Near many religious places of Kathmandu and even in souvenir shops for tourists you can see quite uncomely necklaces made of dark-brown grooved beads. These are rudraksha necklaces and in spite of their unattractiveness they are very popular among Hindus. The Rudraksha tree, botanical name Elaeocarpus Ganitrus, is one of the sacred trees in Hinduism. It is a large evergreen blue-berry tree that grows in South and Southeast Asia, the Asia Pacific region and China at an attitude of 2000 m. It is the seed of its fruit that is used as Rudraksha bead. Rudra is the fiercest form of Lord Shiva and Aksha means eyes in Sanskrit. So rudraksha literally means what is born out of Lord Shiva's eyes, his tears. After meditating for many years for the welfare of all creatures, when Shiva finally opened his eyes tears rolled down his face to the ground, thus creating the rudraksha trees. The rudraksha is the only ornament that Shiva wears, besides a coiled snake. The Shaivite (followers of Shiva) sadhus too wear rudraksha beads as a part of adornment.
The rudraksha tree is as big as banyan tree and takes 15 to 18 years to take full shape. Rudraksha seeds are covered by an outer shell of blue colour when fully ripe. A common type has five divisions, and these are considered to be symbolic of the five faces of Shiva. The seeds, about an inch in diameter, are round and grooved. These grooves are referred to as mukhs or faces. A seed can have one to 21 faces, each having a governing deity with specific powers and properties. Five, four and six-faced beads are most common. The one-faced rudraksha is considered the "King of all Mukhis", it is extremely rare and religiously very important. The Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal has two such beads, one of which is displayed to devotees during auspicious occasions. Hundreds of rudraksha beads grow on the same tree, but only one in a hundred is said to possess the magical powers. Rosaries of 108 beads are also made of rudraksha and they are considered auspicious.
The beneficial powers of rudraksha are believed to be associated with its electrical and magnetic properties. Rudraksha beads have been worn by yogis to maintain health and gain self empowerment. It is supposed to free the wearer of all sins, grant knowledge, self realisation, peace of mind, stimulate the mind, sharpen intellect, grant wealth, health, luck, power, prosperity and attain salvation. Various writings also mention of powerful anti-ageing properties of rudraksha beads.