Japa or repetition of a mantra (a set religious formula or a name of God or of a deity) is considered an important aspect of spiritual and religious discipline. Since a count of such repetition should be kept, devices for keeping such count are common to all religions. One important device is the mālā or rosary.
A rosary made of rudrākṣa beads called akṣamālā (Elaeocarpus ganitrus or its berries) is very common. The number of beads may vary: 32, 54, 64 or 108. There will be one bead extra, which will be bigger than the others or fixed above the others. This is called ‘meru’ and should not be crossed over during counting.
Certain icons of gods (for e. g., Śiva, Sarasvatī, Brahmā) are shown with the akṣamālā in one of their hands.
Vasiṣṭha’s wife Arundhatī is sometimes known as Akṣamālā.
See also JAPAMĀLĀ.