What Are Mala Beads?

108 Bead Tulasi Wood 10MM Light Brown Mala Bead Necklace With Yellow Tassel

A mala, commonly refereed to as "mala beads" or as a "mala necklace" amongst other names is a type of necklace often popular with people interested in healthy living, meditation, spirituality and the following religions:

  • Buddhism
  • Hinduism
  • Sikhism

For many a mala can simply be a physical reminder of positive intentions and for others it can be a meditation tool often used within religious practices. There is no one definition or correct meaning as to what a mala is, it is up to each individual to determine what meaning their mala holds for them.

"Mala" is a word from the Sanskrit language meaning "garland" or "meditation garland". Mala's have been around for thousands of years with the first mention of them being traced to 800 B.C.E.

What Are Mala's Made Of?

Typically a mala is a string made of 108 beads of either wood, seeds, pearls or semi-precious / precious stones. Some mala's have a 109th bead called the Meru bead. The Meru bead typically sits at the center of the mala, the area closest to your heart. Some believe that positive energy associated with your mala is stored here.

There are several materials commonly used to make mala's.


  • Agarwood a type of heartwood found in Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees
  • Bayong wood from the hardwood bayong tree natively found in the Phillipines
  • Ebony wood from the diospyros tree. Naturally dense, after being polished this type of wood obtains a smooth finish and fine texture
  • Nangka wood from the jackfruit tree natively found in Southeast Asia
  • Redwood from the cypress tree family found throughout the world
  • Rosewood from any richly hued timber trees
  • Sandalwood from trees in the genus Santalum
  • Tiger ebony a very similar variation of wood to ebony wood


  • Often time the rudraksha tree seeds are used to make mala's. Mala's made with these seeds may be considered sacred to Saivas, practitioners of one of the major branches of Hinduism
  • Bodhi seeds from the Bodhgaya Bodhi tree
  • Lotus Seeds

Non Precious & Precious Gemstones

A wide variety of gemstones both precious and non precious are commonly used with a large variety of meanings typically associated to each different gemstone. 

Non Religious & Spiritual Uses Of Mala's

For many, mala's have no religious or spiritual meanings to the owner or wearer. As mentioned previously, they are commonly worn as "physical reminders of positive intentions"

When wearing mala's for this reason, it's simply a way to consistently give yourself a gentle reminder of whatever you choose to associate with the mala. For example, a reminder to treat yourself well by meditating and exercising often, in addition to treating those around you well.

With a significant number of people wearing mala's for these reasons, an amazing bonus is that you can attract other mala wearers into your life. Upon recognizing another person wearing a mala, it's an amazing commonality for both wearers to share. 

In addition, some people will occasionally be curious and may ask you what your mala is, if anything more than just a wardrobe accessory. This enables a great opportunity to share your positive intentions with others and bring more positivity into your life. 

Religious Uses Of Mala's

Mala's are commonly used for a form of meditation called "Japa meditation". Japa meditation also called "mantra meditation" is a form of mantra recital leveraging the 108 beads of your mala to keep track if of each mantra repetition. This enables practitioners to more easily focus on the meaning and intention behind their mantra rather than counting their mantra repetitions.