Is a Japa Mala or Prayer Beads just a mantra counting system, or does it have a bigger significance? Does the material matter (for example, sandalwood beads, rudraksha beads, Tulsi beads, quartz crystal beads etc.)? Are there any benefits to using a japa mala or beads over just using fingers to count?

If the beads matter, what are the rules to use and maintain them?

1 Answer 1


Does the material matter (for example, sandalwood beads, rudraksha beads, Tulsi beads, quartz crystal beads etc.)?

Yes, different malas are prescribed to be used for different deities. This is the topic of the 13th Patala of Sri Matrika Bheda Tantram where Mother Goddess asks Lord Shiva about the various types of beads Japamalas are made of.

Lord Shiva replies:

Vaishnave tulasi mAlA gajadantair-ganeshware |
kAlikAyA mahamantram japed-rudrAkshamAlAyA ||
tArAyAshcha japen-mantri mahA-shankhAkhya-mAlAyA |

In Japa of Vishnu (mantra), Tulasi beads mala (to be used), in Ganesha Japa beads made of elephant's tusk. Mahamantra of Kalika Japa must be done using mala of Rudraksha beads. The wise mantra-knower must to do Tara mantra Japa using Mahashankha mala.

Chapter 13; verses 2,3,4.


Tathaiva sakalA vidyA mahAshankhe vaset sadA || (4)

For Japa of all Mahavidyas, Mahashankha mala is apt.


Spathiki sarva-devasya pravAlaih sakalAm japet |
swarna-raupya-samudbhutAm sarva-deveshu yojitAm || (5)

Spathika mala is prescribed in Japa for all deities; the same holds true for Coral beads mala. Malas made of gold and silver beads are also prescribed to be used for all deities.

And, we also have:

KAlikAyAshcha sundaryA rudrAkshaih prajapet sadA |
bhairavyAh prajapenmantram shankha-padmAkhyayoh priye || (6)

Japa of Kalika and Tripura Sundari must be done using Rudraksha malas. For Goddess Bhairavi, use malas made of Shankha and lotus seeds.

(A partial answer for the time being. I may update it with more info about the other queries)

  • 2
    Very useful and perfect response. I look forward to receiving the rest of the information from you. Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 22:21
  • 1
    Brilliant Answer! Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 17:20
  • 1
    This is fascinating, thank you, and makes me wonder why I haven't seen more Shankha malas recommended (or advertised for sale) as, if I'm understanding correctly, they seem to be noted here as appropriate for many uses.
    – velw
    Commented Jan 9 at 12:42
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    Thanks for your comment @velw but the Mahashankha mala mentioned in Tantras doesn't refer to any ordinary mala that can be sold openly .. It is actually a secret mala used by Tantric sadhakas and is probably made of skulls ..in normal use mostly used are either Rudraksha or Sphatika malas.
    – Rickross
    Commented Jan 9 at 16:44
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    Aah... that would explain it! Thank you once again for everything you've shared here.
    – velw
    Commented Jan 9 at 17:08

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