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Naraka

 

  • In Hinduism, Naraka means Hell in which sinners are punished after death. It is also the house of Yama. It is described as situated below the earth and in the south of the universe.
  • A number of scriptures describe names of 28 hells, however this number varies from text to text. After death, all beings are brought to Yama who weighs the vices and the virtues of the being and makes a decision sending sinners to one of the hells and the virtuous to heaven. After the punishment is finished, the souls are reborn as higher or lower beings according to their merits.

Location

 

  • According to the Bhagavata Purana, Naraka is under the earth. It’s situated in the South of the universe.

Administration

 

  • Messengers of Yama bring souls of all living beings, including animals and humans to Yama's home for judgement. Very honest beings are taken directly to heaven. People devoted to charity and eternal truth speakers are described as avoiding Yama. People dying in holy places and War-heroes who sacrifice their lives are spared the justice of Yama's court. People who are ascetics and generous are accorded preferential treatment while entering Naraka. The path is illuminated for those who donated lamps and those who underwent fasting are carried by geese and peacocks.
  • Yama sends the pious to heaven to enjoy the amenities of paradise. He also evaluates the sins of the dead and passes his judgement, sending them to proper hells as punishment in accordance with the nature and severity of their sins. One isn’t freed of the cycle of birth-death-rebirth and should take birth again after his prescribed punishment in Naraka or pleasure in heaven is over.
  • Yama’s minister, Chitragupta keeps a record of all evil and good actions of every living being.

Number and names

 

  • The Agni Purana mentions just 4 hells.
  • The Manu Smriti mentions 21 hells: Lohadaraka, Asipatravana, Salmali, Vaitarani, Pathana, Rijisha, Lohasanku, Putimrittika, Kudmala, Sakakola, Samhata, Sampratapana, Tapana, Mahavichi, Samjivana, Mahanaraka, Kalasutra, Raurava, Maharaurava, Andhatamisra and Tamisra.
  • The Yajnavalkya Smriti also mentions 21 hells: Tapana, Asipatravana, Kumbhipaka, Andhatamisra, Avichi, Mahapatha, Sanjivana, Kakola, Mahanaraka, Sampratapana, Savisha, Lohitoda, Sanghata, Kalasutraka, Putimrittika, Kudmala, Raurava, Salamali, Mahaniraya, Lohasanku and Tamisra.
  • The Bhagavata Purana mentions 28 hells: Suchimukha, Paryavartana, Avata-nirodhana, Dandasuka, Sulaprota, Raksogana-bhojana, Ksharakardama, Ayahpana, Avichi, Sarameyadana, Lalabhaksa, Visasana, Pranarodha, Puyoda, Vaitarani, Vajrakantaka-salmali, Taptasurmi, Samdamsa, Krimibhojana, Andhakupa, Sukaramukha, Asipatravana, Kalasutra, Kumbhipaka, Maharaurava, Raurava, Andhatamisra and Tamisra.
  • The Vishnu Purana also mentions 28 hells.

Description of hells

 

  • The summary of 28 hells described in the Devi Bhagavata Purana and the Bhagavata Purana is as under:

 

  1. Tamisra: It’s meant for a person who snatches another person's wealth. He is fastened with ropes and starved without water or food. He is reproached and beaten till he faints.
  2. Andhatamisra: Here, a man – who cheats another man, is tormented till he loses his sight and consciousness.
  3. Raurava: According to the Devi Bhagavata Purana and the Bhagavata Purana, it’s allocated for a person who takes care of him and his family but harms other living beings.
  4. Maharaurava: A person who indulges at the expenditure of other persons is afflicted with pain by ferocious rurus who eats his flesh.
  5. Kumbhipaka: A person who cooks birds and animals is cooked alive in boiling oil for as many years as there were hairs on the bodies of their animal victims.
  6. Kalasutra: The Bhagavata Purana allocates this hell to a murderer of a Brahmin, while the Devi Bhagavata Purana assigns it for a person who disrespects Brahmins, ancestors, elders or his parents.
  7. Asipatravana/Asipatrakanana: The Devi Bhagavata Purana and the Bhagavata Purana reserve this hell for a person who deviates from the religious teachings of the Vedas and believes in heresy.
  8. Shukaramukha: It houses government officials or kings who punish a Brahmin or the innocent.
  9. Andhakupa: It is the hell where one who harms other people and insects is kept. He is attacked by flies, worms, lice, mosquitoes, reptiles, animals and birds.
  10. Krimibhojana/Krimibhaksha: According to the Devi Bhagavata Purana and the Bhagavata Purana, it is where a person who doesn’t share his food with gods, children, elders or guests. The Vishnu Purana states that one who destroys jewels and who dislikes the gods, Brahmins or his father is punished here. This hell is filled with worms. The evil person is reduced to a worm, who feeds on other worms, who in turn consume his body for 100,000 years.
  11. Sandansa/Sandamsa: According to the Devi Bhagavata Purana and the Bhagavata Purana, a person who steals gold or jewels from someone or robs a Brahmin is confined to this hell.
  12. Taptasurmi/Taptamurti: A woman or man who indulges in illegal sexual relations with a man or woman is beaten by whips and compelled to grip red-hot iron figures of the opposite sex.
  13. Vajrakantaka-salmali: A person who has excessive coitus or sexual intercourse with animals is tied to the Vajrakantaka-salmali tree and dragged by Yamadutas in order that the thorns tear his body.
  14. Vaitarni/Vaitarna: According to the Devi Bhagavata Purana and the Bhagavata Purana, a person born in a respectable family who neglects his duty is thrown into this river of hell. It’s a river which is considered to lie between the earth and Naraka. This river is filled with fat, flesh, marrow, bones, nails, hair, blood, pus, urine and excreta where ferocious aquatic beings eat the person's flesh.
  15. Puyoda: Shudras (workmen-caste) and spouses or sexual partners of prostitutes and lowly ladies who live like animals fall in Puyoda, the ocean of saliva, mucus, urine, excreta and pus. Here, they are compelled to eat these things.
  16. Pranarodha: Some Vaishyas, Kshatriyas and Brahmins indulge in the sport of hunting resulting in cruel killing of animals. Yamadutas play archery sport with them in this hell.
  17. Visashana: According to the Devi Bhagavata Purana and the Bhagavata Purana, Yamadutas whip a person who is proud of his wealth and rank.
  18. Lalabhaksa (saliva as food): According to the Devi Bhagavata Purana and the Bhagavata Purana, a Vaishya husband or a Ksahtriya or a Brahmin, who compels his wife to drink his semen is thrown in a river of semen, which he is compelled to drink.
  19. Sarameyadana: Plunderers who poison people for wealth and burn houses and kings and other government officers who ruin the nation, are thrown into this hell.
  20. Avici/Avicimat: A person who lies in business or on oath is repeatedly thrown from a high mountain.
  21. Ayahpana: A Brahmin or anybody else under oath who drinks alcohol is punished here. He is forced to drink molten-iron.
  22. Ksarakardama: One who in false pride, doesn’t honour a person higher than him by caste, behaviour, knowledge, austerity or birth is tortured in this hell.
  23. Raksogana-bhojana: Those who practice cannibalism and human-sacrifice are condemned to this hell.
  24. Shulaprota: Some people give shelter to animals or birds pretending to be their saviours, but then harass them. The bodies of such sinners are pierced with needle-like, sharp spears.
  25. Dandasuka: Filled with fury and envy, some people harm others like snakes. These are eaten by 7 or 5 hooded snakes in this hell.
  26. Avata-nirodhana: People who imprison others are pushed into this hell.
  27. Paryavartana: A householder who welcomes visitors with cruel glances and abuses them is pushed into this hell.
  28. Sucimukha: An ever-suspicious man, proud of his money sins to gain and to retain it. Yamadutas stitch thread through his body in this hell.