Rudraksha refers to a stonefruit, the dried stones of which are used as prayer beads by Hindus (especially Shaivas), as well as by Buddhists and Sikhs. When they are ripe, rudraksha stones are covered by an inedible blue outer fruit so they are sometimes called “blueberry beads”. The rudraksha stones are produced by several species of large, evergreen, broad-leaved tree in the genus Elaeocarpus, the principal species of which is Elaeocarpus ganitrus.
The stones are associated with the Hindu deity Shiva and are commonly worn for protection and for chanting mantras such as Om Namah Shivaya. The stones are primarily sourced from India, Indonesia, and Nepal for jewellery and malas (garlands); they are valued similarly to semi-precious stones. Various meanings and interpretations are attributed to rudraksha stones with different numbers of “faces” or locules, and rare or unique stones are highly prized and valued.