Prayer is said to be World’s greatest wireless connection. And faith is the mode of radar through which the connection runs. With time, human society have seen the evolution of multiple religion-Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and many more. These people in order to mark the repetition of prayers and chants started using prayer beads in the form of japa malas. The Mala consists of 108 beads with one head bead or ‘Sumeru’ that helps in keeping the mind focused on meditation. Over two thirds of World’s population uses prayer beads as a part of religious practice. The major religion of the World, namely Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Christianity use prayer beads as their ritualistic traditions.
Prayer beads have originated in India with Hinduism, around the 8th century B.C.E. Since Buddhism evolved from a sect of Hinduism, it retained the use of prayer beads followed by which Islam got into the practice of using prayer beads whereas Christianity got into the practice of using prayer beads by the late middle ages.
Hindu Japa Mala:
Hinduism has been categorized into two major branches-Shivaism (devotees of Shiva) and Vishnuism (devotees of Vishnu). The devotees of the two sections employ different types of prayer beads or mala. The devotees of Shiva use thirty two to one hundred and eight Rudraksha Beads made from the seeds of a tree and each seed has five sections representing five faces of Lord Shiva. Vishnu mala is made of one hundred and eight wooden beads of ‘Tulsi’ or Basil.
Buddhist Japa Mala:
Just like Hindu Japa Mala, Buddhist Mala also consists of one hundred and eight beads and those beads represent the impurities that one must overcome to attain Nirvana. Therefore, the Buddhist monks are seen wearing one hundred and eight beads for counteracting their one hundred and eight impurities. On the other hand, laymen wear only forty to fifty beads. The Buddhist prayer beads are made from the seeds of the Sacred Bodhi Tree. With cross-cultural approach, the practice of Buddhism reached many corners of the World and eventually, the material used to make Japa Malas also changed.
The origin of Subha (to exalt) in Islam is still not known. Ninety nine counting beads and an elongated terminal bead makes up the Muslim Subha. The ninety nine beads recite the attributes of the Almighty and the hundredth one is reserved for reciting the name of Allah.
Christian Rosary Beads:
Use of Rosary Beads in Christianity began in the medieval Europe and got officially accepted in 1520. Derived from the Latin term ‘rosarium’ which means rose garden as Catholicism considers rose to be a symbol of perfection; thus expressing the idea of permanent garden of prayer. The Christian Rosary consists of fifty nine beads of which six are large and fifty three are small and they recite the scenes of life of Christ and Virgin Mary. Eastern orthodoxy use knotted prayer ropes which is also used for the same purpose.