Mantra – A sacred utterance, word or a sound chanted repeatedly to fulfill desires like
material gains, favors from Gods, to ward off planetary afflictions etc. Mantras should be
chanted for a certain number of times as prescribed in the scriptures. It needs to be
counted to keep track of number of chanting. To keep count of chanting, a rosary is
used which is nothing but a string of beads of various materials and in different numbers
as per traditions.
These rosaries are called Japamala. Generally 108 plus 1 bead makes one Japamala
but number of beads in Japamala can be different as per the purpose or traditional
practices. 109 th bead in the mala or the bead at the joint of mala is called Sumeru or
Stupa. Counting of Mantra starts from the bead next to Sumeru. Each bead is passed
through the ring finger and thumb. After chanting the Mantra once, one bead is passed
in clockwise direction. Generally the index finger is avoided as it represents ego which
hampers the process of self-realization. When all the beads of mala are passed through
and reached up to where it was started i.e. Sumeru, mala is turned around without
crossing Sumeru, and counting of Mantra continues. This completion of one round is
also counted with the help of some sacred produce like rice etc. One grain of rice is kept
aside in a pot or box after completion of each round.
Beads are made up of different variety of materials which are then strung together to
construct Japamala. Beads made from the seeds of Rudraksha tree are sacred to
Shaivites whereas beads made from Tulsi plant are sacred to Vaishnavas. Other seeds
from plants like Lotus, Vaijanti, Muktaphala, or wooden beads of Sandalwood, Turmeric,
Red Coral (Praval), Sphatik, Garnet or semi-precious stones are used to make
Krishna narrates – ‘यज्ञानां जपयज्ञोऽस्मि’
Of all the Yagnas performed, I am the Japa Yagna.
Japayoga is considered one of the best Yoga to practice. String of beads i.e. mala is
necessary part of Japayoga. As per scriptures, Japa done without keeping count fails to
give benefits or it cannot reach up to the desired deity.
All religions prescribe to use string of beads in different form and in different name.
Oxford dictionary mentions rosary used by Christians. It generally contains hundred and
sixty-five beads divided into fifteen sets. Other rosary of fifty five beads is also used. In
some catholic tradition even knotted prayer rope is also used. In Hindi Vishwakosha,
Kamil Bulke writes—“59 beads rosary is used by Roman Catholics while praying. In
Urdu a Japamala is known as Tasbeeh which is made up of 33, 66 or 99 and plus 1
beads. Small mala of 27 beads is called Sumarni in Hindi. Followers of Jain religion
preferably use mala made with 11 silver beads which is called Ganitaya or Kanchaniya.
In Sikh religion even mala made by cotton balls is used for japa, and also iron beads are
used to make Japamala. Japanese use beads made from Pipal tree wood. 112 beads
mala is used among Buddhist in Japan. They use mala for Japa as well as accessories.
It is interesting to know that in Egypt, during last rites rituals one thousand beads mala
As per Padma Purana, Japa done using Rudraksha mala gives million times more
blessings. In Mantramaharnava it is mentioned that Putrajeeva mala is better than
Arista mala, Shankha mala is better than Putrajeeva mala, Padma mala is better than
Shankha mala, Mani mala is better than Padma mala, Kushagranthi mala is better than
Mani mala, and Rudraksha mala is better than Kushagranthi mala. No wonder
Rudraksha mala has its place on the top.
Following Mantra states—
रुद्राक्षैः शत्त्कि-मन्त्रस्तु दिवा यो जपति प्रिये ।
स दुर्गतिमवाप्नोति जपस्तस्य निरर्थकः ॥
In scriptures it is mentioned that Rudraksha mala should not be used for Shakti-Mantra
Japa during the day. It will be fruitless and it even can bring misfortune.
Mantras to appease Uttaramnay Deva should not be done on the Japamala made from
Putrajeeva. Whereas Mantras for Devi Tara and Kalika should not be done with
Japamala made from Shankha. Instead of getting success it will bring harm and bad
luck. The following Mantra states:
शङ्खमाला विधायाथ यस्तारां कालिका जपेत्।
मन्त्रक्षोभमवाप्नोति विद्या-सिद्धिर्न वै भवेत् ॥
Once chanting of Mantra is begun on a Japamala one round should be completed
without interruption or else the Japa of that particular round is not effective. In that case
whole round has to be redone.
During chanting, a person sits on the Asana which is stable and Japamala moves in
between his fingers and thumb. On the other hand there are fifty one Shakti Peethas
which are fixed and devotee goes to every Shakti Peeth and does Pradakshina around
- This is also one way of Japa. These holy places are symbolical beads which devotee
visits and completes his Japa. In the same way Dwadash Jyotirlinga also make one
mala of twelve beads. Prayers should be offered to Japamala before starting the japa
ॐ मां माले महामाये सर्वशत्त्किस्वरुपिणी ।
चतुर्वर्गस्त्वयि न्यस्तस्तस्मान्मे सिद्धिदा भव ॥
ॐ अविघ्नं कुरु माले त्वं गृहणामि दक्षिणे करे
जपकाले च सिद्धयर्थ प्रसीद मम सिद्धये ॥
ॐ अक्षमालाधिपतये सुसिद्धिं देहि देहि,
सर्वमन्त्रार्थसाधिनि साधय साधय,
सर्वसिद्धिं परिकल्पय-परिकल्पय मे स्वाहा ॥
After completion of Japa, prayers should be offered again to Japamala.
ॐ त्वं माले सर्वदेवाना प्रीतिदा शुभदा भव ।
शिवं कुरुष्व में भद्रे यशो वीर्यञ्च देहि मे ॥
Japamala should be kept in the special bag (Gaumukhi) and no other person should
touch the Japamala. Mala used for chanting should not be worn on the body as keeping
it in open will make it lose all the power it acquired by chanting of Mantra. In case of
emergency mala which is used for wearing can be used for Japa. If Japamala is broken
it should be remade with the same procedure and all the Abhishek and consecration
rituals should be performed on the newly made mala.