The Brahma Purana

by G. P. Bhatt | 1955 | 243,464 words

This is the Brahma Purana in English (translation from Sanskrit), which is one of the eighteen Maha Puranas. The contents of this ancient Indian encyclopedic treatise include cosmology, genealogy (solar dynasty etc.), mythology, geology and Dharma (universal law of nature). The Brahma Purana is notable for its extenstive geological survey includin...

Chapter 106 - Tortures in Hell

Preliminary note:

The chapter opens with the account of tortures inflicted on sinners or punishment for their sins. Quite a terrible picture is drawn by the narrator to create horror with a view to check the growth of crime. The descriptions of hells and the torments suffered by the sinners are motivated by this purpose. The Purāṇas refer to a number of hells by their names which differ from Purāṇa to Purāṇa. The Brahma Purāṇa mentions as many as forty-two hells while generally most of the Purāṇas mention twenty-eight hells in all.

See Devī Bhāgavata, Skanda and Viṣṇu Purāṇa Part 2, ch.6. The Purāṇas refer to twenty-eight hells. They are: (1) Tāmisra, (2) Andhatāmisra, (3) Raurava, (4) Mahāraurava, (5) Kumbhīpāka, (6) Kālasūtra, (7) Asipatra, (8) Śūkaramukha, (9) Andhakūpa, (10) Kṛmibhojana, (11) Taptamūrti, (12) Śālmali, (13) Vajrakaṇṭakaśāli, (14) Vaitaraṇī (15) Pūyodaka, (16) Prāṇarodha, (17) Viśasanam, (18) Lālābhakṣa, (19) Śārameyāśana, (20) Avīci, (21) Ayaḥpāna, (22) Kṣārakārdama, (23) Rakṣobhakṣaṇa, (24) Śūlaprota, (25) Daṇḍaśūka, (26) Vaṭarodha, (27) Paryāvartanaka, & (28) Sūcīmukha.

The sages said:

1. O ascetic, how do the sinners go to that city by the southern path? We wish to hear. Recount it in detail.

Vyāsa said:

2-3. I shall recount that extremely terrible and awful doorway which is infested with many beasts of prey. It is resonant with the sounds of hundreds of vixens. It abounds in shrieking and howling sounds. It is impassable. It makes the hairs stand on their ends. It is surrounded by goblins, ghosts, evil spirits and other Rākṣasas.

4. On seeing such a terrible doorway, those who have committed sins faint and lose consciousness suddenly. They begin to babble and prattle due to fear.

5. Then the servants of Yama bind them with chains and nooses and drag them ruthlessly. They beat them with sticks and threaten them again and again.

6. After regaining consciousness they go towards the southern door faltering at every step. They are smeared with blood.

7-9. The miserable ones move ahead along the path where there are sharp thorns. It is full of gravel. There are pebbles with keen edges resembling those of razors. In some places the path is full of mud. There are unfathomable moats too. In some places there are tooth-like edges with sharp points like those of iron needles. In some places big trees have fallen down from the mountain ridges and blocked the path. In some places there are burning coals.

10-16. In some places there are dangerous ditches and pits. In some places there are slippery lumps of clay; in some places there are red hot sand particles; there are sharp pointed pikes in some places. The cross-roads are covered with iron plates which are red-hot. In some places there are forest fires. Some places are covered with hot rocks. Some places are covered with snow. In some places there are sands so loose that the pedestrians slip down therein upto the neck. In some places there is defiled water. Other places are filled with the fire of burning husk.

The pedestrians are tortured by the following, viz. lions, wolves, tigers, terrible biting insects, big leeches, huge pythons, awful flies and bees, massive poisonous snakes, wicked elephants that are intoxicated by their strength and kill, great bulls with sharp-pointed horns digging up the path, infuriated buffaloes with huge horns, that are mad and that devour persons, hideous and terrible Dākinī witches, Rākṣasas and very terrible ailments. Harassed by these pedestrians, the dead go ahead along that path.

17-21. They are struck by fierce gusts of wind mixed with huge columns of dust and striking by a great shower of pebbles. They find no place of shelter. As they go along, they are torn and shattered by the fall of thunderbolt. Everywhere they are cut and split by huge showers of arrows.

They are burned by thunderbolts and terrific meteors falling in multitudes as well as burning coal. A great shower of dust particles covers them up and they cry in agony. They are frightened by the repeated terrible sounds of clouds. They are pounded and smashed by showers of arrows. They are sprinkled and sprayed with solutions of acid as they go ahead.

22. When the extremely rough, coarse and chill wind blows against them they shrink, shrivel and become frozen.

23-24. Thus those men are led along the path without repast and rest. They do not get water to drink. The path is impassable. Thus the embodied souls, the deluded perpetrators of sinful crimes are forcibly led along that path by the terrible emissaries of Yama whose behests they carry out.

25-32. They are lonely and without friends or kinsmen. They are subject to other’s will and helpless. They bewail their lot and lament continuously.

Those forbidden persons (?) turned into ghosts find their throat, lips and palates parched up. They are emaciated and terribly afraid. They are burnt by the fire of hunger. Some are bound with fetters with their legs raised up. Even as they are parched up thus, they are dragged and pulled by the emissaries of Yama of manifest strength.

These men with their faces down and others are also dragged by the servants of Yama. They are extremely miserable. Deprived of food and drink they beg for it saying “Give, please give” in a voice choked with tears.

On seeing various foodstuffs and beverages in plenty, these wretched persons afflicted by hunger and thirst request for the same with palms joined in reverence. They see cooked rice mixed with curds, milk and ghee; they observe various articles with sweet odour, they notice various kinds of fragrant and cool beverages. On seeing these, they begin to request for the same. Thereupon, the servants of Yama rebuke them with harsh words. Those terrible fellows with the tips of their eyes red with anger threaten the pedestrians and say:—

Yama’s servants said:

33-38. You have not performed sacrifices at the proper time. You have not offered gifts to the brahmins. Moreover, when something was offered to brahmins you had actively prevented it. The time for the reaping of the fruits of that sin has arrived, O base men, your assets were not burnt by fire nor did they perish in water. They had not been seized by kings or robbers. Where are they now? Why were they not handed over to brahmins? These mountain-like heaps of cooked rice that are seen here have been kept ready for those good men by whom charitable gifts of Sāttvika type have been made. There are various good stuffs and beverages—those that should be chewed and masticated, those that should be swallowed, those that should be licked and those that should be squeezed of their juice. You will not get these since nothing has been given by you before. Cooked rice is always brought and kept here for the sake of those persons by whom gifts are given in charity, Homas are performed, sacrificial ceremonies are celebrated and brahmins are worshipped. O hellish beings, how can others’ fruits of piety be given away by us to you?

Vyāsa said:

39. On hearing the words of Yama’s servants they lose their taste therein. They are afflicted by hunger and thirst (all the more). Thereafter they are tortured by the servants of Yama with terrible weapons.

40-41. The ruthless emissaries af Yama attack them from the rear with iron clubs, iron-rods, javelins, tomaras, paṭṭiśas, bhindipālas and parighas. They are bit and pierced by arrows, axes and maces. The sinners are attacked from the front by lions, tigers etc. and are eaten up by them.

42. They do not get the opportunity of either getting in or coming out. They are in a highly wretched state. Those sinners are overwhelmed by their own actions. They lament piteously.

43. After restraining and afflicting them much the sinners are taken by the servants of Yama to that place where Yama himself is present.

44-45. Lord Yama is a virtuous soul. He causes piety. He restrains evil. The deceased persons who reach the city of the dead through the very difficult path are brought in front of Yama after duly informing him. Then those evil doers see that terrible person.

46-56. The eyes of the sinners are obstructed by sins. They had a wrong notion and idea of the soul before. Such sinners see Yama face to face. His face appears terrible due to the curved fangs. His eyebrows are coorked as be sees furiously. His hairs are lifted up. He has great moustache. His lower lip throbs. He has eighteen arms. He is infuriated. He resembles the blue mass of collyrium. All types of weapons shine in his hands. He is equipped with a dreadful rod. He rides on a great buffalo. His eyes resemble the blazing fire. He wears red garlands and garments. He is as lofty as the great cloud. His voice is as loud as the rumbling sound of the cloud at the time of dissolution. He appears to drink the great ocean, swallow the three worlds and vomit fire. Near him the sinners see Death whose lustre is like that of black fire. They see the Annihilator too who is terrible and who resembles the fire at the time of dissolution. Then there is the fierce Mahāmārī (great smallpox) and the terrible Kālarātri (Nightmare). There are also different ailments terrible and of different forms. They hold javelins, tridents, goads, nooses, discuses and swords. They are terrible with thunderbolt and rod of chastisement. They hold daggers, quivers and bow. The emissaries of Yama are innumerable. They are ruthless and they resemble collyrium in lustre. They have great prowess. They have all types of weapons lifted up in their hands. Yama is surrounded by these excessively terrible attendants. The worst sinners see Yama and the terrible Citragupta. Yama rebukes those sinners severely. Lord Citragupta enlightens them by words of virtue.

Citragupta said:

57-58. O perpetrators of evil deeds, O misappropriators of other men’s wealth, O outragers of other men’s wives, O sinners, arrogant due to beauty or prowess! What is done by you must be endured and experienced by yourselves. Then why were evil deeds committed by you all only to ruin your own souls?

59. Now, when you are being afflicted by your own actions, why do you repent and bewail? Experience your own miseries. It is not the fault of anyone else.

60-61. O ye rulers of Earth who have come near me! You are of evil intentions, arrogant due to your strength you have come here for your own terrible deeds. O kings, of evil conduct, you are the causes of destruction of your subjects. Why was sinful action committed by you for your kingdom lasting for a short time?

62. Due to your greed for the kingdom, due to delusion the subjects were unjustly and forcibly punished by you. O kings, now experience the result thereof.

63. Where is your kingdom? Where is your wife, for whose sake sins have been committed by you? Leaving all that you are now stationed here in isolation!

64. We do not see all that strength of yours whereby the subjects have been destroyed. You are being hit and pierced by the emissaries of Yama now. Now see, what have you gained?

Vyāsa said:

65-70. Thus they are rebuked by Yama too by means of various words. Repenting over their sinful deeds, the kings stay there silently. After telling them the activities of the kings Dharmarāja himself spoke thus in order to rectify their sins.

Yama said:

O Caṇḍa, O Mahācaṇḍa, take away these kings. Purify them of their sins gradually in the fires of hell.

Vyāsa said:

Then the emissaries of Yama rise up quickly, catch hold of those kings by their feet and whirl them with force. They throw them up and seize them again. In accordance with the magnitude of their sins they strike them against the rocky slab in the manner of the thunderbolt hitting a great tree. Shattered thus the embodied one discharges blood through the blood vessels. Then he becomes senseless and motionless too.

71. Touched by the wind he slowly regains life. Then they throw the man into the ocean of hellish life.

72. O leading brahmins, the emissaries intimate to Yama about the people engaged in sinful activities who are now extremely miserable.

Yama’s emissaries said:

73. O lord, at your behest, this man who is averse to virtue, who is much deluded and who is interested in sinful activities has been brought by us.

74. This man is greedy. He is of evil conduct. He commits sins of various types, big and small. He is impure and he is engaged in violence.

75. This man has had sexual intercourse with forbidden women. He is a wicked man. He is a person who stole away other men’s wealth. He has sold his daughter. He is a perjuror. He is ungrateful. He has deceived friends.

76. Virtue and piety has always been censured by this proud follow. A sinful deed has been committed by this wicked man in the mortal world.

77. Now, O lord of Devas, mention the modes of restraining or blessing this fellow. Our lord must be competent to lay down action against him. We will be only hindering if we do anything ourselves.

Vyāsa said:

78-83. After intimating this to the lord of Devas and placing the sinner in front of him, the servants go to fetch other men from among hundreds and lakhs and crores of hellish beings.

When the crime committed has been accepted, Yama gives instructions to his deadful servants to punish the sinners in accordance with the injunctions of Vasiṣṭha and other law givers in regard to their restraints and punishment.

The infuriated servants of Yama destroy sins. The sinners are hit and pierced with goads, iron clubs, batons, hatchets, javelins, tomaras, swords and tridents also.

The sinners, thousands, hundred, hundred thousands and crores of them, are afflicted by the servants of Yama through the faults and sins acquired by their actions. Now listen to the nature and forms of hells. They are terrible.

84-89. Listen to the names and extent of these hells as well as to the cause whereby men fall into them.

The hell, well known as Mahāvīci, is flooded with blood. It is strewn over with adamantine thorns. It extends to ten thousand Yojanas. The man who kills cows is immersed into that bloody river. He is split and torn against the adamantine thorns. This terrible ordeal lasts for hundred thousand years.

The terrible hell Kumbhīpāka extends to ten million Yojanas. It contains blazing sand full of copper jars and burning coal. It is here that the slayer of a brahmin, one who illegally takes possession of lands and one who misappropriates amounts kept in trust—are hurled and burnt until the dissolution of all living beings.

The hell Raurava is strewn with adamantine darts and shafts that blaze. It is sixty thousand Yojanas in length and extent. In that heH, men are pierced and torn by these blazing darts and shafts.

90-97. Those who commit perjury are crushed and pounded in that hell like cane stumps in the machine.

The hell named Mañjūṣā is known as one which consists of a blazing iron box. Men brought as prisoners are placed in it and burnt.

The hell named Apratiṣṭha is full of pus, urine and ordure. One who harasses a brahmin falls into it topsy turvy.

Lākṣāprajvalita is a terrible lubricous and slippery hell. O excellent brahmins, those who are addicted to wine are put into it and burnt. The hell Mahāprabha is a lofty one with blazing tridents. Those who create split between husbands and wives are pierced with tridents in that hell. There is the hell Mahāghora. There is an iron block there resembling a rocky slab. It is named Jayanti. The sinner who habitually approaches other men’s wives is struck with this iron block.

The hell named Śālmala contains blazing sturdy thorny shrubs. The woman who lives with many men has to embrace these thorny shrubs. She becomes wiserable thereby.

The tongues of those who lie always, wounding the sensitive feelings of others are plucked by the servants of Yama, who are entrusted with this task. The eyes of those who view other men’s wives with lustful glances are pierced with darts by the servants of Yama.

98-105 Those who outrage the modesty of their own mothers, sisters, daughters, and daughters-in-law, and those who kill women, children and old men undergo tortures in hell for the duration of the reign of fourteen Indras.

The hell named Mahāraurava is very terrible. Clusters of fiery flames spread everywhere. This hell extends to fourteen thousand Yojanas.

The deluded man who commits arson on cities, fields, houses and villages is burnt in that hell for the period of a Kalpa.

The hell that is well known as Tāmisra extends to a hundred thousand Yojanas. It is very terrible. Swords and iron clubs named Paṭṭiśas and Mudgaras always fall therein. Men who steal are put therein and beaten by the servants of Yama. They are tortured with tridents, javelins, maces and swords for the period of three hundred Kalpas.

The hell named Mahātāmisra is twice as large as Tāmisra. It is full of leeches and serpents. It is devoid of light and it yields great misery. Men guilty of matricide and fratricide and those who kill friends who have trusted them remain in this hell as long as the Earth lasts. They are pared and pierced.

The hell named Asipatravana yields much misery.

106-113. It extends to ten thousand Yojanas. It is infested with blazing swords. With these swords falling in hundreds, the person who is guilty of treachery to friends is cut, struck and pierced until the dissolution of all living beings.

There is a hell named Karambhavālukā. It is in the shape of a well and it extends to ten thousand Yojanas. It is covered with blazing sands and coals and thorns. The person by whom people are continuously burnt with terrible means under false pretext is burnt or pierced for a hundred and ten thousand three hundred years in this hell.

The hell named Kākola is flooded with putrescent fluid infested with germs. Those wicked persons who partake of sweet food alone (without sharing it with others) are hurled into that hell.

The hell named Kuḍmala is filled with faeces, urine and blood. Men, who do not perform the five Yajñas and other holy rites are cast into that hell.

The hell Mahābhīma (exceedingly terrible) is full of foul smell and is contaminated by flesh and blood. Base men who are interested in eating forbidden food fall into that hell.

The hell Mahāvaṭa (the great cavernous pit) is infested with worms and germs. It is filled with corpses too. The man who sells his daughter falls into it with face downwards.

There is an exceedingly terrible hell named Tilapāka where persons who are engaged in afflicting others are crushed and powdered like sesamum seeds.

114-119. There is a hell named Tailapāka where boiling oil floods the ground. He who kills friends or those who seek refuge in him, is cooked there.

There is a hell named Vajrakapota. It contains an adamantine chain. Those who sell milk are ruthlessly tortured there.

There is a hell called Nirucchvāsa. It is blindingly dark and devoid of wind. He who prevents a charitable gift from being given to a brahmin is rendered motionless and hurled into it.

The hell named Aṅgāropacaya is dazzling with burning coal. He who promises a gift to a brahmin but does not give it to him is burnt there.

The hell named Mahāpāyī extends to a hundred thousand Yojanas. Those who always utter lies are hurled into it with faces downwards.

The hell named Mahājvāla is very terrible and is very bright due to flames. A man who is intellectually inclined towards sins is burnt there for a long time.

120-125. There is a hell named Krakaca. Men who indulge in sexual intercourse with forbidden women are tortured there with saws and hatchets the edges of which are keen and adamantine.

There is a hell named Guḍapāka. It is full of boiling eddies of treacle and molasses. A man responsible for mixture in castes is thrown into it. He is burnt therein.

The hell Kṣuradhāra is full of keen-edged razors. Men who illegally seize the lands of brahmins are cut off and pared there for the duration of a Kalpa.

The hell called Ambarīṣa is kindled with the fire of dissolution. He who steals gold is burnt there for a period of a hundred crores of Kalpas.

The hell known by the name Vajrakuṭhāra is agitated by thunderbolts. Sinners who cut off the umbrellas (upper branches and leaves) of trees are tortured there.

The hell called Paritāpa is rendered blazing by the fire of dissolution. A sinner who administers poison or steals honey and wine is cooked there.

126-131, The hell Kālasūtra is made of adamantine wires. Those who cut off and plunder the vegetable products of others wander there. They are cut, pierced and tortured therein.

The hell named Kaṣmala is full of phlegm and nasal mucus. The man who takes interest in wine and flesh is cast into that hell and kept there for the period of a Kalpa.

The hell Ugragandha is full of saliva, urine and faeces. Those who do not offer balls of rice unto the Pitṛs are thrown into it.

The hell named Durdhara is infested with leeches and scorpions. A man who swallows bribes stays there for ten thousand years.

There is the hell named Vajramahāpīḍa. It is made of adamant. Those who take away other people’s wealth, food-grains or gold are thrown into this hell, burnt and tortured by the servants of Yama.

132-136. Those thieves are cut off into bits by razors by the emissaries of Yama.

Those deluded persons who kill living beings and eat them like crows and vultures are compelled to eat their own flesh by the servants of Yama. Those who take away the seat, bed and garments belonging to others and those who commit perjury are crushed like sugarcane.

The hell Āyasa is remembered as constituted by iron. It blazes. Those who are engaged in imprisoning persons are thrown into it and are burnt.

There is a hell named Atratiṣṭha. It contains putrescent urine and faeces. Those who censure Smṛtis and the Vedas fall into it with faces downwards.

There is a hell named Pārilumpa. It is infested with vultures, dogs and wolves. Those who kill children and old people are scorched in this terrible hell.

137. There is a hell named Karāla. It is terrible and infested with dead bodies and ghosts. He who inflicts pain on a brahmin is eaten by Rākṣasas in this hell

138. The hell Vilepana is terrible with boiling melted lac. O excellent brahmins, those who imbibe wine and liquor are immersed therein and burnt.

139. There is a hell named Mahāpreta. It contains a blazing trident of great height. Those who create split between husbands and wives are pierced with that trident.

140. There is a hell Mahāghora where there is an iron block like a rocky slab. It blazes. A sinner who hovers round other men’s wives is dragged with that iron block.

141. There is a hell named Śālmali where there is a blazing sturdy thorny bush. A man engaged in the attack of vulnerable points in others is compelled to embrace this thorny bush. He becomes miserable thereby.

142. The tongues of those who take false pledges and speak words that wound the sensitive spots in others are plucked by the servants of Yama, who are the members of the assembly.

143. Those who carnally approach the daughters-in-law are hurled over the heaps of burning coal and burnt by the servants of Yama.

144-147. Those deluded persons who spoil the holy rites, or take away the abode and gold belonging to others, are split and crushed by the emissaries of Yama by means of javelins and iron clubs.

The evil-minded persons who steal even fruits and leaves of other men are burnt by the infuriated emissaries of Yama through grass fires. A blazing trident is fixed into the heart of that evil-minded man who is enamoured of other men’s wives and properties. The emissaries of Yama torture such men thus.

Those who are averse to virtue mentally, verbally and physically undergo excessively terrible tortures in the world of Yama.

Thus there are hundreds, thousands, millions and crores of hells. Men who commit sins go to them.

148-152. By committing even the smallest act of inauspicious nature here a man undergoes tortures in the terrible hells in the world of Yama. Deluded men do not pay heed to the excellent speech made by Dharma. As a retort that say thus—“Who has seen this with his own eyes?”

Those who assiduously perform sinful deeds every day and night do not perform virtuous deeds even erringly. They are deluded. Those who enjoy the fruits here itself and are averse to the other world are base men. They fall into terrible hells. A life in hell is very terrible. A residence in heaven yields happiness. It is by doing virtuous or vicious deeds that heaven or hell is attained by men.

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