Indian legend relates many stories about Lord Shiva, also known as “Rudra”. He is famous for being the embodiment of the power of destruction in an eternal cycle of creation maintenance, and destruction. Shiva is also associated with deep states of meditation where thoughts are absent and only silence and emptiness exist. It is said that Lord Shiva once entered a profound state of meditation for the benefit of mankind for a very long time. When he finally emerged from this state and opened his eyes, the deep joy, peace, and love he felt for the human race was expressed with sacred tears which ran down his cheek and fell to earth. Each tear generated a rudraksha tree whose tiny fruits are born of the tears of rudra—the Lord Almighty Himself.

These trees grow in very few places in the world including the Himalayas of India and Nepal, as well as in parts of Indonesia. They are large trees with a wide silhouette whose flowers bloom annually. The rudraksha berry varies in size (3-40 mm; 1/8 to 1½ inches). It has smooth light green skin and pulp much like a green grape. Lodged within the pulp is a single round seed which has a rough surface and a hole running through it from top to bottom. It is these seeds which are the rudraksha beads. Each seed also possesses fron 1 to 21 vertical lines running down its surface, like the longitude lines on a globe. These lines are known as mukhas (face), and are natural formations of the seed. Seeds with one vertical line are known as ek-mukhi (one face); those with two lines are dwi-mukhi (two face), and so on.

One intriguing aspect of rudraksha lore is that it is worn and worshipped by absolutely everyone regardless of caste, religion, sect, creed, color, or sex.