By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Astaka, ASTaka, Ashtaka
Aṣṭaka literally means ‘of eight parts’.
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.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore