THE MEANING OF THE INDIAN MALA
Malas are Indian garlands made up of around 108 beads.
In reality they are used by both Hindus and Buddhists and represent tools for prayer and meditation for devotees of both religions.
The meaning of the term mala is in fact “rosary”: these objects are composed of pearls, stones or natural seeds and are used to count the sacred formulas addressed to the divinities.
There is therefore no difference between a Tibetan, Buddhist or Indian mala: in addition to the 108 beads there is a last bead, different from the others in size, shape or colour, which closes the crown and therefore signals the end of the ritual practice.
Usually the malas are made from rudraksha, that is small coppery seeds coming from the Elaeocarpus angustifolius plant.
The grains of these crowns can also be composed of lotus seeds, tulsi wood and sandalwood. The Indian tradition perceives these materials as sacred and the Ayurvedic tradition appreciates them for their officinal virtues. Less common in the East, but still available on the market, are the malas made with natural minerals.
According to the holistic tradition, each mineral or stone can be conceived as a vehicle of powers, virtues and subtle energies for the body and mind.
Each stone, crystal or wood is therefore able to positively condition the wearer and can be used to enhance some aspects of one’s personality or to improve one’s psychophysical well-being.
Those who want to use a mala for the first time should choose the one most suitable for their specific needs; it is necessary to evaluate the material and the properties.
Malas can also be worn as simple ornamental accessories or as amulets of protection and good omen. They can be worn around the neck as necklaces or on the wrist as bracelets.
The beads can in fact also be less than 108 as long as they are multiples of 9. According to Indian thought, wearing a mala also allows you to be connected and united with the divinity.
The malas are somewhat reminiscent of Catholic rosaries, but they are actually much older than the latter: the Christian rosary dates back to the 13th century while the first attestation of the malas is dated to the 2nd century BC.
HOW MALAS ARE USED
Let’s see now how malas are used.
The malas can be used for the recitation of prayers, for the repetition of sacred songs but also for the enunciation of magical formulas and ritual expressions such as sūtra, mantra and dhāraṇī. The main purpose of these crowns is in fact to help not distract attention from spiritual practices.
The malas are held with the right hand and are slid between the ring finger and the thumb in a clockwise direction. Each grain corresponds to a prayer and we proceed in this way until the end of the circumference. Once you have reached the last bead you can continue the prayer by going backwards in the opposite direction.
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