Tibet, early 19th century; mother of pearl, coral, ivory, silver alloy, copper alloy; 21 3/4 x 2 1/8 x 1/2 in.; The Rubin Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Anne Breckenridge Dorsey, C2012.49.
A string of Buddhist prayer beads is known as a mala in Sanskrit. Commonly used in mantra recitation, each mala usually has 108 beads. The practitioner moves one bead each time she repeats the mantra. The red counters with tassels seen here have small metal beads on them; once all 108 recitations are completed, the practitioner moves a bead up the counter to mark a complete set. The other counter marks sets of ten. Some malas have a third counter, which keeps track of hundreds of sets. Because white is associated with Avalokiteshvara, this mala probably was used to accumulate his six-syllable mantra, om mani padme hum. LK