Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 2 - Chapter 6

Chapter VI

Of the different hells or divisions of Naraka, below Pātāla: the crimes punished in them respectively: efficacy of expiation: meditation on Viṣṇu the most effective expiation.

PARĀŚARA.--I will now, great Muni, give you an account of the hells which are situated beneath the earth and beneath the waters, and into which sinners are finally sent.

The names of the different Narakas are as follows:

Raurava, Śūkara, Rodha, Tāla, Viśasana, Mahājvāla, Taptakumbha, Lavaṇa, Vimohana, Rudhirāndha, Vaitaraṇī, Krimīśa, Krimibhojana, Asipatravana, Kṛṣṇa, Lālābhakṣa, Dāruṇa, Pūyavāha, Pāpa, Vahnijvāla, Adhośiras, Sandansa, Kālasūtra, Tamas, Avīchi, Śvabhojana, Apratiṣṭha, and another Avīchi.

These and many other fearful hells are the awful provinces of the kingdom of Yama, terrible with instruments of torture and with fire; into which are hurled all those who are addicted when alive to sinful practices.

The man who bears false witness through partiality, or who utters any falsehood, is condemned to the Raurava (dreadful) hell.

He who causes abortion, plunders a town, kills a cow, or strangles a man, goes to the Rodha hell (or that of obstruction).

The murderer of a Brahman, stealer of gold, or drinker of wine, goes to the Sūkara (swine) hell; as does anyone who associates with them.

The murderer of a man of the second or third castes, and one who is guilty of adultery with the wife of his spiritual teacher, is sentenced to the Tāla (padlock) hell: and one who holds incestuous intercourse with a sister, or murders an ambassador, to Taptakumbha (or the hell of heated caldrons).

The seller of his wife, a gaoler, a horse dealer, and one who deserts his adherents, falls into the Taptaloha (red-hot iron) hell.

He who commits incest with a daughter-in-law or a daughter is cast into the Mahājvāla hell (or that of great flame): and he who is disrespectful to his spiritual guide, who is abusive to his betters, who reviles the Vedas, or who sells them, who associates with women in a prohibited degree, into the Lavaṇa (salt) hell.

A thief and a contemnor of prescribed observances falls into Vimohana (the place of bewildering).

He who hates his father, the Brahmans, and the gods, or who spoils precious gems, is punished in the Krimibhakṣa hell (where worms are his food): and he who practises magic rites for the harm of others, in the hell called Krimīśa (that of insects).

The vile wretch who eats his meal before offering food to the gods, to the manes, or to guests, falls into the hell called Lālābhakṣa (where saliva is given for food).

The maker of arrows is sentenced to the Vedhaka (piercing) hell: and the maker of lances, swords, and other weapons, to the dreadful hell called Viśasana (murderous).

He who takes unlawful gifts goes to the Adhomukha (or head-inverted) hell; as does one who offers sacrifices to improper objects, and an observer of the stars (for the prediction of events).

He who eats by himself sweetmeats mixed with his rice, and a Brahman who vends Lac, flesh, liquors, sesame, or salt, or one who commits violence, fall into the hell (where matter flows, or) Pūyavāha; as do they who rear cats, cocks, goats, dogs, hogs, or birds.

Public performers, fishermen, the follower of one born in adultery, a poisoner, an informer, one who lives by his wife's prostitution, one who attends to secular affairs on the days of the Parvas (or full and new moon, etc.), an incendiary, a treacherous friend, a soothsayer, one who performs religious ceremonies for rustics, and those who sell the acid Asclepias, used in sacrifices, go to the Rudhirāndha hell (whose wells are of blood).

He who destroys a bee-hive, or pillages a hamlet, is condemned to the Vaitaraṇī hell.

He who causes impotence, trespasses on others' lands, is impure, or who lives by fraud, is punished in the hell called (black, or) Kṛṣṇa.

He who wantonly cuts down trees goes to the Asipatravana hell (the leaves of whose trees are swords): and a tender on sheep, and hunter of deer, to the hell termed Vahnijvāla (or fiery flame); as do those who apply fire to unbaked vessels (potters).

The violator of a vow, and one who breaks the rules of his order, falls into the Sandansa (or hell of pincers): and the religious student who sleeps in the day, and is, though unconsciously, defiled; and they who, though mature, are instructed in sacred literature by their children, receive punishment in the hell called Śvabhojana (where they feed upon dogs).

These hells, and hundreds and thousands of others, are the places in which sinners pay the penalty of their crimes.

As numerous as are the offences that men commit, so many are the hells in which they are punished: and all who deviate from the duties imposed upon them by their caste and condition, whether in thought, word, or deed, are sentenced to punishment in the regions of the damned.

The gods in heaven are beheld by the inhabitants of hell, as they move with their heads inverted; whilst the god, as they cast their eyes downwards, behold the sufferings of those in hell.

The various stages of existence, Maitreya, are inanimate things, fish, birds, animals, men, holy men, gods, and liberated spirits; each in succession a thousand degrees superior to that which precedes it: and through these stages the beings that are either in heaven or in hell are destined to proceed, until final emancipation be obtained.

That sinner goes to Naraka who neglects the due expiation of his guilt.

For, Maitreya, suitable acts of expiation have been enjoined by the great sages for every kind of crime.

Arduous penances for great sins, trifling ones for minor offences, have been propounded by Svāyambhūva and others: but reliance upon Kṛṣṇa is far better than any such expiatory acts, as religious austerity, or the like.

Let anyone who repents of the sin of which he may have been culpable have recourse to this best of all expiations, remembrance of Hari:

by addressing his thoughts to Nārāyaṇa at dawn, at night, at sunset, and midday, a man shall be quickly cleansed from all guilt:

the whole heap of worldly sorrows is dispersed by meditating on Hari; and his worshipper, looking upon heavenly fruition as an impediment to felicity, obtains final emancipation.

He whose mind is devoted to Hari in silent prayer, burnt-offering, or adoration, is impatient even of the glory of the king of the gods.

Of what avail is ascent to the summit of heaven, if it is necessary to return from thence to earth.

How different is the meditation on Vāsudeva, which is the seed of eternal freedom. Hence, Muni, the man who thinks of Viṣṇu, day and night, goes not to Naraka after death, for all his sins are atoned for.

Heaven (or Swarga) is that which delights the mind; hell (or Naraka) is that which gives it pain: hence vice is called hell; virtue is called heaven.

The self-same thing is applicable to the production of pleasure or pain, of malice or of anger. Whence then can it be considered as essentially the same with either?

That which at one time is a source of enjoyment, becomes at another the cause of suffering; and the same thing may at different seasons excite wrath, or conciliate favour.

It follows, then, that nothing is in itself either pleasurable or painful; and pleasure and pain, and the like, are merely definitions of various states of mind.

That which alone is truth is wisdom; but wisdom may be the cause of confinement to existence; for all this universe is wisdom, there is nothing different from it;

and consequently, Maitreya, you are to conclude that both knowledge and ignorance are comprised in wisdom.

I have thus described to you the orb of the earth; the regions below its surface, or Pātālas; and the Narakas, or hells; and have briefly enumerated its oceans, mountains, continents, regions, and rivers:

what else do you wish to hear?