Prayer beads are present throughout most cultures and religions worldwide. In all the mainstream religions including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Judaism and Baha'i Faith, they are an almost universal prayer element. Chants, prayers, or devotions are recited with the beads.
The rosary in Catholicism, and the dhikr or Misbah in Islam are examples of growing prayer beads. They are also typically used as a men's device for relieving stress and passing time in countries like Greece and Turkey.
To make a smooth beaded necklace, prayer beads are basically made of a thread, and beads. It is used in all cultures and religions usually in the same form. The beads are usually automatically fingered one at a time to help the user keep track of the number of prayers being said with the least amount of conscious effort.
The exact root of these universal prayer items may not be known but the earliest recorded use of prayer beads can be traced back to Hindu prayers in India around 500 BC. It is believed that the design of the bead of prayer was probably invented by Buddhist adherents and later imported from Hinduism before it made its way throughout the world. Even there is a statue of an Hindu man holding beads dating all the way back to the 3rd century BC.
Through India the concept of prayer beads spread to the Middle East, Japan and China. Formally known as Japa Mala in the Hindu faith and culture. Japa is literally a deity or ritual name while Mala means a wreath or garland. They are labelled by Muslims as Misbah, Tasbih, or Sufi.
In Greece, they are simply known as Worry beads due to their comforting and stress-relieving usage.
Different structures of beads
Depending on the religion and use, the type and number of beads found in a string of prayer beads differ. In Islam, for example, the Misbaha has either 99 or 33 beads while the Hindus and Buddhists ' Japa Mala has a total of 108 beads or 27 beads that are usually counted 4 times. There are 108 beads in the Sikh variant too. Bahai beads are made from 95 or 19 strung beads with a further 5 below beads.
There's also the Greek komboloi, also known as Worry Beads, that has no religious purpose and come with one additional bead after, for example, a multiple of four (54)+1 beads. It is used to relieve stress and to relax.
There are 59 beads in The Roman Catholic Rosary. The Eastern Orthodox Christians do not use beads for prayer but have 100 knots of knotted prayer rope. The rope is known as komboskini, or chotki. There are some 50 or 33knots varieties of chotki. In the 1980s Rev. Lynn Bauman of the Episcopal Church in the US created a rosary for Anglicans. There are 33 beads on Anglican rosary.
Well-known Pagan Mantras
By knot of one, the work’s begun,
By knot of two, the aim is true,
By knot of three, my words shall be,
By knot of four, the power’s stored,
By knot of five, the work’s alive,
By knot of six, the work is fixed,
By knot of seven, the truth is given,
By knot of eight, my will is fate,
By knot of nine, the work is mine.
(So mote it be, or other closing for the tenth bead if needed)
Prayer beads are an integral part of all the world's leading religions including Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. The beads help keep the prayers concentrated on the religious practitioner as he or she fingers each bead in succession when reciting the prayer or mantra.
This is why practices of devotion still carry them wherever they go. It serves to remind them of their religious devotion while at the same time protecting them from soul harm and corruption.