A mala is a device used for counting mantras during puja or sadhana. It typically consists of 108 beads plus an extra, frequently larger bead called the Guru bead. It is never counted but is used as the beginning and end of counting. Also, it is never crossed; rather, the mala is flipped when the Guru bead is reached and the direction of counting is reversed.
Malas can be made from various materials. Worshippers of Shiva such as the Naths traditionally prefer rudraksha beads, while beads of tulsi wood may be used by those devoted to Vishnu and his Avatars. Beads of different colors and materials may be prescribed for particular deities, mantras, sadhanas, or the attainment of particular siddhis. Some common materials include bone, bodhi wood or seeds, sandalwood, and crystals or semi-precious stones such as amythyst, carnelian, or malachite.