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Typical Sikh Malas

Mala or mala (Sanskrit:माला; mālā, meaning garland) is a set of beads commonly used by Hindus, Buddhists and certain promoted in certain Sects of Sikhism. It is also known as Simranee, prayer beads or Rosaries. Members of various religions such as Islam, Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity and Bahá'í also use Mala to count the repetitions of mantras (sacred phrases), Shabads (prayers or hymns), chants or devotions.

Gurmat is not promoting use of Mala though few Sikh sects claim counting mantra using Mala. These sects often depicts founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, with the mala in his hand.

Gurmat on Mala

Mala in Adi Granth Sahib

In Gurbani, Mala is used by Pundits and Vaishno, along with Dhoti and Tika.

ਜਬ ਕੀ ਮਾਲਾ ਲਈ ਨਿਪੂਤੇ ਤਬ ਤੇ ਸੁਖੁ ਨ ਭਇਓ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
Ever since this worthless son of mine began chanting with his mala, we have had no peace at all! ||1||Pause|| (856, Kabir)

ਮਾਲਾ ਫੇਰੈ ਮੰਗੈ ਬਿਭੂਤ ॥ ਇਹ ਬਿਧਿ ਕੋਇ ਨ ਤਰਿਓ ਮੀਤ ॥੩॥
You chant on your mala, and beg for money. No one has ever been saved in this way, friend. ||3|| (888, Gur Arjan Dev)

ਮਾਥੇ ਤਿਲਕੁ ਹਥਿ ਮਾਲਾ ਬਾਨਾਂ ॥ ਲੋਗਨ ਰਾਮੁ ਖਿਲਉਨਾ ਜਾਨਾਂ ॥੧॥
Apply ceremonial marks to their foreheads, hold malas in their hands, and wear religious robes. people think that the Lord is a toy. ||1|| (1158, Kabir)

ਸਾਲ ਗ੍ਰਾਮ ਬਿਪ ਪੂਜਿ ਮਨਾਵਹੁ ਸੁਕ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਤੁਲਸੀ ਮਾਲਾ ॥ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਿ ਬੇੜਾ ਬਾਂਧਹੁ ਦਇਆ ਕਰਹੁ ਦਇਆਲਾ ॥੧॥
O Brahmin, you worship and believe in your stone-god, and wear your ceremonial rosary beads. Chant the Name of the Lord. Build your boat, and pray, "O Merciful Lord, please be merciful to me."||1|| (1170, mahalla 1)

ਗਲਿ ਮਾਲਾ ਤਿਲਕ ਲਿਲਾਟੰ ॥ ਦੁਇ ਧੋਤੀ ਬਸਤ੍ਰ ਕਪਾਟੰ ॥
ਜੋ ਜਾਨਸਿ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੰ ਕਰਮੰ ॥ ਸਭ ਫੋਕਟ ਨਿਸਚੈ ਕਰਮੰ ॥
The mala is around your neck, and the sacred tilak mark is on your forehead. You wear two loin cloths, and keep your head covered.
If you know God and the nature of karma, you know that all these rituals and beliefs are useless. (1353, 1)

ਕਬੀਰ ਬੈਸਨੋ ਹੂਆ ਤ ਕਿਆ ਭਇਆ ਮਾਲਾ ਮੇਲੀਂ ਚਾਰਿ ॥ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਕੰਚਨੁ ਬਾਰਹਾ ਭੀਤਰਿ ਭਰੀ ਭੰਗਾਰ ॥੧੪੫॥
Kabeer, what good is it to become a devotee of Vishnu, and wear four malas? On the outside, he may look like pure gold, but on the inside, he is stuffed with dust. ||145|| (1372, Kabir)

Mala in Dasam Granth Sahib

Quotes from Dasam Granth

In Dasam granth, Guru Gobind Singh is not seen carrying Mala and nowhere is he promoting using of Mala. In commencement of Chaubis Avtar, He had a jibe on Mala Carrying Hindus and Muslims by saying which means that with even mala no one can dyed in love with lord.

ਚੌਪਈ ਇਕ ਤਸਬੀ ਇਕ ਮਾਲਾ ਧਰਹੀ ॥ ਏਕ ਕੁਰਾਨ ਪੁਰਾਨ ਉਚਰਹੀ ॥ ਕਰਤ ਬਿਰੁਧ ਗਏ ਮਰ ਮੂੜਾ ॥ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੋ ਰੰਗੁ ਨ ਲਾਗਾ ਗੂੜਾ ॥੨੦॥

CHAUPAI One of them wears a Tasbi (the rosary of Muslims) and the other one wears Mala (the rosary of a Hindu); One of them recites the Quran and the other one reads Puranas; The adherents of both the religions are foolishly dying in opposing each other, And none of them is dyed in the love of the Lord.20.


A mala is a set of beads strung on a thread usually made from 108 beads, though other numbers, usually divisible by 9, are also used. Although, traditional Sikhs generally use a Mala with 108 beads in keeping with the earlier Hindu tradition, in Sikhi, this number is not written in stone.

Smaller numbers are now becoming more popular as these are easier to carry in the pocket and more in-line with the western life-style. Sikhs also use prayer string made of wool with 99 knots rather than beads.

Malas are used for keeping count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a mantra or the name or names of a the Lord, such as Waheguru or Satnam, etc. This practice is known in Sanskrit as "japp" and Sikhs refer to it as "Naam jaapna". In Sikhism, the mala may also be used for keeping count of the number of repetitions of Shabads or to aid in concentration, or for general meditation, etc.

Although all the beads are the same size, there is always one bead on a mala which is called the sumeru, bindu, stupa, or guru bead which is usually bigger or otherwise unique. Counting should always begin with a bead next to the sumeru. Each time the reciter passes the sumeru, one cycle of the mala is completed.

Since the beads are fingered in an automatic manner, they allow the user to keep track of how many prayers have been said with a minimal amount of conscious effort, which in turn allows greater attention to be paid to the prayers themselves.

The number of beads also vary depending on the different religions, Islamic prayer beads "Tesbih", "Tasbih" or "Misbaha" usually have either 99 or 33 beads. Buddhists and Hindu Brahmanists use "Japa Mala" usually with 27 bead malas, a divisor of 108, whereas Baha'i Prayer beads consist of either 95 beads or 19 beads strung with the addition of five beads below. Sikhs use a Mala with 108 beads. Greek "komboloi" has an odd number of beads usually one more than a multiple of four, e.g. (4x4)+1, (5x4)+1. Roman Catholics use the "Rosary" (Latin "rosarium", meaning "rose garden") with 54 with an additional five beads whereas Eastern Orthodox Christians use the "Rosary" with 100 knots, although "prayer ropes" with 50 or 33 knots can also be used.

See also

External links