The word Stotra (pronounced as Sthotra) is a Sanskrit word derived from the word Sthuti- meaning praise. It is an ode or hymn of praise, praising the God or Goddess or the deity. Unlike other forms of devotional hymns and verses, these do not have any strict grammatical rules or meter for composing or for chanting or singing.
These are rhythmically composed or written and have to be chanted aloud. These have been written by great sages for the benefit of mankind. The energy created by chanting these stotras loudly, does away any misfortunes or any problems in life, brings, peace, happiness, prosperity etc. These help us in developing our concentration and lead us towards the spiritual path.
These are meant for common folk for using in daily life. Hence there are no strict do and donts or rules and regulations for chanting of these hymns. So they are very popular form of devotional literature as they are easily accessible to one and all.
These include Ashtotrams (108) or Sahasranamama (1000 names of the God or Goddess). They can be in the form of verse or in the form of just names read one after the other. While doing so the God or Goddess is worshipped with vermilion, turmeric, sandal wood powder, flowers etc.
The most popular ones are the Vichnu Sahasranamam, Lalitha Sahasranamam, various Ashtotrams and Sahara namams