If you’ve travelled in Asia, the sight of flower garlands is probably familiar to you – like the ones you see in the picture taken in Kolkata (India). Often colorful, sometimes smaller, sometimes bigger you come across them not only in India, Sri Lanka or Nepal, but also in South East Asian countries like Burma.
Depending on where you are, they are called Malas or Malai, and traditionally show a high level of respect for another being or deity. You see them in temples, in front of Buddhist and Hinduism statues or hanging in front of animist sprit/ghost houses and sacred trees. As good-luck symbols they can not be missed at weddings and it’s no wonder that you spot them almost everywhere in daily life: hanging in shops, restaurants, houses or – daily freshly bought – dangling from the rearview mirror in busses, cars or tuk-tuks.
Interestingly enough, spiritual garlands are an integral part of various religious traditions not only in Hinduism and Buddhism. While some are made of flowers, others of precious stones or wooden beads, the concept is always similar. Click to learn more about prayer beads.