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What are mala beads?
Used in Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Yoga, malas perform as prayer beads, meditation aids and healing aids. They are known for their physical and spiritual healing powers and Malas have been around for centuries.
Today, malas are not only used for prayers and meditation purposes alone. The boho-chic fashion style is loved by many today, and men’s fashion has also embraced the look. Malas are very popular with people love the outdoors and nature and they are worn as necklaces and bracelets.
However, every different type of mala beads used to create a bracelet or necklace has a meaning and many people choose a particular type of bead according to its healing capabilities.
Malas and their history
The oldest beads found to date are approximately 42,000 years old, proving that they have been used to create amulets, jewels and talismans throughout the history of mankind. We know that they represented wealth, authority, spirituality and were used for bartering. Today, over two-thirds of the world’s population use beads to pray but their use as prayer beads appear to have originally started in India around the 8th century B.C.E.
In Sanskrit, mala means garland and malas, meditation beads, or prayer beads were created to keep the mind focused on meditation. A full mala is made up of 108 counting beads and one guru or meru bead, which is often larger. A tassel is connected to the meru and is used to complete and hold the malas together.
Uses of Malas according to religion
The number 108, which is represented by the beads, is significant for Hindus, Yogis and Buddhists. The Sanskrit alphabet has 108 letters and the Vedic mathematicians also measured that the Sun’s diameter is 108 times larger than the Earth’s. They also measured the distance between the Earth and the Sun to be 108 times the diameter of the Sun. The yogic tradition has 108 sacred texts of the Upanishads, 108 sacred sites in India, and 108 marma (acupressure points) on the body. Bhakti yoga tradition speaks of 108 gopis dancing with Krishna in Vrindavan, and the goddess has 108 names. The heart chakra in tantric yoga is the converging point of 108 energy lines.
Muslims began using prayer beads in the 17th century. They usually have 99 counting beads with one Whatterminal elongated bead. They are known subha, misbaha or tespih and are used to practice zikr, the recitation of the 99 attributes of God.
The origin of the Catholic rosary is from Ireland and its use began in the 8th century. They are made with 59 beads which are used to count the prayers recited in honor to the Virgin Mary. The use of the rosary was only approved in the 16th century by the church.
The Greeks and Cypriots have the komboloi, made of 17-23 beads, and it’s used as a talisman to guard against bad luck and reduce stress.
How are malas made?
Different materials are used to make mala beads, with the most popular being wood, semi-precious gemstones and seeds. Each type of bead is believed to offer a different energy. Spiritual and religious malas may be required to be made from a specific material.
Bead sizes and types - When used for counting prayers the beads range from 6 to 10 mm, making them easier to count. Malas can be made up with a single bead material or they can also be mixed. Often thin metal beads are placed decoratively on the malas and are not counted in prayers. The guru bead is usually larger so that it can stand out.
Tassels and knots – Mostly the tassels are made from cotton or silk, but other materials can also be used. Mala beads can also have a knot between each bead.
Malas and men’s fashion
Men have worn adornments since the beginning of time. The popularity of these receded for quite a while, but over recent years men’s fashion has changed and men feel more comfortable to wear jewelry that is just decorative and not just for practical reasons.
Malas are the perfect men’s fashion statement and can be worn discreetly with a business suit or openly when dressed in an outdoor or boho-chic manner.
Besides the 108 bead malas which can be worn as necklaces or bracelets, they can also be strung as a half mala with 54 beads. Wrist or bracelet malas can be strung with 27 counting beads and tassels can be added or left off if they are not preferred.
Whether men choose to wear malas to focus on meditation, count mantras, for their inherent healing powers or just as a fashion statement, they have a huge choice of materials and styles to choose from.