Today I am honored to highlight a guest blogger.
The following blog was written by Anuj Sehgal and he gave his permission for me to share it here.
The names of many of hells is common in Hindu texts, however the nature of sinners tormented in particular hells varies from text to text.
The summary of twenty-eight hells described in the Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana are as follows:
Tamisra (darkness): It is intended for a person who grabs another’s wealth, wife or children. In this dark realm, he is bound with ropes and starved without food or water. He is beaten and reproached by Yamadutas till he faints.
Andhatamisra (blind-darkness): Here, a man – who deceives another man and enjoys his wife or children – is tormented to the extent he loses his consciousness and sight. The torture is described as cutting the tree at its roots.
Raurava (fearful or hell of rurus): As per the Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana, it is assigned for a person who cares about his own and his family’s good, but harms other living beings and is always envious of others. The living beings hurt by such a man take the form of savage serpent-like beasts called rurus and torture this person. The Vishnu Purana deems this hell fit for a false witness or one who lies.
Maharaurava (great-fearful): A person who indulges at the expense of other beings is afflicted with pain by fierce rurus called kravyadas, who eat his flesh.
Kumbhipaka (cooked in a pot): A person, who cooks animals and birds, is cooked alive in boiling oil by Yamadutas here for as many years as there were hairs on the bodies of their animal victims.
Kalasutra (thread of Time/Death): The Bhagavata Purana assigns this hell to a murderer of a brahmin (the Hindu priestly caste), while the Devi Bhagavata Purana allocates it for a person who disrespects his parents, elders, ancestors or brahmins. This realm is made entirely of copper and extremely hot, heated by fire from below and the red hot sun from above. Here, the sinner burns from within by hunger and thirst and the smouldering heat outside, whether he sleeps, sits, stands or runs.
Asipatravana/Asipatrakanana (forest of sword leaves): The Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana reserve this hell for a person who digresses from the religious teachings of the Vedas and indulges in heresy. The Vishnu Purana states that wanton tree-felling leads to this hell. Yamadutas beat them with whips as they try to run away in the forest where palm trees have swords as leaves. Afflicted with injury of whips and swords, they faint and cry out for help in vain.
Shukaramukha (hog’s mouth): It houses kings or government officials who punish the innocent or grant corporal punishment to a Brahmin. Yamadutas crush him as sugar cane is crushed to extract juice. He will yell and scream in agony, just as the guiltless suffered.
Andhakupa (well with its mouth hidden): It is the hell where a person who harms others with the intention of malice and harms insects is confined. He is attacked by birds, animals, reptiles, mosquitoes, lice, worms, flies and others, who deprive him of rest and compel him to run hither thither.
Krimibhojana/Krimibhaksha (worm-food): As per the Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana, it is where a person who does not share his food with guests, elders, children or the gods, and selfishly eats it alone, and he who eats without performing the five yajnas (panchayajna) is chastised. The Vishnu Purana states that one who loathes his father, Brahmins or the gods and who destroys jewels is punished here. This hell is a 100,000 yojana lake filled with worms. The sinful person is reduced to a worm, who feeds on other worms, who in turn devour his body for 100,000 years.
Sandansa/Sandamsa (hell of pincers): The Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana state that a person who robs a Brahmin or steals from someone jewels or gold, when not in dire need, is confined to this hell. However, the Vishnu Purana tells the violators of vows or rules endure pain here. His body is torn by red-hot iron balls and tongs.
Taptasurmi/Taptamurti (red-hot iron statue): A man or woman who indulges in illicit sexual relations with a woman or man is beaten by whips and forced to embrace red-hot iron figurines of the opposite sex.
Vajrakantaka-salmali (the silk-cotton tree with thorns like thunderbolts/vajras): A person who has sexual intercourse with animals or who has excessive coitus is tied to the Vajrakantaka-salmali tree and pulled by Yamadutas so that the thorns tear his body.
Vaitarni/Vaitarna (to be crossed): It is a river that is believed to lie between Naraka and the earth. This river, which forms the boundary of Naraka, is filled with excreta, urine, pus, blood, hair, nails, bones, marrow, flesh and fat, where fierce aquatic beings eat the person’s flesh. As per the Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana, a person born in a respectable family – kshatriya (warrior-caste), royal family or government official – who neglects his duty is thrown into this river of hell. The Vishnu Purana assigns it to the destroyer of a bee-hive or a town.
Various sins and corresponding punishments in hells.
Puyoda (water of pus): Shudras (workmen-caste) and husbands or sexual partners of lowly women and prostitutes – who live like animals devoid of cleanliness and good behaviour – fall in Puyoda, the ocean of pus, excreta, urine, mucus, saliva and other repugnant things. Here, they are forced to eat these disgusting things.
Pranarodha (obstruction to life): Some Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas (merchant caste) indulge in the sport of hunting with their dogs and donkeys in the forest, resulting in wanton killing of animals. Yamadutas play archery sport with them as the targets in this hell.
Visashana (murderous): The Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana mention that Yamadutas whip a person, who has pride of his rank and wealth and sacrifices animals as a status symbol, and finally kill him. The Vishnu Purana associates it with the maker of spears, swords, and other weapons.
Lalabhaksa (saliva as food): As per the Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana, a Brahmin, a Ksahtriya or a Vaishya husband, who forces his wife to drink his semen out of lust and to enforce his control, is thrown in a river of semen, which he is forced to drink. The Vishnu Purana disagrees stating that one who eats before offering food to the gods, the ancestors or guests is brought to this hell.
Sarameyadana (hell of the sons of Sarama): Plunderers who burn houses and poison people for wealth, and kings and other government officials who grab money of merchants, mass murder or ruin the nation, are cast into this hell. Seven hundred and twenty ferocious dogs, the sons of Sarama, with razor-sharp teeth, prey on them at the behest of Yamadutas.
Avici/Avicimat (waterless/waveless): A person, who lies on oath or in business, is repeatedly thrown head-first from a 100 yojana high mountain whose sides are stone waves, but without water. His body is continuously broken, but it is made sure that he does not die.
Ayahpana (iron-drink): Anybody else under oath or a Brahmin who drinks alcohol is punished here. Yamadutas stand on their chests and force them to drink molten-iron.
Ksarakardama (acidic/saline mud/filth): One who in false pride, does not honour a person higher than him by birth, austerity, knowledge, behaviour, caste or spiritual order, is tortured in this hell. Yamadutas throw him head-first and torment him.
Raksogana-bhojana (food of Rakshasas): Those who practise human-sacrifice and cannibalism are condemned to this hell. Their victims, in the form of Rakshasas, cut them with sharp knives and swords. The Rakshasas feast on their blood and sing and dance in joy, just as the sinners slaughtered their victims.
Shulaprota (pierced by sharp pointed spear/dart): Some people give shelter to birds or animals pretending to be their saviours, but then harass them poking with threads, needles or using them like lifeless toys. Also, some people behave the same way to humans, winning their confidence and then killing them with sharp tridents or lances. The bodies of such sinners, fatigued with hunger and thirst, are pierced with sharp, needle-like spears. Ferocious carnivorous birds like vultures and herons tear and gorge their flesh.
Dandasuka (snakes): Filled with envy and fury, some people harm others like snakes. These are destined to be devoured by five or seven hooded serpents in this hell.
Avata-nirodhana (confined in a hole): People who imprison others in dark wells, crannies or mountain caves are pushed into this hell, a dark well engulfed with poisonous fumes and smoke that suffocates them.
Paryavartana (returning): A householder who welcomes guests with cruel glances and abuses them is restrained in this hell. Hard-eyed vultures, herons, crows and similar birds gaze on them and suddenly fly and pluck his eyes.
Sucimukha (needle-face): An ever-suspicious man is always wary of people trying to grab his wealth. Proud of his money, he sins to gain and to retain it. Yamadutas stitch thread through his whole body in this hell.
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Though the Vishnu Purana mentions 28 hells, it gives information only about sinners condemned in 21 hells and does not give details about the punishments. The hells described in the Vishnu Purana, but not in the Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana are as follows:
Rodha (obstruction): A causer of abortion, a murderer of a cow, a plunderer or one who strangles a man is cast here.
Sukara (hog): A murderer of a Brahmin, a stealer of gold or an alcoholic and those all associated with them fall into this hell.
Tala (padlock): Murder of a Kshatriya or a Vaishya and adultery with wife of a religious leader leads here.
Taptakumbha (hot pots): Incest with sister and murderer of an ambassador results in torment in this hell.
Taptaloha (hot iron): A wife-seller, a jailer and one who abandons his followers is tortured here.
Mahajwala (great-fire): Incest with daughter or daughter-in-law brings one here.
Lavana (salt): One who vilifies his guru, people superior to them or the Vedas go to this hell.
Vimohana (the place of bewildering): A thief or those who despise prescribed observances are tormented here.
Krimisha (hell of insects): One who uses magic to harm others is condemned here.
Vedhaka (piercing): The maker of arrows is damned to this hell.
Adhomukha (head-inverted): He who takes bribes, an astrologer and he who worships improper objects is cast here.
Púyaváha (where matter falls): A Brahmin who sells lac, meat, alcohol, salt; he who commits violence and he who eats sweets without sharing falls in this hell.
Rudhirándha (wells of blood): Wrestlers or boxers who commit violence for entertainment, fishermen, followers of bastards, arsonists, poisoners, informants, fortune-tellers, traitors, those who have coitus on sacred taboo days and those who live off their wives’ prostitution are cast here.
Krishna (dark/black): A fraudster, a trespasser and one who causes impotence is cast in this hell.
Vahnijwala (fiery flame): Potters, hunters and shepherds are punished here.
Shwabhojana (food of dogs): A religious student who sleeps in the day and one who does not have spiritual knowledge and learns it from children are damned here.