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Making a Mala Necklace

Mala necklaces are traditionally used for Buddhist prayers, essentially they are prayer beads for counting mantras or breaths while meditating.  These days, as with many traditional items, we have seen them hit the mainstream trendy fashion scene.  Whether you choose to wear a Mala for style or use the Mala during a mediation session as function, is up to you!

A brief history of Mala Necklaces…

Why 108 beads?

Well, this is open to interpretation and depending on where you look for the answer, you will find many different reasons.  Some say it is because the human soul takes 108 journeys, some say it has to do with how many breaths one ought to take in meditation.  The truest answer (in my opinion!) I have come across is from the Vedic tradition and it states that 108 is a number that represents human wholeness.  It also connects the Earth, Moon, and Sun as the distance to Earth from the Sun and the Moon is 108 times their respective diameters.   Finally, there are said to be 108 sacred places around India and 108 sacred places on the body.  The number 108 comes up a lot in the Vedic, Hindu, and Tibetan Buddhist writings!

Why Tie a Knot between each Bead?

The knot between each bead has multiple functions:

  •  The knot keeps the Mala neat and tidy by keeping each bead in a single spot so that it is not sliding around and bumping into other beads.
  • It’s also a matter of esthetics, as the knots give a certain appearance to the completed piece. The spacing makes it more comfortable to finger each bead as you are meditating.
  • This is generally done only on Tibetan malas.

Why does the Mala have Marker Beads?

The marker beads are meant to help the person meditating focus again, the mind tends to wander and as we are counting the beads or saying a mantra, we will come across the marker bead and if our mind has wandered, this bead is meant to pull us back into our focus.

What is a Guru Bead?

The guru bead is the 109th bead of the mala and is just above the tassel.  This bead is meant to symbolize the guru that the person meditating has received their mantra or meditation practice from.  Of course, we may not all have this relationship with this bead, so it could just be a nod to tradition.

What does the Tassel represent?

Although the tassel is likely to have many different meanings, the one that I resonate most with is that within traditional Buddhist culture, the tassel is symbolic of lotus blossoms, which represent and promote enlightenment.

Is there a “right” way to use the Mala necklace?

Certainly there are traditional ways to use a Mala necklace during prayer or meditation.  These days we also see people wearing them simply because they are gorgeous and for fashion.  Here is a standard way of using the mala:

  • Choose a comfortable place and sit upright while holding your mala in your right hand, place it between your middle and index fingers.  Starting with the bead next to the guru bead, use your thumb to count each smaller bead, pulling the mala toward you as you recite your mantra, either out loud or in your mind.  Repeat 108 times, traveling around the mala, until you once again reach the guru bead.  At this point you will turn around and go back the other way if you would like continue reciting the mantra.


Following are two malas that I have created and the material list for each.

For the first Mala, I skipped the knots between beads and used the same bead for marker beads and the guru beads.  I created my own tassel using the method of wrapping around an object (a book in this case) about 100 times.  Here is a video on how to create a similar tassel:  How to Make Tassels

Don’t want to make your own tassel? We offer tassels in three sizes. 



Material List for Turquoise Mala:

5 x  8mm Round – Black Stone Picasso Turquoise (25pcs) (main beads)

1 x Tree Agate 10mm Round 8″ Strand (marker & guru beads)

1 x C-Lon Cord Tex 400 – Sable (for stringing the necklace and finishing the tassel)

1 x Micro Cord Sable (tassel)

2 x 8/0 coordinating Seed Beads (to use at each end of the strand of mala beads)

Hypo-cement to use to secure your knots, if desired.




The second mala I created incorporates the use of knots between each bead, a guru bead, and one of our pre-made tassels.


Material List for Amethyst Mala:

5 x  Amethyst – 8mm Round – 8″ Strand (25pcs) (main beads)

1 x Tiger Eye – 10mm Round Large Hole 8″ Strand (marker beads)

1 x C-Lon Cord Tex 400 – Purple (for stringing the necklace and finishing the tassel)

1 x Guru Bead – 12mm Tiger Eye

1 x 3″ Nylon Tassel – Dark Plum

2 x 8/0 coordinating Seed Beads (to use at each end of the strand of mala beads)

Awl (this greatly helps tying and placing the knots, ***see below picture for quick tutorial on this)

Hypo-cement to use to secure your knots, if desired.




***How to use an Awl to place knots close to beads:

  • After you have placed your bead on the string, make a simple overhand knot, without pulling it tight.
  • Place the awl inside the knot and guide the knot close to the bead while gently tightening the knot.
  • When the knot is as close to the bead as you want it, snug for the mala, pull the knot tight, remove the awl, and give the knot a final tighten.



Malas created by Wild Human Designs especially for Bello Modo.

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