Friday, October 26, 2012

Hindu Prayer Beads (Part 1)

Hindu Japa Mala
Photo Credit: The Full Wiki
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Hindu Malas
In Hinduism, prayer beads serve the function of focusing the mind on each individual mantra rather than on the counting of the mantras. A mantra is a sacred sound, syllable, or word that has transportive meaning to the mind. 

These “energetic vibrations,” capable of penetrating both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems of anyone within earshot of the chanting, are reported to have been discovered by yogis and Rishis (Vedic seers) who received them while practicing transcendental meditation over 6,000 years ago. {Paul} Assumption is made that the Hindu practice of praying with mala beads evolved from this ancient Vedic practice, sometime between 185 BC and 320 AD.

It is important to note that it’s not the counting of the mantras that is important. Rather, it is the focused intention of thought upon the sound vibration that draws a devotee into an altered state of consciousness, empowering both him and the mala (rosary) with spiritual energy that further aids his practice. {Adams}

There are as many different types of malas as there are sects of Hinduism, and there are as many mantras as there are gods and Hindus. The two main branches of Hinduism, Vishnus and Sivas, use different types malas. Vishnus fashion 108 wooden beads out of the wood from the tulsi tree (holy basil), and Shivas use seeds from the rudraksha tree to make strands of 32 or 108 beads.

Read Part 2
1. Adams, Tom. “Prayer Beads—Tibetan Mala.” Eastern Healing Arts (website). Copyright 2004-2010. Accessed October 26, 2012.
2. Khalsa, Dayakaur. “Mala Beads.” Mala-beads (website). Accessed October 29, 2012.
3. Paul, LoriAnn V. “How to Pray With Muslim Prayer Beads: Thikr, Dhikr, Zikr, Tasbih, Tespihi, Subha, Misbaha.” Hearts to Heaven (website). Accessed October 26, 2012.
4. Rosary Workshop. “Journaling the Bead: A History of the Rosary.” Accessed October 20, 2012.
5. S, Anamika. “Hindu Prayer Beads for chanting Mantras.” HubPages. Last updated June 17, 2012.
6. Winston, Kimberly. Bead One, Pray Too. New York: Moorehouse Publishing, 2008.

*Clip-art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy


  1. Seems pretty complicated, but very interesting.

    1. Yes, the intricacies of Hindu practice are definitely complicated. I'm glad you found it interesting despite the complexity.