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 Holy Counting Beads

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 A special form of bead use is employed with strands of beads that are both sacred and perform the function of counting (usually prayers). The generic term for these is prayer strands.

Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world, so it is appropriate that it is the first to have developed prayer strands. The japamala (muttering chaplet is first mentioned in the Atharvaveda of about 800 BC. It has 108 beads. The one here is made of rudraksha seeds.

Buddhism is a development from Hinduism. Buddha did not preach a religion, but a philosophy. It became a reform movement in Hinduism.

The Chinese Buddhist Su-zhu also has 108 beads, divided into four parts of 27 beads by beads of a different color, size, etc. The tassels at the ends are to allow one to keep track of how many cycles of prayers one has said.

Bought in Suzhou, China in 1986.

The Tibetan trengwa ("String of beads") is an elaboration on the Buddhist prayer strand. During the Qing dynasty in China (1644-1910) all officials and offices and their wives and children had to wear court chains (left) modeled on Tibetan trengwa. The large, flat bead on the end was added as a counterweight to go down the back of the neck.

Courtesy Rita Okrent

Hindu and Buddhist


Roman Catholic

Eastern Orthodox and Baha'i


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