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A Mala is a prayer chain that is often used by Hindus and Buddhists.
The beads are made of sandalwood. Mala is used to keep track with the chanting of a mantra, a practice which in Sanskrit is called Japa (repetition of prayers, spells and gods names).
Mantras are often repeated hundreds of times.
The Mala is used so that you only need to think of the meaning of the mantra without counting.
The Mala chain consists of 108 prayer beads. There are many explanations for the number of the number of 108 beads. Number 108 has a special religious meaning in Buddhism and Hinduism.