Japa is the repetition of a mantra or a word or a combination of words done with the intention of realizing the Supreme Being. To keep count of the repetition of the mantra, a prayer garland is used and this is known as Japamala (Japa mala).
Usually a Japamala consists of 108 beads – the number 108 is of great significance in Hinduism. In Japamala, all the beads are of same size, except one bead which is known as ‘meru.’ When the mantra is repeated the devotee counts it on the bead and the count is automatically kept when the fingers reach the ‘meru.’ When the fingers reach the ‘meru’ the counting is done by turning back as the ‘meru’ should not be crossed.
Japamala is usually made from Tulsi, sandalwood, rosewood, or Rudraksha. There are also malas made from precious and semi-precious stones.