Week 44/Drawer 44: November 1, 2017: “109th Mala”
I remember buying this large Tibetan piece in the early 2000’s in New York City in a shop well-known for ethnic beads and objets. The price tag still stuck on the bottom said $150, but my note on the plastic bag said I paid $140…not my best negotiation! It was sold as an ear ornament from Gujarat. I accepted it as an ear ornament but when I looked up Gujarat, and learned it is in India, I doubted that was the true provenance.
This was clearly Tibetan. I’ve been there twice and have made necklaces with many pieces of their inlaid silver or brass with turquoise or coral: I know their style. So, I conducted a lengthy internet search and, after scrolling many pages on www.indianamulets.com.au, I found it! It was the only such piece out of a couple hundred images! To improve my negotiating image with my dear readers, allow me to inform you it was priced at $375, hanging on a silver chain.
On the keft, I present you the 109th mala (prayer bead).
Buddhists and Hindus pray with 108 beads knotted and strung. One prays by meditating, touching a bead and saying this mantra,
“All is well.
Everything is perfect.
Wisdom and compassion uphold every atom!”
then on to the next bead, until one reaches the 109th bead; called a stupa bead. A stupa is a Buddhist prayer hall and its steeple is in the exact shape of the centerpiece of this necklace. The 109th serves a very special purpose: a pause. The pause offers silence, a moment to offer gratitude, and a practical way to keep count of their mantras and chants. Faithful Buddhists don’t just go around the mala once; they can meditate for hours.
I was interested to learn the significance of 108 beads: it is a mathematical (12 Zodiac houses x 9 planets) metaphor for the omnipresent universe which is also our most innate self. I would need to meditate for a long time to understand that metaphor!
The necklace features turquoise cylinders from Drawer 44 separated by sterling silver beads with a silver clasp. I made a nautilus-style sterling silver loop to attach the mala to the necklace.
The centerpiece Tibetan stupa bead is mixed metals—silver and brass—rising in a pattern to the pinnacle which is modeled after a Lotus flower with six petals inset with turquoise and coral cabochons. This 109th mala was owned by someone who had the means to commission some very nice design and workmanship. It is strong, sturdy and magnificent! It is not heavy since it is hollow.
The necklace measures 25” and the mala is 5” long. Wear your silver earrings with it. $199.
Wow! What a story. Beautiful.
Earthy and lovely. Reminds me of Jane and my time is south east Asia. I am going to forward to her!
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Nice history lesson.
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finally had a moment during a hectic week to ready this wonderful story; maybe I could benefit from meditation beads! I love all of the symbolism and mysticism embodied in this really stunning piece of work. Brava my friend!!
Beautiful, I look forward to your designs and the historical significance that goes into them.