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By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Astaka, ASTaka, Ashtaka

Aṣṭaka literally means ‘of eight parts’.

The Rgveda, the first and the foremost of the four Vedas, consists of 10,552 mantras or verses. There are two well-known systems of dividing these mantras into books, sections or chapters.

As per the first system which groups the mantras according to the deities, topics and meters, the Rgveda is divided into ten ‘maṇḍalas,’ each maṇḍala being subdivided again into ‘anuvāka’ and ‘sukta.’ Though this method is good from the standpoint of study, it is not good from the standpoint of memorization (which had a supreme place in ancient Vedic studies) since there is a large variation in the number of mantras in each maṇḍala. Hence an attempt was made later to divide the whole of the Rgveda into eight sections, each called as an ‘aṣṭaka,’ keeping the total number of mantras in each aṣṭaka almost the same.

Each aṣṭaka was again subdivided into eight ‘adhyāyas’ or chapters and the adhyāyas into ‘vargas’ or groups. The vargas consisted of the mantras. Due care has been taken to maintain same number of the total number of akṣaras or letters in each aṣṭaka, since some mantras are in longer meters. The following table gives an idea of this division:

Aṣtaka Adhyāyas Vargas Mantras Akṣaras
1 8 265 1370 48931
2 8 221 1147 51718
3 8 225 1209 47636
4 8 250 1289 49762
5 8 238 1263 47562
6 8 331 1730 51456
7 8 248 1263 47562
8 8 246 1281 52178
Total 64 2024 10552 397265


  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore