What is a Mala?

I fell in love with mala beads a long time ago and they have always been something I felt deeply drawn to. Maybe it’s because I have ancestors from India, who knows but there’s always been something about them.

Mala beads have seen a rise in popularity for people in western culture as a fashion accessory, however, most people who wear them do not fully understand what they signify or their original purpose, which is counting mantras in meditation. I personally feel that it is important to acknowledge its original use and respect its significance.

mala beads

What is a Mala? A Mala or Mala beads, also known as Japa malas or meditation beads, have been around since the 8th century BC. With origins in India and meaning garland in Sanskrit “mala” were the predecessor to the Catholic rosary and other types of prayer beads. The word “Japa” in Sanskrit means repeating.

In a traditional mala the beads are made from rudraksha seeds, which come from several species of large evergreen trees associated with the Hindu deity Shiva. Traditionally comprising of 108 beads the mala is intended to be used to count when repeating a mantra or intention while meditating.

The significance of 108 beads?

108 repetitions of a mantra is counted on the mala so that one can focus fully on what is being said. The number 108 has so many meanings that have been documented over the centuries, for example:-

-The 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet each have a masculine and feminine, Shiva and Shakti. 54 multiplied by 2 is 108. 

– The approximate distance of the moon from the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the moon.

– It is said there are 108 energy lines that come together to form the heart chakra. One of which leads to the crown chakra, and is said to signify the path to self-realization.

– The diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth. The distance from the sun to the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the sun.

– In astrology, there are 12 houses and nine planets. Twelve times nine is 108.

The large bead that hangs below the bottom two bottom beads of the mala is known as the ‘guru bead’. It is not counted among the repetitions but used as a reminder of the beginning and end of a cycle.

Mala’s today can be crafted from a variety of gems and beads that have meaning for the wearer. India’s ancient science of life ‘Ayurveda’ goes into more depth about the different gemstones and their effects on the mind and body.

I have decided to craft my Mala’s obviously from Gemstone beads as these hold the most meaning for me. I may in the future add in some Sandalwood or Rudraksha (I’m currently looking at ethical suppliers of these). Each different gemstone has specific energies or meanings tied to them and I enjoy crafting each Mala for a specific intention.

Little Wing Designs Mala’s launch August 2nd 2022.

mala beads nz




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