The Agni Purana

by N. Gangadharan | 1954 | 360,691 words | ISBN-10: 8120803590 | ISBN-13: 9788120803596

This page describes The description of hells (naraka) which is chapter 371 of the English translation of the Agni Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas dealing with all topics concerning ancient Indian culture, tradition and sciences. Containing roughly 15,000 Sanskrit metrical verses, subjects contained in the Agni-Purana include cosmology, philosophy, architecture, iconography, economics, diplomacy, pilgrimage guides, ancient geography, gemology, ayurveda, etc.

Chapter 371 - The description of hells (naraka)

Fire-god said:

1-2. I will describe to you the path (leading) to Yama (i.e. the world of God of Death) which have been pointed out (by the learned). The bodily heat getting intense and diffused by the deranged wind, obstructs the body as well as all the defects. Moreover it breaks the subtle places of life (in the body).

3-4. The wind excited by cold seeks an aperture (for its movement). The seven apertures are—two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and head. The eighth one is the mouth. Generally the lives of pious men escape through these holes.

5. (The lives) of doers of bad deeds (escape) through the anus and the organ of generation in the lower (region). The lives of yogins get out breaking the head by own will.

6-7. When the time for death has come, when the life force has approached the apāna[1], when knowledge has been engulfed by darkness and when the vulnerable spots (in the body) have been surrounded, the life is moved by the wind from the umblicus [umbilicus?]. Being affected thus it draws the eight fundamental attributes of vitality (life) within.

8-10. The accomplished beings and celestials witness with their spiritual vision, the exit (of life), the birth and the entry into the uterus. As soon as the life leaves the body it assumes a light body by means of yoga. When one is dead, the ether, wind and lustre go upwards from the body, the water and earth (go downwards) (and get merged in their respective elements). The messengers of Yama lead this light body.

11. The path to the place of God of Death is much dreadful. It extends over (a space of) eighty-six thousand (krośas). Being led thus, it partakes the food and water given by the kinsmen.

12. After having seen the God of Death, being directed by him on the words of Citragupta (the personal assistant of God of Death), a person is taken to the dreadful hells [i.e., naraka]. A virtuous person is lead to the heaven by auspicious path.

13-14a. I shall describe the hells [naraka] in which the sinners are placed and the sufferings (therein). There are twenty-eight important hells below the earth at the end of the seventh layer of the region covered by dreadful darkness.

14b-18. Ghorā is the name of the first hell. Sughorā is below that. The others are Atighorā, Mahāghorā, Ghorarūpā, the fifth, the sixth known as Taralatārā, the seventh one Bhayānakā, Bhayotkaṭā, Kālarātrī, Mahācaṇḍā, Caṇḍā, Kolāhalā, the one known as Pracaṇḍā, Padmā, Narakanāyikā, Padmāvatī, Bhīṣaṇā, Bhīmā, Karālikā, Vikarālā, Mahāvajrā, Trikoṇā, Pañcakoṇikā, Sudīrghā, Vartulā, Saptabhūmā, Subhūmikā and Dīptamāyā. The wicked suffer in these.

19. There are five foremost (divisions) among each one of the twenty-eight hells known as Raurava and others numbering one-hundred and forty.

20-22. Tāmisra, Andhatāmisra, Mahāraurava and Raurava, Asipatravana (forest of sword-like leaves), Lohabhāra, Kālasūtra, Mahānaraka, Sañjīvana, Mahāvīci, Tapana, Sampratāpana, Saṅghāta, Sakākola, Kuḍamala, Pūtimṛttika, Lohaśaṅku and Ṛjīṣa (are the sub-divisions). Śālmalī is the main river.

23. One should know that the hells are governed by dreadful looking serpents. They put the sinners in each one of the hells as well as in many of them.

24. Having their faces resembling cats, owls, frogs and vultures etc., they throw the man in caldrons of oil and then light the fire.

25-28. Some (are put) in frying pans, some in copper vessels, some others in iron caldrons and others among sparks of fire. Some are placed on the tip of pointed pikes. Some are pierced in the hell. Some are thrashed with whips. Some are made to eat molten iron. The men are made to consume dust, excreta, blood, phlegm etc. and made to drink hot wine by the messengers of God of Death. The men are again pierced. They are tortured by mechanical devices and (the bodies are) eaten by crows etc. Hot oil is sprinkled over them and the head is pierced repeatedly.

29-30. Wailing aloud ‘Oh! father!’, (the men) denounce their (past) deeds. After having reached dreadful hells as a result of censurable great sins, the great sinners are reborn here when the (fruits) of the (past) deeds are exhausted. A killer of a brahmin is born in the womb of a deer, dog, pig and camel.

31. A drunkard (is born in the womb) of a Pukkaśa[2] or Mleccha[3]. A person stealing gold (gets) the state of an insect, worm or locust. A person defiling the bed of his preceptor (attains) the state of a clump of grass.

32. A killer of a brahmin would get consumption. A drunkard (would have) dark brown teeth (a dental disease). One who steals gold (would) have bad nails. A person violating the teacher’s bed (would have) a skin disease.

33. A person commiting [committing?] a sin by a particular limb would get that limb affected. A person stealing food would become dyspeptic. A person harming the articulation (of a man) (would be born) dumb.

34. A person stealing grains would have abnormal limbs. A miser (would be born as) having a fetid nose. A person stealing oil would become a bird. An informer would have an offensive breath.

35. A person abducting the wife of another and defiling a brahmin would be born as a brahmarākṣasa (a kind of ghost) in an uninhabited forest.

36. A person stealing gems (attains birth) in a low caste. (One who steals) perfumes (would be born) as the female of the muskrat. One who steals leaves, vegetables (would become) a peacock and one who steals grain (would become) a crow.

37-38a. (A person stealing) a domestic animal, milk, vehicle, fruit, honey, flesh, condiment, clothe or lotus and salt (would respectively be born as) a goat, crow, camel, monkey, fly, vulture, gṛhakāka (domestic crow), one afflicted by psoriasis and as cricket.

38b-39. Afflictions in mundane existence are said to be of three varieties namely, ādhyātmika (affecting mind and its faculties), ādhibhautika (caused by weapons etc.), and ādhidaivika, due to the planets, fire and gods. Men should nullify them by knowledge, by atonements, vows, making gifts and worship of (lord) Viṣṇu etc.

Footnotes and references:


One of the five winds in the body.


A mixed caste, an offspring of a hunter male and a śūdra woman.


A non-Aryan.

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