The Shiva Purana (English translation)

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

This page relates “description of the nether worlds (patala)” 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 15 - Description of the Nether worlds (pātāla)

Vyāsa said:—

1. For the benefit of human beings tell me that which when given as gift makes it possible to derive the benefit of all gifts.

Sanatkumāra said:—

2. Listen. I shall mention that gift on giving which, at the proper time, men obtain the benefit of all the gifts

3. This is the most excellent of all gifts. The whole universe shall be given as gift by those who desire salvation for crossing the ocean of worldly existence.

4. A man becomes the lord of the seven worlds, with a fraction of the benefit that he obtains when the whole universe is given as a gift.

5. The man who gifts away the universe sports in the abode of the gods along with his kinsmen as long as the moon and the sun are in the sky or the earth is steady or every one in the abode of the heaven-dwellers is favourable. Afterwards, for rejoicing, he attains the region of Viṣṇu which is difficult of access even to the gods.

Vyāsa said:—

6. O holy lord, please explain the universe, its extent, its main soul, its support and its structure so that I can have a full idea.

Sanatkumāra said:—

7. O sage, listen. I shall explain how high and how extensive is the universe. On hearing it succinctly one gets rid of sins.

8. That which is the unmanifest ultimate cause becomes manifest as Śiva, free from ailment. When that becomes dichotomised, Brahma is born of that in due course.

9. Brahmā creates the universe consisting of the fourteen[1] worlds. O dear, I shall succinctly explain that in proper order. Listen to it assiduously.

10. The nether worlds (pātāla) are seven only. The upper worlds are also seven (bhuvana). The height of the universe is twice as such and it stands in the middle of water.

11. Its support is the serpent Śeṣa. He is glorified as Viṣṇu. At the instance of Brahmā he supports all this.

12. Even the gods and the Asuras are incompetent to describe the attributes of Śeṣa who is worshipped by the gods, sages and the Gaṇas and who is called as Anante by the Siddhas.

13. He has a thousand hoods. By means of the thousand jewels on his hoods, he illuminates all the quarters. He has the brilliant ornament Svastika.

14. He has only a single ear-ring. He has a crown and wears garlands. His eyes are rolling due to inebriation. He shines like a white fiery mountain.

15. He is like a Kailāsa mountain which shines white due to the flow of the Gaṅgā. But he wears a blue cloth and is inebriated.

16-17. He is worshipped by the gold-complexioned Nāga virgins (nāgakanyā) in this aspect—viz. the tips of his hands are in contact with the ploughshare. He is bearing an excellent threshing rod. He is Rudra in the form of Saṅkarṣaṇa. He is brilliant with the flame of the poisonous fire. At the end of the Kalpa, flames of fire come out of his mouths. After consuming the three worlds they subside.

18. Holding the sphere of the earth on his back, Śeṣa, the lord of Bhūtas stands at the root of Pātāla. He is worshipped for his endless attributes.

19. The power of his virility cannot be adequately described even by the ambitious gods nor can his form be known.

20. Who will adequately express his prowess? The series of his hoods, pink with the jewels go round the entire earth like a garland of flowers.

21. With his eyes rolling due to inebriation when Śeṣa stretches himself, the earth quakes along with all its mountains, oceans and forests.

22-23. O excellent sage, each of the nether worlds (pātāla) extends to ten thousand Yojanas. The seven nether worlds are Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Rasātala, Tala, Talātala and the Pātāla. The seven worlds are beneath the earth. So say the learned people.

24. The height of each of these is twice its extent. The surfaces of all are grounds of gems. The palaces are full of gems and their terraces are made of gold.

25. Dānavas, Daiteyas, Serpents, and Rākṣasas of the Daitya origin reside there.

26. Nārada who came to heaven from the nether region announced in the middle of the celestial assembly that the nether worlds (pātāla) are more beautiful than heaven.

27. There, in all sorts of ornaments, lustrous jewels are present. They are white and delightful. What is there equal to it?

28. The nether region is here and there brightened up by the daughters of Daityas and Dānavas. Even to the liberated soul, the nether region is pleasing. Which liberated soul does not like it?

29. There during (he daytime there are no sun’s rays, nor the moon’s rays during the night. There is neither chillness nor bright sunlight. There is only the lustre of the jewels.

30. O excellent sage, all sorts of foodstuffs and drinks are consumed there by extremely joyous persons. The time that passes by is not known there at all.

31. The cooings of the male cuckoo are there. Lotuses are there. There are lotus-ponds. There are rivers and lakes. Each of them is more excellent than the other.

32. There the ornaments are very brilliant. The unguents are sweet-smelling. O brahmin, the sound of Vīṇās, flutes and Mṛdaṅgas can be heard there. There are songs everywhere.

33. There the Daityas and serpents rejoice and enjoy pleasures. It is by performing penances that Dānavas and Siddha beings attain the same.

Footnotes and references:


The universe is comprised of fourteen worlds, seven rising above the earth and seven lying below. The seven upper regions are bhūḥ, bhuvaḥ, svaḥ,janaḥ, tapaḥ and mahaḥ and the seven lower are atala, vitala, sutala, rasātala, tala, talātala and pātāla.