Swami Sivananda, “Hells are not imaginary fiction as ordinarily conceived of by the modern rationalistic mind….Hells, therefore, are as much real worlds as the regions of Indra or this mortal earth of ours. They are regions with difference only in the subtlety of the plane of their manifestation. They differ in the degree of the state of Consciousness revealed through them. The sufferings inflicted on the sinners may be taken to mean either an actual birth in such regions, or a life on earth with such entanglements, where one will undergo such pains either directly or through the agency of others. (pg. 97, What Becomes of the Soul After Death).

According to Sanatana Dharma, Naraka is a place where souls are sent for the expiation of their sins. There is just not one naraka, but several. To be specific, there are seven. In these seven, there are 29 regions of suffering (pg. 26, Karma & Diseases). Often, when references are made to “hell”, it is always in the plural, viz., “hells”, “hellish planets”, etc. They are called by several names: Raurava, Maharaurava, Vahni, Vaitarani and Kumbhika. These abodes are meant for short stay. The places where souls dwell longer to suffer are Tamisra (darkness) and Andhatamisra (blinding darkness).

Tamisra
Those people who lay hands on another’s wealth, children and wives are born in Tamisra region. The Jiva experiences there extreme pain being bound with mortal cords and violently hurled into the dark regions. He has no food or drink. He is beaten with clubs, and by holding out threats and being brought to a state of weary affliction, the Jiva drops down in a swoon.  (pg. 26, Karma & Diseases)

Andhatamisra
In Andhatamisra, Jivas are born who deceive husbands and appropriate to them selves their wives and other property. Such Jivas are cast down into this hell to suffer torments where they lose all understanding and sense through excessive pain. The Jiva suffers like a tree whose roots are cut. (pg. 26, Karma & Diseases)

Raurava
Those who grossly identify themselves with this physical body and regard the wealth of the world as their own, fall into a hell called Raurava. Those people who torment people here on earth become subject to the torment of poisonous worms called Rurus in this dangerous region.

Maharaurava
Maharaurava is of the same type. Those men who indulge in passions are eaten here by carnivorous (flesh-eating) animals.

Kumbhipaka
In the hell called Kumbhipaka, dreadful fiends begin to boil in oil that cruel and merciless person who cooks and eats living animals, birds and the like.

The seven hells are superintended by Chitragupta and others. Yama is the chief ruler in those seven hells also. Chitragupta and others are only superintendents and lieutenants employed by Yama. They are all under Yama’s government and suzerainty. Chitragupta and others are directed by Yama.

For those of us who are familiar with Srimad Bhagavad Gita’s pronouncement about the soul: “Weapons cut It not, fire burns It not, water wets It not, wind dries It not” (2:23), may find this notion of the perfect soul that is not affected by anything not congenital or innate to its nature a little contradictory. However, if you read Gita 4:14 (“….He who knows Me thus is not bound by actions.”), you will know what the first sentence means. Refer also to Gita 16:16, 16:21, 1:42, 1:44. [Please see some excerpts from Swami Sivananda’s “What Becomes of the Soul After Death” at the bottom of this article: the point about how could a perfect soul suffer will be further elucidated].

This idea of expiation in hells is mentioned especially in our Vedas, Itihaasa and Puranas and even in the Samhitas  Aranyakas and Upanisads. In Iso Upanisad, for instance, speaks of ‘darkness’ instead of hell. Srimad Bhagavatam, Garuda Purana and Visnu Purana have elaborate descriptions of many hells. They are situated above Garbhodaka ocean. {Bhagavatam 5:26:5)

Yama Dharama Raja, the Lord of Justice, puts living beings after death for appropriate punishment, for example, in boiling oil. According to Madhvacharya, the propounder of the Dawitin philosophy, even Mukti-yogyas (=souls that are eligible for mukti or moksha or liberation) can experience naraka. The evidence of which can be found in Mahabarath, for instance: Yudisthira maharaj, who was in every way a fit candidate for moksha, went to naraka (hell), but momentarily, to atone for a sin he committed on the battle field.

After the period of punishment is complete, souls that entered the hell are reborn on earth in human or animal bodies. Therefore neither naraka nor swarga are permanent abodes.

Naraka, which is often referred to as Yama Loka is not equivalent of the Christian or Muslim Hell. Unlike most other religions, especially Abrahamic religions, according to Sanatana Dharma hell  is a temporary purgatorium for sinners or papis: Yama’s divine assistant Lord Chitragupta maintains a record of the individual deeds of every living being in the world, and based on the complete audit of his deeds, dispatches the soul either to swarga or to the various Narakas according to the nature of their sins.

In this regard, as explained above, no one, not even people who are fit for moksha and people, who have done a majority of good deeds, could come to naraka (akaYama Loka) for redemption from the small sins that they have committed—after they have suffered for their sins, they would incarnate in any form or be sent to heaven, depending on their karma.

At the time of death, Yamadutas (sometime referred to as “Yama Pinggalas“) come to take away sinful souls. Swami Haridoss, quoting the scriptures, has said Yama personally comes only for virtuous souls.

Excerpts from “What Becomes of the Soul After Death“:

“There are two kinds of souls, viz., the individual soul or Jivatman or the human soul, and the Supreme Soul or Paramatman. The individual soul is an image or reflection of the Supreme Soul. Just as the Sun is reflected in different pots of water, so also the Supreme Soul is reflected in different minds of different persons.

“Soul is spirit. It is immaterial. It is intelligence or consciousness. It is Chaitanya. Individual soul is reflected Chaitanya. It is this individual soul that departs from the body after its death and goes to heaven, with the senses, mind, Prana, impressions, desires and tendencies. It is endowed with a subtle astral body when it proceeds to heaven.

“When the water in the lake is absorbed, the reflection of, the Sun in the water merges in the Sun itself. Even so, when the mind is annihilated through meditation, the individual soul merges itself in the Supreme Soul or Paramatman. This is the goal of life.

“The individual soul has become impure through cravings, desires, egoism, pride, greed, lust and likes and dislikes. Hence it is finite (Paricchinna), it is endowed with limited knowledge (Alpajna) and limited power (Alpa-Saktiman). The Supreme Soul is Infinite, Omniscient and Omnipotent. It is an embodiment of knowledge and bliss.

“The individual soul is under bondage through ignorance and limiting adjuncts such as mind, body and senses. It is mere appearance. It is illusory. When it attains knowledge of the Imperishable, it is freed from limiting adjuncts and bondage. Just as the bubble becomes one with the ocean, so also the Jiva becomes one with the Supreme Soul when ignorance is destroyed.” [pgs. 14-15]

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Comments
  1. I hope you can read this, I need an answer, the man I love committed suicide and the first night he died I had a dream, I could see him telling me where he was he was very happy, that all the suffering was in earth, so that I should follow him, and somehow I got out of my body and did, but when I did, I entered another plane, a plane where there was eternal darkness and I got completely lost there, I started calling out his name like insane, but all I could sense were people who were so so burned they were as black as the place, carbonized, and suddenly this hand made of fire grabbed my back and ripped my flesh making me scream and i felt like it had ripped something off, as if I had wings or something, or maybe I felt it cause it was such a big pain, and these hands of fire clung to my back so hard, and suddenly I felt this blue aura, and the spirit of my mom came right in but only her hands and she grabbed me and put me out of there, but pulling me out I also passed a weird world of water where there were bodies dressed in white drowning eternally, I too could feel like drowning, but she saved me and her aura was blue like the indigo colour and then I woke up feeling the nasty pain still. Please tell me if this sounds familiar to your religion, I am from Chile, I have nothing to do with Hinduism or Buddhism but I started to investigate as soon as I dreamt this and I need to know because I really feel the demon of the fire hands with claws is real and the love of my life needs saving, does praying help?

    • antaryamin says:

      Dearest God’s beloved,

      First, please permit me to express my heartfelt condolences to you and your family.

      Death has never been a good experience for anyone. Suicide is much worse. Death in whatever form always leaves an indelible impression on our psyche. Oftentimes, we are never prepared for death, and when it is suicide, it affects everyone, especially the loved ones. On this score, it comes as no surprise that it has affected you considerably. I can feel your anguish and trepidation.

      But remember, nothing is more efficacious than prayers at this moment of acute pain and torment. Nothing equals their power.

      Given the scarcity of some information that is required for a more accurate analysis of your dream, I should say, for now, you should concentrate on prayers. They will give succour to the departed soul, and they will calm your mind, which is obviously agitated by the experience.

      In this regard, attach no importance to what the dream SHOULD mean. Please pray — pray in the manner that the tradition to which you may belong.

      I shall, at my end, pray for you. Pray for your beloved. Please email me both your names and dates of birth.

  2. when the love of my life killed himself (2 days ago), i had a dream where he was calling me, telling me i should come with him because he was so happy in the afterlife and he didnt seem himself but in the dream i went out of my body and followed him and lost myself in a place, now this place was completely black and inside it i could sense these weird black shadow people, so so burned by fire they were black, and this creature huge like a demon with hands of fire with giant claws grabbed me from the back and burned my back so bad i started screaming and suddenly i felt my mom’s arm tear in and grab me out of there, but first i went through another plane of water and loads of people dressed in white drowning, my mom’s aura was of an indigo colour and her soul looked so diferent to her real body but i recognised her and she saved me and then when i woke up the pain was awful still, it was so weird, and i am not buddhist or a hindu, i am spanish and like totally western civilization but i had this dream, and i want to know, does it mean he is in pain? what can i do to help him, does praying help? is there any resemblance with these hells? i mean, does it seem to you jst a stupid dream or something like an astral trip…

  3. ow and i think this demon attracted me disguising itself as him, and that he is among those people, but why!!! and i could hear a song like some weird message and when i searched for the lyrics it said:

    One last thing before I shuffle off the planet,
    I will be the one to make you crawl
    So I came down to write you an unhappy birthday

    Someone call the ambulance
    There’s going to be an accident
    I’m coming up on infra red
    There is no running that can hide you
    Cos I can see in the dark
    I’m coming up on infra red
    Forget your running I will find you

    One more thing before we start the final face-off
    I will be the one to watch you fall
    So I came down to crash and burn
    Your beggars banquet

    I’m coming up on infra red
    Forget your running I will find you
    Cos I can see in the dark

    Those were the lyrics!!! it scares the hell out of me this dream, in fact i have slept so little these 3 daYS, but he worries me and if this were so, i must find a way to get my dead love of my life out of there!

  4. i can’t find the way to message you in private can you send me your addres to rsbejar@gmail.com? i am so interested in that which you said about dates of birth and names but i dont want this to be so so public :3 if i find a way to message you i will asap

  5. i wonder if i gave you the mail right… so here it goes again rsbejar@gmail.com

  6. F.A.P says:

    Jay Om namah RudramShivamVishnuKrishnamRadhamnityanytiamahamRudramNarasrinhambadram Swaham Swaham dear Srimam Swami Kalyshiamrudramkrishna bhakti Catanya Maharaj dasI´m Danavir the monk of the secret temple of Damodarastakam and I would like to say thank you for your spirutalshare sadhusang and I invite you to know my seva on:www.intelligenceprogram.comdasanudas raganuga bhakti shankya KrishnaDanavir das.

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