The Shiva Purana

by J. L. Shastri | 1950 | 616,585 words

This page relates “pathway to hell and the emissaries of yama” as found in the Shiva-purana, which, in Hinduism, represents one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This work eulogizes Lord Shiva as the supreme deity, besides topics such as cosmology and philosophy. It is written in Sanskrit and claims to be a redaction of an original text consisting of 100,000 metrical verses.

Disclaimer: These are translations of Sanskrit texts and are not necessarily approved by everyone associated with the traditions connected to these texts. Consult the source and original scripture in case of doubt.

Chapter 7 - Pathway to Hell and the Emissaries of Yama

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Sanatkumāra said:—

1. As a result of the four kinds of sins, all living beings go to Yamaloka. They are helpless.

2. It shall be known to all living beings whether in the womb, in the process of birth, as children, youth or middling whether women, man or a eunuch.

3. Here the result of the auspicious and the inauspicious actions of all embodied beings is being considered by Citragupta, Vasiṣṭha and others.

4. There are no living beings who do not go to Yama’s abode. The result of the action must of necessity be undergone. Let that be considered.

5. Men who have performed auspicious rites who are of gentle minds, endowed with the quality of compassion, go to Yama’s abode through the gentle entrance at the East.

6. Sinners, habitually performing sinful actions and devoid of charitable nature, pass through the terrible path and enter Yama’s abode by the southern gate.

7. It must be known that the multiformed city of Yama[1] is situated at a distance of eighty-six thousand Yojanas from the Earth.

8. To men of auspicious deeds it appears to be very near, but to the sinners who go along the terrible path it is situated far off.

9. At places the path is strewn with sharp thorns, at places it is full of sand, elsewhere it is full of pebbles sharp like the razor-edge.

10. Somewhere the place is marshy, somewhere full of long or short Darbha grass like iron pins that split the legs.

11. Elsewhere it is full of mountains overgrown with trees and resembling impassable bunds. The distressd persons go along the path full of glowing coal.

12. In other places it is full of deep irregular chasms and canyons, elsewhere, of rugged lumps of clay; of burning sands here and sharp spikes there.

13. Somewhere it is pervaded by bamboo groves with many branches spreading, elsewhere the path is enveloped in darkness, in some places (he path has no support at all.

14. Somewhere the cross-roads are full of sharp iron pieces, elsewhere there is a forest-fire; in other places these are hot rocks; in some places snow spreads over it.

15. Some places are full of fine sand where the persons sink up to the neck; elsewhere it is full of stinking muddy water and some places are covered with burning balls of dry cowdung.

16. Different places are infested with different terrible beasts of prey such as lions, wolves, tigers and huge pythons or terrible mosquitoes or huge leeches.

17. Terrible flics, extremely poisonous serpents, herds of elephants in rut mad and mighty, crushing everything under their feet infest the paths.

18-19. The persons who go that way are tortured and harassed by big boars digging and butting against the path with their sharp fangs, buffaloes with sharp horns, all sorts of beasts of prey, terrible evil spirits like Dākinīs, horrible Rākṣasas and pernicious diseases.

20. They are without any shelter when fierce gusts of wind raising huge columns of dust blow sharply against them or showers of massive stones smother them.

21. They go on, burnt and scorched by lightning falls and pierced through by heavy showers of arrows.

22. They are scorched and burnt by the showers of burning coal, the falling terrible thunderbolts and meteors.

23. They cry when heavy showers of dust envelop them. They tremble with fear ever and anon at the terrible rumbling sounds of massive clouds.

24. They are split by the shower of sharp weapons and drenched with acid-currents as they go on.

25. They shrink and wither when oppressed by the rough and chill wind all round.

26-28. All those foolish persons who habitually sin are led through such paths by the terrible emissaries of Yama forcefully, in carrying out his behests.—the paths that are terrible, devoid of feeding, devoid of basic support, impassable, lacking in water, rugged, desolate, dark and gloomy and full of pain and misery and all sorts of evil things.

29. They are lonely, devoid of friends and relatives. They are dependent on others. They bewail their evil actions. They cry again and again.

30. They have by this time become ghosts. They have no cloth on. Their throats, lips and palates are parched. They are frightened of terror. They are hungry and feel a burning sensation all over.

31. Some are bound with fetters and forced to keep their legs lifted up. They are dragged again and again by the extraordinarily powerful emissaries of Yama.

32. Others with downcast faces are against the chest. They are distressed. They are dragged with a rope fastened to their tresses.

33. Men in supine position are dragged along the thorny path or that covered with burning coal, by means of a goad clutching at their foreheads.

34. The hands of some are tied behind and they are hit in the belly. Others are completely bound with iron fetters. Still others are nailed in their hands.

35. A few others are dragged with a noose tied round their necks. They go ahead in distress. Others are dragged by ropes. Their tongues are pierced through by goads.

36. The noses of others are bored and ropes are tied through them and they are dragged. Similarly others have their cheeks and lips bored and are dragged by ropes.

37. The tips of the hands and the legs of some are cut off. The ears, noses and lips of others are cut. The penis and the scrotum of some are cut. A few others have all their limbs and joints cut.

38. Pushed, pierced and thrust by spears and arrows some run about helplessly here and there shrieking and squealing.

39-40. Hit and thrashed by iron clubs and rods, bruised by terrible thorns of various sorts, luminous like fire and sun and pierced through by javelins, some men shed putrid blood or evacuate faeces infested with worms. They are taken ahead thus.

41-42. Those who had not made any charitable gifts in the world feel thirsty along this path and vainly beg for water, feeling hungry they beg for food; oppressed by sunshine they beg for shade and distressed with dullness they request for fire. They vainly beg for happiness. But those who had made charitable gifts in the world have all the food and drink necessary for this journey and go ahead to Yama’s abode happily.

43. Having thus traversed the path they finally reach the city of the dead with great hardship. They are then ushered into the presence of Yama by the emissaries after due announcement.

44. Yama welcomes with pleasure and due honour, all those who had performed auspicious rites in this world. He offers them seat, pādya and Arghya.

45. Yama tells them—“You are noble souls duly blessed, since you have performed what is ordained in the Vedas. Good deeds that are conducive to divine happiness have been performed by you.

46. Ascend the celestial aerial chariot and go to heaven to enjoy the pleasures in the company of celestial damsels and fulfil your cherished desires.

47. After enjoying pleasures there, in the end when the merit is exhausted return to this place for reaping the fruit of what little evil you may have committed.”

48. Men who have been virtuous are treated as friends by Yama. They see Yama with a gentle face.

49-53. Men who have been guilty of cruelties sec him in a terrible form. His face is terrible with curved fangs. His eyes are cruel with knit eyebrows. The hair on his head stand lifted up. He has a big moustache. His lips are pouted and they throb. He has eighteen hands. He is furious. He resembles black collyrium. His uplifted hands hold all weapons. He threatens with punishment. He is seated on a great buffalo. His eyes resemble blazing fire. He wears red garlands and garments. He is as tall as the mountain Mahā Meru. His voice resembles the rumbling sound of the clouds at the time of dissolution. He appears ready to drink up even the big ocean.

53. He appears ready to swallow even great mountains. He appears to vomit fire. Very near him is Mṛtyu, whose lustre is like that of black fire.

5ṭ. Black in colour resembling collyrium he is very terrifying. Mārī, Ugramahāmārī and Kālarātri are terrible spirits attending on Yama.

55 Various ailments, leprosies of various forms are terrible. They hold Śaktis, tridents, goads, nooses, discuses and swords in their hands.

56. All of them are heroic and terrible. They have curved snouts. They bear shafts, quivers and bows and weapons of various sorts.

57. The attendants of Yama are innumerable. They are great heroes. They have complexions like the black collyrium. They appear terrifying with weapons lifted up.

58. The sinners see Yama terrific to behold, surrounded by his attendants and they see Citragupta too equally terrible.

59. Yama rebukes and reproaches the sinners. Lord Citragupta enlightens them with statements on virtue.

Footnotes and references:


Vaivasvatapura, the capital of Yama, is placed at the distance of eighty-six thousand Yojanas below this earth. Yama, the lord of the manes rules in the region called Yamaloka. Attended by thousands of his emissaries—Citragupta and others, he inflicts punishment upon the wicked. The chapter describes some frightful tortures suffered by the sinners.

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