapatya Dakshinagni Ahavaniya
    Region (lok) Earth (bhu) Nether (bhuva) Dyu (heaven)
    Form of The
    Supreme God
    The soul The inner soul The Supreme
    Component Raja Sattva Tama
    Veda Rugveda Yajurveda Samaveda
    Energy Energy of
    Energy of
    Energy of
    Period of the
    Morning Afternoon Evening
    Deity Mahadev Maheshvar Shiva
  • Tripundra means spiritual knowledge, purity and penance (spiritual practice of Yoga), so also the three eyes of Lord Shiva.
  • According to Vasudevopanishad, tripundra represents the trinity (trimurti), the three mystic words uttered during the ritual of sandhya (vyahyati)and the three rhythms (chandas).
  • According to astrology the three stripes from below upwards represent the planets Guru (Jupiter), Shani (Saturn) and Ravi (Sun) respectively.

C. Who should apply it ?: All that is celibates, householders, retired householders and renunciants should apply it. People from all the four classes (varnas) have a right to apply it.

D. Benefits: Holy ash is useful for cleansing any kind of sin.

2. Adorning rudrakshas

Adorning a rudraksha mala (rosary) when performing ritualistic worship is ideal. Especially followers of the Nath and Vam sects and Kapaliks use rudrakshas.

2.1 Origin and meaning of the word rudraksha

The word rudraksha (रुद्राक्ष) is derived from two words rudra (रुद्र) and aksha (अक्ष). The various meanings of the word rudra are given in point ‘Rudra’. Considering some of the meanings of the word aksha the meanings of the word rudraksha are given below –

  • Aksha means the eye. Rudra and aksha means the one who is capable of viewing and doing everything (e.g. the third eye) is Rudra. Aksha means axis. Since the eye rotates about in only one axis (aksha) it too is called aksha.
  • Rudra means one who weeps. A (अ) means to take and ksha (क्ष) means to give. Hence aksha (अक्ष) means the potential to receive or give. Rudraksha is the one who has the potential to wipe off tears and endow one with happiness.

2.2 The rudra (rudhir) tree

This is found at a height of three thousand metres above or below sea level. The rudraksha tree grows in crevices, not on plain ground. Its leaves resemble those of tamarind or nux vomica but are longer. Annually it yields one to two thousand fruits. The yatis in the Himalayas survive only on these fruits. These fruits are also called fruits of nectar (amrutphal). If eaten, they curb thirst.

2.3 The rudraksha

Its fruits ripen on the tree and fall during winter. Then the seeds in it dry up. Each fruit has fifteen to sixteen seeds (that is rudrakshas). The more the number of seeds, the smaller is their size and the less is their cost. Instead of using a small rudraksha solitarily, several small rudrakshas are strung together along with a large one. A rudraksha has a natural opening from one side to the other. It need not be created. This opening throughout its length is called a vahini (channel). A rudraksha is reddish in colour with yellow stripes and is flat like a fish. On one side it has an open mouth.


2.4 Special features

  • The rudraksha converts light frequencies of deities from the universe into sound frequencies in the body of man and vice versa. As a result, man can absorb frequencies of deities and human thoughts can get converted into the language of deities.
  • The rudraksha absorbs sama (sattva) frequencies. Similarly sama frequencies are emitted by its crests. A real rudraksha can be recognised by the vibrations felt by holding it in the hand. At that time the body absorbs the sama frequencies emitted by the rudraksha. If a rudraksha is held between the thumb and ring finger, vibrations are felt anywhere in the body. Even if kept nearby the effect of a rudraksha is felt for upto half an hour. Thus during that period one is able to perceive vibrations even if any other object is held with the fingers. However if the hands are washed with water then they are not perceived.
  • A mala (rosary) of rudrakshas can be used for chanting the Name of any deity.
  • Chanting done adorning a mala of rudrakshas is a thousand times more beneficial than chanting done without wearing such a mala. Chanting done with a rudraksha mala is ten thousand times more beneficial than chanting done with a rosary of any other kind. Hence Shaivites believe that one cannot make mantras efficacious rapidly and without chanting the mantra using or wearing a rudraksha mala.
  • Rudrakshas facilitate the activation of spiritual energy (kundalini) and the occurrence of keval kumbhak (automatic breath holding) in pranayam.

2.5 Fake rudrakshas

  • A. Bhadraksha: Its tree resembles a rudraksha tree; but its fruits and seeds are round. Its seeds, that is bhadrakshas do not have openings, that is no upper and lower parts. Use of bhadrakshas increases unfavourable (visham) frequencies. Generally bhadrakshas were sold as rudrakshas. Birds do not eat its fruits and if they do, they perish.
  • B. Vikrutaksha: Nowadays mostly this itself is sold as a rudraksha. This is the seed of a type of wild berry. Vikrutaksha is used for sacrificial fires of tantriks, black magic like jaran and maran, uchchatan, etc. by sorcerers. A gypsy tribe from Nepal called the Gurangs first began using the vikrutaksha. An opening is made in the seed with a hot needle. Similarly figures like Om, svastik, a conch, a wheel, etc. are carved on it. It is dyed by immersing in water containing catechu. That is why its colour runs when it is kept in water.
  • C. Artificial rudrakshas: These are made from sealing wax, wood, plastic, etc.
  • D. Differences between real and fake rudrakshas
      A real rudraksha A fake rudraksha
    1. Form Flat like a fish Round
    2. Colour (reddish) Fast Runs when washed in
    3. If thrown in water Sinks immediately Either floats or sinks
    gradually with wavy
    4. An opening thoughout
        its length
    Present Has to be made with
    a needle
    5. Rotation about itself
        when hung in a copper
        vessel or in water.
    Occurs Does not occur
    6. Eaten away by
        termites after
    No Yes
    7. Cost of each (in the
        year 1997)
    Rs 4,000 – 40,000 Rs 20 – 200
    8. Which frequencies
        does it absorb?
    Sama (Sattva)     –
    9. Perception of
    Are felt Are not felt
  • E. Fake rudrakshas and saints: Externally even if saints give a ‘fake’ rudraksha, with the divine consciousness (chaitanya) of the former, from within it gets converted into a ‘real’ one.

2.6 An ideal rudraksha


  • Heavy and radiant
  • With distinct openings
  • One adorned with auspicious symbols such as a Shivalinga, a svastik, etc.
  • ‘The bigger the rudraksha and the smaller the shaligram, the more ideal it is.’ – Merutantra
  • A rudraksha obtained from a tree whose girth is beyond the span of one’s arms, that is an old tree.
  • A rudraksha obtained from a rudraksha tree situated at a great height above sea level.
  • A rudraksha obtained from the top branches of a tree.

    Rudrakshas obtained from trees at a great height are more efficacious since they receive the sattva component coming from above in greater quantities. [Refer ‘Science of Spirituality: Vol. 7 – Supreme God, God, Incarnations and Deities, point – Guardian deities of the territory (Kshetrapaldevata)’.]

  • The white coloured one is the best. Rudrakshas of an inferior quality in the ascending order are crimson, yellow or black in colour. Generally white and yellow rudrakshas are uncommon while red and black ones are common.

2.7 Practical suggestions for its use

A. Making the rudraksha efficacious: ‘First consecrate the rudraksha by sprinkling it with water five to sixty-one times amidst chanting of an efficacious mantra. Then the rudraksha may be touched to a consecrated linga. Without touching a jyotirlinga or in specific difficult situations, a consecrated linga (pindi or shalunka), a rudraksha cannot be charged with energy significantly. Thereafter choosing an auspicious moment (muhurt) for instance, Mahashivratra, Amrutsiddhi, etc. depending on the opening of the rudraksha the corresponding mantra of that opening should be chanted 21, 42 or 102 times and chanting the mrutyunjay or aghor mantra the rudraksha should be consecrated (rudrabhishek). Following this the rudraksha is consecrated either with the Shiva principle or depending on the opening, with the female deity [Divine Energy (Shakti)]. (Refer point ‘2.7 G’.) Such a rudraksha is said to be an “efficacious (siddha) one”.

B. Maintaining the efficacy of a rudraksha: Maintaining the efficacy of an efficacious rudraksha after adorning it, is important. To maintain it, it is necessary to observe the rules given below.

  • Application of holy ash: refer point ‘Application of holy ash (bhasma)’.
  • Ritualistic worship of the Shivalinga: Ritualistic worship of Shiva’s linga or a rudraksha is important. No other person should be allowed to touch such efficacious rudrakshas. If someone touches it accidentally, then it should be purified with urine of a cow or holy water from a place of pilgrimage.
  • Rememberance of Lord Shiva: After awaking and before going to bed one should remember Lord Shiva.

C. Ritual of adorning a rudraksha: Even to wear an efficacious rudraksha it is customary to choose an auspicious time. Before this an individual who has activated the energy in the mantra applies holy ash and chanting mantras of Shiva makes a resolve (sankalpa) and ties the rudraksha to the seeker. Then the one who knows the efficacious mantra advises the seeker to chant the Shiva mantra.

D. Site where a rudraksha is to be worn depending upon the number of its openings: This is decided by the ability of the rudraksha to absorb energy, the ability of various organs to tolerate that energy, the deities of those organs as well as the objective of using the rudraksha.

Number of
Site Objective
1 Wearing a gold or silver
ring on the appropriate
finger depending on one’s
motive and according to
astrology, so that the
rudraksha makes contact
with the skin
4, 6, 9 Right arm   
(Variant) 4 Tuft of hair on the crown of
the head (shendi)
(Variant) 9 Left arm  
5, 7, 10, 12, 13 Throat  
  Tuft of hair on the crown of
the head
Cure of illnesses
  Ears Grace of the Sun deity
  Neck Cleansing one of the
sins of slaying men and
11, 14 Tuft of hair on the crown of
the head
(Variant) 14 Forehead   

E. Number of rudrakshas: Various holy texts have prescribed the use of 108, 249, 1000 and 1100 rudrakshas. The greater the number the more is the benefit. One wearing a rudraksha is cleansed not only of his sins, but also acquires the ability to cleanse others’ sins.

All benefits are obtained by touching and looking at a rudraksha (darshan). Hence looking at it everyday and its contact with the body both are important.

  • Number of rudrakshas and sites in the body: This depends upon the ability of the organs in the body, to absorb and endure the energy of the rudraksha and their deities.

    1.  The one who wears a thousand rudrakshas as a garland
         becomes like Lord Rudra Himself and is offered obeisance
         by all the deities. – 14
         If one is unable to tie a thousand then one may wear sixteen
         on both the arms, one on the tuft of hair on the head and
         twenty-four* on both the wrists. – 15
         Wear thirty-two on the neck, forty on the head and twelve
         on both the ears as an alternative. – 16
         A chain of a hundred and eight may be worn around the
         neck. Listen O seeker you will be like the son of Rudra by
         wearing them this way. – 17
         Pearls, corals, marble, silver, a kind of precious stone and
         gold may be worn in the chain of rudrakshas. – 18
         The benefit of this is immense, a chain of rudrakshas is
         great. One should wear a rudraksha as and when one gets it. – 19

    Shri Gurucharitra, Adhyay 33.

         * 12 on each wrist


    Number of beads
    in the rosary
    Site Objective
    22 Around the head   
    6 Ears   
    27 Neck   
    32 Neck (hanging
    upto level of
    the heart)
    15 Shoulder Usually those gifted by saints
    are tied to the shoulder
    12 Wrist   
    249 Waist Specific penance
    1000, 1100 Around the
    Responsibility for others or
    the brunt of sins


  • The number of rudrakshas in the japamala (rosary) depending on the objective: This is decided by the science of numerology.
    Number of beads Objective
    32 Wealth
    102 Merits
    104 Health and strength
    107 The Final Liberation (Moksha)
    108 Righteousness (Dharma), wealth, desire
    and the Final Liberation

F. Use of rudrakshas

1. For worldly benefits

  • To fulfill impossible tasks: The opening of the rudraksha should be kept facing the right, that is southwards. This activates the sun channel (surya nadi) of the individual.
  • Mohini kama [one out of the types of black magic from among the shatkarmas (six actions) including jaranmaran, etc.]: Here one has to control the frequencies of the individual facing oneself. Hence the opening of the rudraksha is kept facing him. As a result, the frequencies emitted from the rudraksha trap the individual opposite it.

2. As a remedy during illness: To cite an example how a rudraksha can be used in various ways to control blood pressure is given below.

  • Water should be poured over a rudraksha and then that water should be consumed.
  • The rudraksha should be tied around the neck or on the waist above the navel at the site of the saman vital energy.
  • Bathing for twenty-one days wearing a rudraksha around the neck such that its opening faces the right. This is an excellent remedy for any kind of illness. However before that for sometime the opening of the rudraksha should be kept facing the left so as to gradually increase the ability of the patient to absorb frequencies.
  • A rudraksha is placed with its opening facing the left under the pillow of a bedridden patient. Once the patient becomes ambulatory it is placed with its opening facing the right.
  • One continues to get the benefit even if one adorns a rudraksha for a few days and then removes it. Even after the death of this person the one who keeps his ashes is benefitted.
  • Partaking of the holy ash of a rudraksha.

G. The deities, benefits, special characteristics and uses in illnesses depending on the number of openings

Most people feel that the number of its openings is equivalent to the complete lines on it. However this is not so. The number of openings correspond to the number of distinct elevations on the openings. The older the tree the more are the openings in the rudrakshas that it yields.

Openings Deity Benefit Uses in an
1 Shiva Cleansing of all sins including
killing Brahmans, material
success, Liberation (Mukti),
the supernatural power of
speech, oratory (winning over
an audience), victory over an
energy, etc.
Thrombosis, urinary
stones, respiratory
2* Shiva-Parvati
Cleansing of sins arising from
killing cows
Diseases of the
stomach, liver and
urinary bladder.
3 Agni (deity
of fire)
Benefits like the dakshinavart
conch, splendour, hypnotising
(Vashikaran), acquisition of
knowledge, activation of
kundalini (spiritual energy),
cleansing of sins arising from
slaying of Brahmans and
Remedy over the
defects of the three
humours vata (wind),
pitta (bile) and kapha
(phlegm), purification
of channels (nadis).
4 Lord Brahma Knowledge, happiness and
acquisition of wealth, cleansing
of sins arising from killing living
Diseases of the ear,
throat and the
hastijivha nadi
5** Kalagni Acquisition of Righteousness
(Dharma), wealth, desire and
the Final Liberation (Moksha);
cleansing of sins created by
eating the forbidden, adultery
and sins acquired from birth,
prevention of premature death
Diseases of the
vertebral column,
overcoming obstacles
at the site of the
Manipur and Anahat
6 Ganesh Cleansing of sins arising from
killing human beings,
knowledge and happiness,
supernatural powers,
overcoming a crisis.
7. Saptarushis /
Cleansing of sins accrued by
stealing gold, success, money,
Purification of sperms,
increase in semen,
flow of oja (precursor
of divine energy
8. Batukbhairav Cleansing sins arising from
speaking falsely, longevity and
Liberation after death.
Diseases of the nervous
system, prostate and
gall bladder
9. (Nava) Durga
/ Bhairav
Cleansing of all sins, fame,
happiness, progeny, becoming
rid even of the fear of time
Diseases of the brain,
10. Guardian
deities of the
ten directions
Elimination of suffering due to
nine planets, spirits, Vetals,
Brahmarakshasas, serpents,
etc., protection from black
magic, averting untimely death
Fear of an
apparition (feeling that
someone is standing
beside one).
11. The eleven
Acquisition of happiness,
protection of husband,
longevity, acquisition of
wifehood, acquisition of son,
Excess of saman and
pran vital energies.
12. Vishnu, the
twelve suns
Cleansing of sins arising from
killing cows or man, stealing
gold etc., eliminating unhappiness
such as poverty, infertility, etc.,
absence of fear of robbers and
fire, happiness
Disorders of the eye,
base of the nose, the
jyotishmati (seventh)
13. Indra Supernatural powers, acquisition
of progeny, happiness,
elimination of sins, decrease in
sexual desire, and increase in
nadibandha and faith
Psychiatric illnesses
14. Hanuman Cleansing of all sins, acquisition
of progeny, health
Increase in secretions
of the eighth (Vishnu)
15*** Gouri-Shankar
Happiness Maintaining an even
flow of 108
frequencies in the
body into a facour-
able manner.
16       Channelising the 360
disease causing frequ-
encies in the body
evenly and directing
them towards the 108
17   The rudrakshas are tied to the
waist. As a result, the saman
vital energy is affected and it
facilitates the attainment of the
superconscious state (samadhi)
18    A fragrant odour facilitates one
to enter the superconscious state
19   Facilitates one to travel along the
path of zero stress nature
20   If one sits in a posture compres-
sing the thighs then it facilitates
movement towards the Karma
region (lok)
21 Shiva Male principle, adorning them on
the head, around the waist, in the
neck, under the thighs etc.
Conversation with demigods
(yakshas), celestial singers
(gandharvas) and fairies. Contact
with Lord Yama (deity of death).

* The rudraksha has one white and one blackish side.
** Available everywhere. A minimum of three are worn.
*** Rudrakshas stuck to one another. Such a rudraksha is not worn, but is worshipped.

2.8 The technique of using it

One side of a rudraksha has crests (openings). Sama frequencies are emitted by them. Hence the opening of a rudraksha should face the left of the one wearing it. As a result, sattva frequencies are expelled to his left and the moon channel (Chandra nadi) is activated. This makes the person’s temperament pleasing.



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