By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Istaka, IstakA, Istakaa
Istakā literally means ‘burnt brick’.
Vedic sacrifices often need a proper alter which is normally made of burnt bricks. Such bricks are made of clay. It must be as long as the length of the foot of the yajamāna or the sacrificer. Three lines are also drawn on them. The total number needed for the altars of some sacrifices having five layers is 10,800.
The very first brick prepared by the wife of the sacrificer is named as āṣāḍhā. Three more prepared by the sacrificer are called ‘viśvajyoti-s’. Other types of bricks are also named with special nomenclature as yajuṣmatī, lokampṛṇā, vālakhilyā, svayamātṛṇṇā, citriṇi . They are used in different parts of the altar structure with appropriate mantra-s known as iṣṭakāmantra-s.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore