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By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Sastra, Zastra, shastra

Śastra literally means ‘that by which one is hurt’.

The words astra and śastra are commonly used in the epics and the purāṇas. An astra is a missile discharged from a suitable instrument like a bow whereas a śastra is a weapon like a sword which is directly wielded by the hand.

The word may also be used to indicate an instrument used in surgery. In the Vedas a śastra refers to a laudatory hymn used in a sacrifice that is simply recited and not sung. A stotra is always sung. A śastra belongs to and follows a stotra. It is composed of several verses. Generally it is recited by the hotṛ and his associates called śrotrakas. This recitation involves other steps like āhāva,[1] pratigara,[2] tuṣṇīrhjapa[3] and so on.


  1. Āhāva means summoning.
  2. Pratigara means response.
  3. Tuṣṇīrhjapa means silent or inaudible recitation.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore