By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Astika, Astika, AAstika
Āstika literally means ‘one who believes that God exists’.
The word ‘āstika,’ is derived from the verb ‘asti’ (‘exists’) generally denotes anyone who believes in the existence of God and higher worlds like heaven, immortality of the soul, theory of karma and reincarnation and so on. Sometimes the word is used in the more restricted sense of one who believes in the authority of the Vedas.
When the king Parīksit, the grandson of the Pāṇḍava prince Arjuna, died of a snakebite, his son Janamejaya performed a sarpayāga or snake sacrifice in which hundreds of innocent snakes were being immolated. The final offering was to be Takṣaka, the king of snakes of the nether world, the chief ‘culprit’ who had bitten and killed Parīksit. Just then there appeared on the scene a young sage, Āstika by name, the son of the Jaratkāru couple, and stopped the atrocious sacrifice. His mother was the sister of Vāsuki. He had been specially deputed to save the life of Vāsuki and all his subjects and his followers, with his sweet speech and convincing logic. Āstika was able to win over the king Janamejaya and extract the boon he wanted. Vāsuki and the snake species were thus saved from total annihilation.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore