Why does a japa mala consist of 108 beads?

1. The effects of Names of certain deities

1.1 Deities at a higher spiritual level

If a seeker at the level of the pruthvi (absolute earth) element suddenly commences chanting of the tej (absolute fire) element then he feels uncomfortable since he does not have the potential to tolerate the radiance (tej) generated by it.

1.2 Deities worthy of worship and those unworthy of worship

Chant the Name of any of the forms of Lord Vishnu such as Narayan, Keshav, etc., Shiva or Ganapati, for one minute. Then chant that of either Prajapati or Brahma for a minute. Note whether you feel pleasant or distressed with each chanting, only then read further.

At a satsang (spiritual meeting ) after chanting ‘Shankar’ 12 out of 30 people felt pleasant and none experienced distress. Contrary to this, after chanting ‘Prajapati’ 6 people felt good while 3 experienced distress, that is developed a headache, felt like stopping the chanting, etc.

At another satsang after chanting ‘Narayan’, 4 out of 28 people felt pleasant and none experienced distress. As against this, after chanting ‘Prajapati’ none felt pleasant and 3 experienced discomfort.

At yet another satsang after chanting ‘Keshav’, 5 out of 22 felt pleasant and none experienced distress. In contrast, after chanting ‘Brahma’ none felt pleasant and 5 experienced discomfort.

Since everyone is not capable of giving answers in the subtle dimension, all cannot participate in such experiments. The point to be emphasized here is that through various experiments one thing is proven repeatedly and that is, that usually chanting of Vishnu, Shiva and Ganapati does not cause distress as is the case with Prajapati or Brahma. Hence Vishnu, Shiva and Ganapati are worthy of worship while Prajapati and Brahma are not. Thus temples of Prajapati and Brahma are mostly not constructed. One may thus conclude that no one worships Prajapati and Brahma since they are responsible for our creation and our entrappment in the Great Illusion (Maya)!

1.3 Superior and subordinate deities

Chant the Name of Vishnu, Shiva or Ganapati for one minute. Then chant Yaksha (demigods), Gandharva (celestial male singer), Kinnar (celestial musician) or names of Apsaras (celestial beauties) like Menaka, Rambha, Urvashi, Tilottama, etc. for one minute. First note whether one feels pleasant or uncomfortable with the chanting, only then proceed.

At one satsang (spiritual meeting) 20 out of 35 people felt pleasant after chanting ‘Shankar’ and none were distressed. Contrary to this, after chanting ‘Yaksha’ only one felt pleasant and 6 were distressed.

At another satsang 21 out of 41 felt pleasant after chanting ‘Vishnu’ and only one felt a little distressed. As against this after chanting the names of the celestial beauties Menaka, Rambha, Urvashi, Tilottama, etc. no one felt pleasant. Instead 10 of them experienced distress (though 24 out of the 41 were males)!

Since all cannot get answers in the subtle dimension everybody at the satsang cannot participate in such experiments. Yet from this it is clear why Vishnu, Shiva, Ganapati, etc. are called superior deities and Yakshas, Gandharvas, Kinnars, Apsaras, etc. are called subordinate deities. Since worship of subordinate deities can cause distress due to their excessive manifest energy their temples also are not constructed.

1.4 The obstacle of distressing energy

If one is affected by distressing energy such as spirits, black magic (karni), etc. then initially one may experience discomfort even with appropriate chanting. This is so because the seeker chanting, himself becomes a sort of battlefield for both, the pleasant energy generated by chanting and the distressing energy. However, the distress caused by the distressing energy gradually decreases with chanting the Name of the family deity (kuladevata) or that given by the Guru and then stops altogether.

1.5 Time and deities

Some seekers may experience distress if they chant the Name of a deity or a presiding deity other than the deity of the day or the presiding deity of that date (tithi). However, this difference will be obvious only after a seeker who has made substantial spiritual progress, experiments by chanting in this way.

A. Days of the week and deities

Monday (Somvar): Shiva (Som means the Moon) Tuesday: Parvati / Lakshmi
Wednesday: Pandurang Thursday: Datta
Friday: Parvati / Lakshmi Saturday: Maruti
Sunday (Ravivar): Ravi (means Surya, the Sun deity)  

B. The dates (tithis) and their respective presiding deities

1. Pratipada (1st) Agnidev (The
deity of fire)
2. Dvitiya (2nd) Brahma (The
deity of origin)
3. Trutiya (3rd) Gouri 4. Chaturthi Ganesh
5. Panchami Sarpa (The
6. Shashthi (6th) Kartikswami
7. Saptami (7th) Surya (Sun) 8. Ashtami (8th) Bhairav (Shiva)
9. Navami (9th) Durga 10. Dashami (10th) Antak [Yamaraj
(The deity of
11. Ekadashi (11th) Vishvedev 12. Dvadashi (12th) Hari (Vishnu)
13. Trayodashi (13th) Kamadev 14. Chaturdashi (14th) Pitar (ancestors)
15. Pournima (full
      moon day)
16. Amavasya (new
      moon day)
Pitar (ancestors)

    If instead of the presiding deity of that date (tithi) one worships the presiding deity of another date then the benefit obtained is less, for instance if instead of Agnidev (the deity of fire) one worships other deities on the first day (pratipada) of the Hindu lunar calendar then the percentage of the benefit obtained is as follows.

The deity Proportion of
the benefit
obtained %
The deity
Proportion of
the benefit
obtained %
1. Agnidev (The
    deity of fire)
100 9. Durga 70
2. Brahma 40 10. Antak
3. Gouri 70 11. Vishvedev 70
4. Ganesh 40 12. Hari
5. Sarpa
    (The serpant)
70 13. Kamadev 70
6. Kartikswami 40 14. Shiva 40
7. Surya 70 15. Chandra
8. Bhairav
40 16. Pitar

2. The method of chanting the deity’s Name

When addressing someone instead of simply using his name, one refers to him respectfully as Shri. (Mr.), Smt. (Mrs.) etc. Similarly, one should chant the Name of the family deity in a way which expresses respect for the same. Shri should prefix the Name of the family deity, the Name that follows should be in dative case (chaturthi pratyay) and should conclude with namaha. For instance, if the family deity is Ganesh then ‘Shri Ganeshaya namaha (श्री गणेशाय नम: ।)’, if it is Bhavani, then ‘Shri Bhavanimatayai namaha (श्री भवानीमातायै नम: ।) or Shri Bhavanidevyai namaha (श्री भवानीदेव्‍यै  नम: ।)’. Since it is difficult to pronounce ‘Shri Bhavanyai namaha‘ one can say matayai or devyai. The table below shows how the dative case should be affixed to the word. The affix means ‘to’, that is (obeisance) to Ganapati, to the deity, etc.

  The Name The affix
Other examples
The masculine gender
1. Ending in ‘a’ Rama Ramaya Narayanaya, Ganeshaya,
2. Ending in ‘i’ Hari Haraye Marutaye (Maruti), Agnaye
(Agni), Ravaye (Ravi)
3. Ending in ‘u’ Vishnu Vishnave Gurave (Guru), Bhanave
4. Ending in ‘ru’ Pitru Pitre  
5. Others Hanumat Hanumate  
The feminine gender
1. Ending in ‘a’ Durga Durgayai Umayai, Ramayai
2. Ending in ‘i’ Parvati Parvatyai Sarasvatyai
3. Ending in ‘u’ Dhenu Dhenvai/
4. Ending in ‘ru’ Matru Matre  

2.1 Prefixing Shri or Om to the Name

Generally Shri or Om is prefixed to the Name. The importance of this prefix is given in ‘Science of Spirituality: Chapter 10 – Path of Mantra (Mantrayoga) point 2.- Parts of a mantra‘. The comparison of Shri and Om is given in the following table.

  Shri Omkar (Om)
1. Meaning Divine Energy
(Shakti), Beauty,
virtues, etc.
The unmanifest
2. The level (%) of a seeker who
     may use it
20-60* 30-70
3. Possibility of distress due to
    the energy generated by the
    pronunciation or remembrance
    of the prefix %
0 2**
4. Commonly prefixed to the
    Name of which deity
Almost all

* Beyond a spiritual level of 60% one concentrates on Bliss (Anand) instead of the word.

** For creation of the manifest (sagun, the Great Illusion) from the unmanifest (nirgun, Brahman) tremendous energy is required. Such energy is generated by Om. Hence, repeating (chanting) of Om by one whose spiritual level is not adequate to do so can cause physical distress such as hyperacidity, a rise in the body temperature, etc. or psychological distress like restlessness.

Note : The above table indicates adding prefix Shri or Om to the chant of the Deity. It is advised to seek guidance for forming the specific chant.

        Women should not chant Om. The frequencies emanating from Om generate a lot of energy (heat) in the body. This does not affect the male reproductive organs as they lie outside the body cavity. However, in case of women this heat can affect the reproductive organs as they lie within the abdominal cavity. Thus women may experience distress. They may suffer from excessive menstrual flow, amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, infertility, etc. Hence, it is advisable for women not to prefix Om to the Name unless otherwise recommended by the Guru; for example they may chant ‘Namaha Shivaya (नम: शिवाय)’ instead of ‘Om namaha Shivaya (ॐ नम: शिवाय)’. Otherwise they should use Shri as a prefix.

3. The speed of chanting

        A seeker with a tamasik (tama predominant) temperament should chant fast while one with a rajasik (raja predominant) temperament and sattvik temperament should do so slowly. Until a seeker in the primary stage begins to like chanting, he should chant changing the tune, rhythm and rate of chanting in order to avoid feeling bored. A seeker in the advanced stage should chant with one tune, rhythm and rate and gradually decrease the speed of chanting to facilitate keeping the mind in a thoughtless state. By extending the Om if it is present in one’s japa, the speed of chanting decreases. Chanting very fast too stops the chanting and the mind becomes thoughtless. One should gradually prolong the period of pronunciation of The Lord’s Name each time, so that if chanting is occurring twenty times in a minute, it is reduced to fifteen times, later to ten times and so on.

4. The stage of the seeker and the mode of speech (vani)

A. The primary stage:

  • The Vaikhari mode of speech
  • Writing The Lord’s Name: This should be done every morning and evening for atleast ten minutes and on Sundays and holidays for atleast half an hour to one hour
  • Chanting with a mala (rosary): If one chants with the help of a mala (rosary) then one should do at least three turns (malas) per day. If the chanting is less, then to know the reduction in the number of malas, one should count their number. If substantial chanting occurs then there is no need to count the malas.

B. The intermediate stage: Madhyama and Pashyanti modes of speech

C. The advanced stage: Pashyanti and Para modes of speech

Whether one chants in the Vaikhari, Madhyama, Pashyanti or Para mode of speech is not important. One should chant with that mode of speech with which the wandering of the mind is minimised. Information on these four modes of speech is given in table ‘Comparison of chanting in the four modes of speech’.

5. Keeping a count of the chanting

The methods of counting the chanting are as follows:

  • A. The mala of beads: Information about the mala (rosary) is given below under point ‘6. The japa mala (rosary)’.

  • B. The mala of fingers (karamala): The joints of the fingers of the right hand used to count chanting constitute the mala of fingers (karamala). The method of counting chanting is as follows:

    Start by counting 1 on the middle joint of the ring finger. Then count 2 at the base of the ring finger, three, four and five on the joints of the little finger in the ascending order, six on the upper joint of the ring finger, seven on the upper joint of the middle finger and eight, nine and ten on the joints of the index finger in the descending order. Once one reaches the base of the index finger one should reverse the order while counting till one reaches the middle joint of the ring finger. In this forward and reversed order, chanting occurs twenty times. In the mala of fingers (karamala) the base of the index finger should be considered as the merubead (merumani) and should not be crossed. So also the lower two joints of the middle finger should not be touched.’ (1) When chanting using the mala of fingers some joints are not to be touched as the mudras resulting from their touch can reduce one’s concentration.

  • C. Counting machines: Nowadays counting machines are used to count chanting wherein a button is pressed, each time one chants. Electronic counters are also becoming popular. However since they are made of stainless steel the sattva component generated in them on account of chanting and the benefit derived by the seeker thereby is far less than that generated in a mala used for the same purpose.

6. The japa mala (rosary)

6.1 The number of beads

        The Hindu mala (rosary) usually consists of 108 beads in addition to the merubead. In some sects however the number of beads vary, for instance in the Shaiva sect the mala has 32 beads. According to some holy texts the mala should have only 9 beads and one should count 108 with 12 of its turns.

        The mala of alphabets (akshamala) is made of rudraksha beads. It is composed of 51 alphabets from the Devanagari script from ‘a‘(अ) to ‘ksh’(क्ष). Here ‘a’(अ) to ‘l’(ळ) are counted on the ordinary beads and ‘ksh’ on the merubead. When chanting with this, first one starts in the natural order from ‘a‘ to ‘l‘ and then backwards from ‘l’ to ‘a’.

A. The number of beads depending on the motive:

1. Spiritual progress : 27
2. Thousands of mahapurashcharans : 100
3. Attainment of the Final Liberation (Moksha) : 25
4. Acquisition of wealth : 30
5. Fulfillment of all one’s desires : 108
6. Acquisition of distressing energy (Aghori vidya) : 30

B. The meaning of 108 beads in the mala:

  • ‘Desire, anger, greed, attachment, pride and envy are the six defects or foes of the soul (shadripu). Often more than one defect is dominant at a time. Sometimes even two defects can be dominant. Thus one derives six permutations of a defect, for instance desire, desire-anger, desire-greed, desire-attachment, desire-pride, desire-envy, etc. Thus from the six defects, thirty-six permutations are obtained. These thirty-six permutations have either sattva, raja or tama, as their predominant component, for instance desire-anger-sattva, desire-anger-raja, desire-anger-tama. Thus 36×3=108 permutations are obtained. Every bead in the mala is a representative of such a permutation. The merubead (merumani) maintains its separate existence inspite of being with the rest. Thus finally the mala consists of 109 beads. The spiritual emotions developed in every bead are generated from the nine types of devotion (navavidha bhakti).’ (2)

  • The four parts (charans) of each of the twenty-seven lunar asterisms (nakshatras) that is 27 x 4 equals one hundred and eight. These are represented by 108 beads in the mala. This reminds one of the fact that the Vedic teachings have to be propagated to these 108 places.

  • The beads symbolize the 108 sensate foci in our body.

  • They represent the 108 Upanishads.

  • The Names of Vishnu and Shiva in the Mahabharat are also 108.

  • The major psychiatric illnesses according to the Ayurveda too are 108.

  • The number of the deities of knowledge and the various sciences (vidyas) is 108 as well.

  • In the tenth kand of the text Shatpath Brahman it is said that one sanvatsar has 10,800 auspicious moments (muhurts). The Rugveda, Yajurveda and Samaveda also have the same number of couplets. (The Atharvaveda is considered inferior to the other three Vedas. Hence it is not discussed here.) The life span of man in the Kaliyug is hundred years. If 10,800 is divided by 100 the result is 108. Thus the 108 beads in the mala indicate the 108 auspicious moments (muhurts) in a year and also the couplets of the three Vedas.

  • An average person breathes 21,600 times a day. If a seeker gives half these breaths to worldly activities then he should devote atleast the remaining half, that is 10,800 breaths to spiritual practice. So, chanting of a minimum of 100 turns (malas) of a mala consisting of 108 beads should be done everyday.

  • ‘The author of Ankavidya, S.H.Joshi has illustrated the scientific relationship between numbers and actions. Zero refers to the inactive, formless and attributeless Brahman whereas, 1 indicates the non-dualistic state of Brahman. S.H. Joshi while elucidating the concept further says, each number has its own importance. The 108 beads of the mala also have a significance. The sun when traversing the twelve zodiac signs completes a polar circle which is known as a ‘vrutta‘. The vrutta has 360 degrees. If one converts the degrees of the revolution into kalas one gets 360 x 60 = 2,16,000 kalas. The sun remains in the northern hemisphere for six months and in the southern for the remaining six. Thus one obtains the figure of 1,08,000 in each part. From another angle it is considered that there are 60 ghatkas from one sunrise to the other. One ghatka consists of 60 pals and each of the 60 pals amounts to 60 vipals. Thus 60 ghatkas amount to 2,16,000 vipals. If these are divided between day and night then one arrives at the number 1,08,000. To establish a relationship between time and numbers, the three zeros of the figure 1,08,000 may have been deleted and the figure of 108 may probably have been used for the japa mala.’

6.2 The types of beads in a mala

A. According to the deity: The mala should consist of beads which have the ability to attract pure (most subtle) particles of the deity whose Name is being chanted, for instance rudraksha beads for chanting the Name of Lord Shiva and tulsi beads for chanting the Name of Lord Vishnu.

B. According to the motive: Beads predominating in sattva, raja, tama are chosen according to the motive.

  • Spiritual progress : According to the sect – tulsi (Vishnu), rudraksha (Shiva), pearls or corals (Shakti), gold (Lakshmi), red sandalwood [raktachandan] (Tripuradevi), ivory (Ganesh).

  • Taravidya: Conch

  • Begetting a son: Fruits of a tree called ‘Putrajiva‘.

  • Acquisition of wealth: Corals

  • Fulfillment of desires: Silver

  • Nullification of sins: Blades of grass (kushagranthi)

  • Acquisition of the mantra of attracting others: Ivory

  • Destruction of enemies (completion of the undertaken task, acquisition of wealth): Padmaksha

  • Distressing (Aghori) energy: Bones

C. The merubead: This is the main bead of the mala. Why this bead is not crossed while chanting is given in point ‘6.4 A’. The merubead which remains steady without being included in the counting unlike the other beads, is associated with the following: the constellation of seven stars (the Saptarshi) which revolves between the North Pole (Dhruva) and the South Pole (Dhruvas). The centre of this revolution which is steady is called sumeru. Hence, the merubead which is excluded in the counting of chanting is also known as the sumeru.

6.3 The thread and the Brahmagath (gath = knot)

        Since the red thread is said to bestow all the supernatural powers (siddhis) three rounds of it are recommended for tying the beads of a mala. The merubead is tied in the middle of the mala with the Brahmagath. The beads should be separated by a knot so that they do not strike each other.

6.4 The principles of using the mala

A. One should not traverse the merubead

Why does one reverse the mala after reaching the merubead (merumani)?

‘To forget the act of chanting !’ – Saint Bhaktaraj

        Just as from the seeker’s point of view, it is important for the central Sushumna channel to be functional rather than the left sided Ida or the right sided Pingala, so also, it is incorrect for a seeker to use the mala in only one direction. The Sushumna channel is between the Ida and Pingala channels, and likewise the merubead is between the opposite directional rotations of the mala.

If one happens to cross the merubead by mistake, one should practise pranayam six times as a penance.

B. The mala should be drawn towards oneself

        Observe what one experiences when the mala is pushed away from oneself as against drawing it to oneself. A majority experience distress. The reason being that when drawing the mala towards oneself the vital energy, pranvayu is active while when pushing it away the vital energy, samanvayu is active. More Bliss (Anand) is experienced when the pranvayu is active in comparison to the samanvayu. [More details on these vital energies are given in ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 35 – Pranayam‘.]

C. According to the motive: Chanting is done with the mala held in the right hand as given below:

  • 1. As spiritual practice

    A. The mala should be placed on the middle joint of the middle finger and the beads should be drawn with the thumb towards oneself. The index finger should not touch the mala.

    B. The mala may also be placed on the ring finger with the tips of the ring finger and thumb touching each other. The mala should then be drawn with the middle finger.

  • 2. To acquire supernatural powers of Uchchatan and Utsahan from the Path of Tantra: The mala is placed on the ring finger and drawn with the thumb.

6.5 Performing sanskars (spiritual rites) on the mala [malasanskar]

        These sanskars (rites) are performed only to charge a new mala before use.’The mala should be placed on a leaf of the holy fig tree (pimpal) or a copper plate (if the leaf is not available) after sprinkling water purified with grassblades (kushodak), a mixture of five things namely milk, curd, butter, urine and dung of the cow (panchagavya), etc. on it. Then 50 alphabets (matrukas) Om (ॐ), rhim (ह्रीं|), am (अं), am (आं), im (इं), im (ईं), um (उं), um (ऊं), rum (ऋं), rum (ऋं), lrum (लृं), lrum (लृं), em (एं), aim (ऐं), aum (ओं), oum (औं), am (अं), aha (अ:), kam (कं), kham (खं), gam (गं), gham (घं), nham (ङं), cham (चं), cham (छं), jam (जं), jham (झं), yam (ञं), tam (टं), tham (ठं), dam (डं), dham (ढं), nam (णं), tam (तं), tham (थं), dam (दं), dham (धं), nam (नं), pam (पं), pham (फं), bam (बं), bham (भं), mam (मं), yan (यं), ram (रं), lam (लं), vam (वं), sham (शं), sham (षं), sam (सं), ham (हं) and ksham (क्षं)’ are pronounced aloud (nyas) placing the right hand over the mala. Then the priest performs the sanskars (rites) with ‘sadyojatadi (सद्योजातादि०)’ mantras. Should a priest be unavailable then the sanskars should be performed chanting the mantras of the benevolent deity (ishtadevata). An offering of five things viz. sandalwood paste (gandha), flowers, incense (dhup), a lit lamp (dip) and an offering of food (naivedya) is made in that order, amidst chanting of those mantras.

It is a custom to perform a similar sanskar on the mala worn around the neck.

If such elaborate sanskars are not feasible then the mala may be washed with panchagavya and later sandalwood paste should be applied to it. The mantra of the benevolent deity (ishtadevata) should be chanted ten times on each bead and a hundred times on the merubead and should be followed by the five-fold ritual of worship (panchopchar puja) of the mala. The mala is then ready for use.’ (3)

6.6 The ritual of accepting a mala (japamalagrahanvidhi)

        The mala is purified by washing it with panchagavya. Then its invocation (pranpratishtha) and worship is done. Since the mala is associated with Righteousness (Dharma), money (artha), desire (kama) and the Final Liberation (Moksha) during the worship, one should pray for success in achieving them. A new mala should be procured from the Guru. As is the custom, prior to this, one should worship the Guru.

6.7 Donning the mala

        ‘At places such as Pandharpur a special ritual of ‘donning the mala‘ is performed. Only a tulsi mala is used for this purpose. The Guru or chief of the group gives the oath of following the traditional restrictions and code of conduct such as prohibition of wine, meat, adultery and coveting others’ wealth, following the religious observance of Ekadashi, going on a pilgrimage to Pandharpur, reading the Haripath, adorning a tilak on the forehead, etc. One is now known as a malkari‘ (one wearing the mala). If the mala happens to break and fall then one does not partake of food till it is replaced.’ (4)

6.8 Practical suggestions about using a japa mala (rosary)

  • A. As far as possible one should use one’s own mala (rosary). Mostly each one’s chanting is different. Hence, if all use the same mala the frequencies developed in it can even prove distressing to some.

  • B. One should use only one mala. With use, pleasant vibrations develop in it and consequently the charged mala facilitates concentration.

  • C. If one is recommended the chanting of two or three Names for spiritual reasons then one should chant with the same mala. Due to chanting of those Names frequencies essential for oneself develop in that mala and prove beneficial to the individual.

  • D. Prior to commencement of chanting, holy water should be sprinkled on the mala (prokshan) and then it should be worshipped ritualistically (puja) or obeisance (namaskar) should be offered to it.

  • E. One should take care to see that the beads do not strike each other while chanting. Hence they should have a knot in between them. According to the scriptures, if a sound is generated by the striking of the beads with each other then the chanting is said to be futile.

  • F. To avoid loss of energy from the mala it should either be kept with the other materials of ritualistic worship (puja), in a box or a steel cup (vati) or should be worn around the neck. If a mala is worn then depending on its length, it can have an effect on a particular chakra. The mala with 108 beads generally reaches the navel, so it can have an effect on the Manipur chakra. If a mala of 32 beads is worn then it encircles the neck and hence has an effect on the Vishuddha chakra.

        The scriptures say that the mala used for chanting should not be worn. The motive behind this being that since no one can remain sattvik (sattva predominant) throughout the day if the mala is worn, the sattva component generated in it due to chanting will be destroyed. In order to prevent this the seeker in the primary stage should not wear the japa mala. If worn it will only serve psychologically to remind him that ‘one should behave in a sattvik manner’. For a progressed seeker whether the mala is worn or not, does not matter at all.

  • G. A bag shaped like a cow’s face (gomukhi): It is said that after obtaining a new japa mala it should not be shown even to the Guru who gives it. It is just to emphasise the point that it should not be shown to anybody that the above statement is made. Similarly if chanting is done keeping the mala exposed then the result of the chanting is said to be taken away by spirits, ghosts, demons, etc. Due to this fear many a seeker using a japa mala either chants in isolation or chant inserting the right hand holding the mala in a small silk bag having a length and breadth of 20 cms and shaped like the face of a cow. This bag is called a gomukhi.

  • H. The slip and fall of the mala: ‘If when chanting, the mala slips and falls from the hand it is considered to be a bad omen. If this happens one should perform pranayam as a penance six times.

  • I. The breaking of the mala: Should the beads of the mala fall apart while chanting, it is considered an omen of disaster and one should perform the chanting of Mahamrutyunjay japa to ward off the obstacle. Although there are stringent rules for the amount of chanting to be done, generally forty thousand is the amount advocated. However, if the thread of the mala is found to be weak then using one’s judgement one may reduce the chanting.

6.9 The exchange of a mala

        One cannot gift a mala used by oneself to someone else. However a Guru can give it to His disciple. A mala can also be kept as a memento of a departed soul. A mala acquired from a Guru who has renounced His body or a mala which is a memento of a dead person cannot be used for chanting.’(5) One should not use the Guru’s japa mala as, if kept unused for a longer period one can derive maximum benefit whereas if used the sattva component in it gets reduced faster. One should not use someone else’s japa mala since it is charged with the frequencies of his deity of worship and to charge it with one’s own chanting would take time.

6.10 The japa mala (rosary) in certain sects

A. Jain

  • 1. Name: japa mala

  • 2. Number of beads: 108

  • 3. Material of the beads: Sandalwood, thread, gold, silver, marble, gomed (a precious stone), vegetable seeds.

  • 4. Colour: The colours of the mala correspond to the colours donned by the saintly men (tirthankars).

B. Sikh

  • 1. Name: Simarani

  • 2. Number of beads: 108

  • 3. Motive: There are 108 quotes of the Guru in the religious text ‘Shri Guru Grantha Sahib’

From the seeker’s point of view the importance of the number of beads, the types and the sanskars on the mala is just 0.0001% whereas chanting with spiritual emotion (bhav) is 100% important.


‘Path of Chanting The Lord’s Name (Namasankirtanyoga) and Path of Mantra (Mantrayoga)’, published by Sanatan Sanstha.

Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh. Publishers: Pandit Mahadevshastri Joshi, Secretary, Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh Mandal, 410 Shanivar Peth, Pune 411 030.
Vol. 1 and 2: Second edition           Vol. 3 to 10: First edition
1. Vol. 2, Pg. 104, 105

The Teachings of Saint Bhaktaraj Maharaj. Compilers: Dr. Jayant Balaji Athavale and Dr. (Mrs) Kunda Jayant Athavale.
Publisher: Sanatan Bharatiya Sanskruti Sanstha.
2. Pg. 28

Shastra Ase Sangate. First edition, fifth reprint – October 94, Vedavani Publications, Kolhapur 416 010.
3. Pg. 24,25
4. Pg. 25
5. Pg. 25, 26

Leave a Comment