The Shiva Purana

by J. L. Shastri | 1970 | 616,585 words

This page relates “mode of sufferings in the hell” 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.

Chapter 10 - The mode of sufferings in the Hell

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Sanatkumāra said:—

1. He who follows false scriptures goes to the hell Dvijihva. He is tortured by the tongue-like ploughshares extending to one and a half kilometres.

2. The mouth of the man who had been cruel to his parents and had reproached them is filled with faeces and worms and he is beaten.

3-5. Men who defile the temple of Śiva, the park surrounding it and the wells, tanks and lakes therein, in various ways such as playing there, applying oil and unguents over the body, drinking bouts, taking food, indulgence in sexual intercourse, game of dice etc. are tortured by being crushed in the sugercane-crushing machine and other mechanical contrivances. They are scorched in hellish fire till the final day of dissolution.

6. Sinners who indulge in illicit union with other’s wives are forced to embrace red-hot iron images of those women with whom they had illicit relation and struck in various ways.

7. Images of those men are made of red hot iron and the erring women are forced to embrace those images. They cry and shriek.

8-10. Those who listen to the censure of good people are punished thus: ears filled with red hot pins of iron, copper, tin, lead or brass, or with boiling milk or oil or adamantine liquid again and again. The tortures in the hells are inflicted by filling the cars with these and other parts one after the other. The procedure here too is the same as in the case of ears.

11. Similar tortures are inflicted on all the organs of the body with which the acts of sin had been committed.

12. The hands of those sinners who touch other’s wives are filled with red hot fillings.

13. Their bodies are smeared with corrosive substances such as acid etc. Tortures are acute and grievous in all the hells.

14. The faces of men who show wry faces with knit eye-brows to their parents are scratched from end to end with sharp pikes.

15. The organs wherewith men defile or harass women are respectively tortured.

16 If they had looked at other women with greedy gaping eyes, red hot needles are stuck in their eyes.

17. O excellent sage, it is true, true. There is no doubt. Tortures of Yama by acids etc. take place here itself in the hells.

18. If people take food without first offering it to the gods, firegod, preceptors and brahmins, their tongues and mouths are pierced through and filled with hundreds of red-hot nails of iron.

19-20. If men, out of greed, pluck and sniff at flowers of the temple parks, or wear them on their heads,[1] their heads are covered with iron spikes and their noses are filled with plenty of acid and other things.

21-23. Red-hot three-pointed iron rods are thrust and pushed through the chest, neck, tongue, tooth-joints, palate, lips, nostrils and all the limb-joints of those persons who slander and censure the noble-preacher of virtue, devotees of the gods, fire-god and preceptor as well as the eternal scriptural texts.

24. The crevices of the body are filled with corrosive acid. Severe tortures are inflicted all over the body.

25-26. Those who take other’s wealth or kick or even touch a brahmin with their legs go from hell to hell serially. Those who touch illegally or stamp with the foot the materials for Śiva’s worship, cow, or a Manuscript in which words of wisdom are written, are tortured by filling—(as mentioned before).

27. In all hells various tortures of grievous nature are inflicted on hands and feet.

28-30. If sinners evacuate their bowels or pass urine near Śiva’s temple or in the premises of the lord's parks their penis along with the scrotum is pounded into powder by iron-threshing rods. Red hot needles are stuffed into his anus and penis. Acute corrosive acid or molten metals are poured into them.

31-32. As a result of the previous tortures their minds and all sense-organs are put to great misery. Those who, despite being rich do not make monetary gifts due to greed, and those who dishonour guests visiting their houses at the proper time, commit sins and fall into dirty hell.

33-34. Those who take food before offering oblations to dogs and crows are tortured by beating two nails into their open mouths. They are further harassed through worms, fierce living beings and by means of crows with iron beaks. Various other sorts of tortures too are in store for them.

35-40. He who is dark and he who is multi-coloured—these two are the obstacles to the path of Yama. To these two dogs[2] I am offering this oblation. Let them take this oblation. Let the pious crows in the direction of Varuṇa (west), of Vāyu (north-west), of Yama (south) and of Nairṛti (south-west), accept this oblation of mine”. Those who offer this Bali with Śiva’s mantras, after worshipping Śiva with devotion and performing Homa duly, do not face Yama. They go straight to heaven. Hence this oblation shall be offered daily. A square mystic diagram is made and sweet scents are offered. The oblation to Dhanvantari is made in the Īśāna corner (north-east); that to Indra in the east; that to Yama in the south; that to Śiva with Dakṣa and Umā in the west; that to the Pitṛs in the south; that to Aryaman in the cast and to Dhātṛ and Vidhātṛ at the entrance.

41-44. The offerings to dogs and lords of dogs and to the crows are made on the ground. A householder is depended upon by the gods, Pitṛs, ghosts, all sorts of living beings, Guhyakas, birds, worms and insects. The four nipples of the cow are respectively Svāhākāra, Svadhākāra, Vaṣaṭkāra and Hantakāra.[3] The Svāhākāra nipple is sucked by gods; the Svadhākāra by the manes, the Vaṣaṭkāra by the other gods as well as lords of the Bhūtas and the Hantakāra nipple is drunk by human beings.

45-46. He who serves the cow thus with faith and reverence deserves to maintain the sacrificial fires. He who forsakes it is drowned in the hell Tāmisra. Hence after offering Bali to these at the door, the householder shall meditate for a short while.

47. One shall feed the hungry guest staying in the same village with auspicious food, in accordance with his ability and with the same dishes as he partakes of himself.

48. If a guest turns back from a house disappointed he takes away all the merits of the householder and leaves his own sins behind.

49. A man eating delicious food by himself stays in the hell for a long time fettered in the body and pierced in the tongue with force.

50-51. Bits of his own flesh, of the size of a small gingelly seed, are cut off from his body and are given to him for eating. Blood is similarly taken and given for drinking. He is then beaten with whips. Thus he is tormented with hunger and thirst.

52. These and similar things constitute the terrible tortures inflicted on sinners. What comes off in the end may be listened to in brief.

53. There may be a person who has done more sin than good or a person who has done more good than evil. Now listen to the result of their actions.

54. The fruit of good actions is immaterial because it is the sin that is prominent. His pleasure is insignificant since he has to undergo manifold suffering due to his bad deeds.

55. He is put to misery and distress. As sumptuous food is not pleasing to a person if that is not repeated every day so his small joys are of no avail in the face of various sufferings he has to undergo.[4]

56. On the other hand a man of more good actions is not distressed by a few sufferings due to small sins just as a rich householder is not distressed by hunger when he fasts for a day.

57. There are great sins in the world which shatter a man into hundreds of pieces like a mountain struck down by thunderbolt.

Footnotes and references:


Adorning the locks of hair is the common characteristic of the people of Dakṣiṇāpatha across the Narmadā river. This practice never prevailed among North Indian people.


The text mentions the two dogs and crows to whom the offerings shall be made in favour of the departed spirit. It mentions the cow that takes the spirits across Vaitaraṇī.


The gifts offered to the principal gods, manes, subsidiary gods, and human beings with the utterance of words svāhā, svadhā, vaṣaṭ and hanta are likened to the milk-drops from the four teats of the cow.


The text of the second half of the verse it defective. We have adopted the reading “abāvādagnato'nnaspa” for “abhāvādagnato'nyasya” to suit the context.

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