From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia
By Swami Harshananda
Hasta literally means ‘hand’.
Though the word means ‘hand’ in general, it is also used in a more technical sense. It is the same as cubit, the length between the elbow and the end of the middle finger. It is 24 añgulas or 18 inches. This measurement is often used to specify the dimensions of a building, a tank, an embankment, etc.
When a house has to be built, the architect takes either of the owner’s or his wife’s or his eldest son’s cubit as the basic standard of length.
The word is sometimes used in place of the word ‘mudrā’ (hand-pose), for instance, in ‘abhayahasta’ and ‘varadahasta’.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore