The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words

This page describes The World of Yama which is chapter 8 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc. This is the eighth chapter of the Purvardha of the Kashi-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 8 - The World of Yama

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Lopāmudrā said:

1. O lord of my life, I have not been fully contented by listening to the meritorious story of the holy cities as narrated by your glorious tongue.

2. ŚiVaśarman, the excellent Brāhmaṇa, died in Māyāpurī, the city of salvation. Still he did not get salvation. O lord, kindly tell the reason thereof.

Agastya said:

3-4. O pleasant voiced lady, in these cities one does not attain liberation directly. Formerly an old legend pertaining to this matter was heard by me. O my beloved wife, listen to this story of wonderful implication, destructive of sins, which was narrated by Puṇyaśīla and Suśīla to Śivaśarman.

Śivaśarman said:

5. O meritorious attendants of Viṣṇu, with eyes like the petals of lotus! With palms joined together (in reverence) I wish to submit something.

6. I do not know your names. I have understood something from your features. You are sure to be Puṇyaśīla and Suśīla.

The two attendants said:

7. What is unknown to people like you endowed with devotion to the Lord? These alone are our names as spoken by you, the glorious one.

8. If there is anything else in your mind to be asked, out with it unhesitatingly, O highly intelligent one. With great delight, we shall reply.

9. On hearing these sincere and highly pleasing words uttered by the attendants of the Lord, he replied thereafter:

The divine Brāhmaṇa said:

10. What is this world of very little glory and splendour? It contains the figures of people with very little merit. Who are these persons of ugly features? Speak it to me.

The attendants told:

11-12. This is the world of the Piśācas (ghosts). Flesh-eaters live here. Those who give some gifts and then repent, those who say “nay, nay” and then ultimately give something, those who worship Śiva once incidentally and then become impure in mind, those persons of very little merit and much less of prosperity, O friend, they have become these ghosts.

13-14. Proceeding ahead from that place, he saw a world occupied by delighted and well-nourished people. The people residing there had huge bellies, thick mouths (lips) and dark hairy limbs. Their voice is stentorian like that of a thundering cloud. “O attendants, say who are these? What is this world? Is it (acquired) through merit?”

The attendants said:

15-19. This is the world of Guhyakas (Hoarders). These people are remembered as Guhyakas. In the earth (they dig big cavities) and hoard their wealth (of course) earned legitimately. They go their own way. They are rich householders behaving mostly like Śūdras. They share with others what they eat. They are devoid of anger and jealousy. They are easygoing, always fond of happiness and pleasure. They don’t observe the different lunar days, the days of the week, the festival days, days of the transit of the Sun, etc. They understand neither impiety nor righteousness. One thing they know perfectly well. They give cows as gifts to that Brāhmaṇa who is regarded worthy of the veneration of the whole family. They clearly abide by his words. Due to these meritorious activities, Guhyakas are prosperous here too. Like Devas, these Guhyakas enjoy heavenly pleasures. They have nothing to fear from anywhere.

20. Thereafter, he espied a world that bestowed happiness unto the eyes. (He asked:) “Who are these people? What is the name of this world? O attendants, please tell (me).”

The attendants said:

21. This world is that of Gandharvas. These persons are the Gandharvas of splendid holy observances, because they sing the praise of the Devas. Those who were Cāraṇas and singers of praises (have now become Gandharvas).

22. Conversant with the science of music, they give much delight to kings and praise wealthy people, because they are fascinated by greed for money.

23-24. They hand over to Brāhmaṇas the excellent garments, wealth, fragrant things like camphor and many other things obtained by them with the favour of the kings. They sing songs day and night. Their mind always dwells on the (Gāndharva) Veda. They persevere in their practice and study of the art of dance.

25. Since Brāhmaṇas were propitiated through the wealth earned by them by means of music, they have become meritorious. Hence their world, the Gandharva world, has special significance.

26. It is due to the power of the science of music, that the great celestial sage Nārada has become worthy of honour in the region of Viṣṇu. He is a great favourite of Śrīśaṃbhu too.

27. Tuṃburu and Nārada both of them are rare (venerable musicians) inaccessible even to the Devas. Śiva is Nāda (sound, melody) personified and both of them are conversant with the principles of melody.

28. If a song is sung near the glorious Hari or Hara, the benefit thereof is salvation or a direct visit by them or their presence.

29. If an expert musician does not attain the greatest region (salvation) through his music, he (at least) becomes an attendant of Rudra and rejoices with him.

30. In this world the following Smṛti is always sung about: “Lord Hari and Hara should always be worshipped through the series of their own songs.”

31. Even as he heard this, Śivaśarman reached another charming city instantly. He asked, “What is the name of this city?”

The attendants said:

32-35. This is the world of Vidyādharas. They are all experts in various lores. They teach the students different kinds of arts. They are devoid of undue pride and arrogance in their learning. They give the pupil food, sandals, clothes, blankets and medicines for quelling their ailments. They consider the disciples as their own sons. Following pious practices, they give good girls in marriage to them along with clothes, betel leaves and food. They worship the deities of their choice with a keen desire for benefit. These Vidyādharas stay here due to those merits.

36-37. While they were talking thus, Dharmarāja, the lord of Saṃyaminī, came there amidst the sounds of Dundubhis (drums). He had assumed a gentle form. He was seated in an aerial chariot and was surrounded by persons knowing Dharma (pious practices) as well as three or four servants clever in the performance of their services.

Dharmarāja said:

38-40. Well done! Well done, O highly intelligent excellent Brāhmaṇa Śivaśarman! Everything befitting the families of Brāhmaṇas has been adopted by you. The Vedas were studied at the outset; the preceptors were delighted. Pious practices laid down and found in Dharmaśāstras were duly honoured by you. The fleeting body was washed and purified with the waters of the Muktipurīs (‘Cities of salvation’). You are an expert in matters concerning life and death.

41. The body with putrid odour that is always unclean has been exchanged for the merit accruing from excellent holy spots.

42. It is for this reason that learned people honour and respect learning combined with a sense of discrimination between good and evil. Those scholars do not waste even a single moment of the day.

43. Living beings live for a brief span of five or six moments in their mortal life. There, they should not indulge in vicious and sinful activities.

44. The body is always sure to be destroyed. Monetary assets do not protect at the time of death. Therefore why does a foolish man not exert himself in noble activities like you?

45. Life is fleeting; people of the world are agitated by grief. Hence mind should be directed towards pious practices by righteous men like you.

46. It is due to fruition of your virtuous actions that these two devotees of the Lord, who are worthy of my respect too, have become your friends.

47. Hence let me be commanded. What help can I render? What should have been done by people like me has already been done by you.

48. Today I have become extremely blessed, for the attendants of the Lord have been seen. My readiness to serve always should be conveyed to the divine presence of the Lord.

49. Sent off by those two, Yama entered his city. After Yama had returned, the Brāhmaṇa asked those two attendants:

Śivaśarman said:

50. Directly viewed, this Dharmarāja is indeed of very gentle features. His words are conducive to righteousness and pleasant to the mind.

51. This city of Saṃyaminī is really extremely splendid in its characteristic features. (But) the mere name thereof, when heard, terrifies the sinners too much.

52. In the mortal world, the people describe the form of Yama otherwise. But what has been seen by me is contrary, just the opposite. O attendants, kindly tell the reason why.

53. Wherefore do people see this world? Who stays here? Is this alone his form, or something else? Let it be narrated.

The attendants said:

54. Listen, O gentle Sir, he is seen very gentle by people like you who are not apprehensive and are meritorious. Naturally, he is the personification of piety.

55-56. This (gentle) Yama is described otherwise in the following manner. He is tawny-eyed. The extremities of his eyes are red due to anger. His mouth is terrible with curved teeth. He looks awful with the tongue lolling like lightning. The hairs on his head stand erect. His limbs are excessively dark in complexion. His voice is loud like that of the thundering cloud at the time of ultimate annihilation. His Kāladaṇḍa (fierce staff) is lifted up by his hand. His brows are crooked making the face terrible.

57. (What he is supposed to be ordering is described in the following verses:)[1] “O Durdama, bring him (here); cause him to fall; bind him; beat him soundly. Strike this man of excessive misdeeds with hammers on his head.

58. Hold this wicked man by his feet and dash him against the rocky ground. Place your foot on his neck and pluck out his eyes.

59. Slit open this man’s swollen cheeks with the razor quickly. Tie this man’s neck with a rope and hang him on a tree.

60. Sever this man’s head with a saw as if it were a piece of wood. Kick his face mercilessly and crush it into powder.

61. Chop off this sinner’s hand that used to assault and rape other men’s wives. Cut off the feet of this man who used to go to the houses of other men’s wives.

62. With needles pierce through the pores of the hairs of the body of this wicked man who used to make nail-marks on the limbs of other men’s wives.

63. Spit phlegm into the mouth of this sinner who used to sniff up the scent of the mouths of other men’s wives. Thrust a stiff peg into the mouth of this sinner, who used to speak slanderously of other people.

64. O Vikaṭavaktra, roast this man like Bengal gram in a frying pan, along with sand and gravel. He used to harass others.

65. O Krūralocana, immerse the face of this man in the slushy putrid pool of blood. He always used to find fault with blameless persons.

66. O Utkaṭa, this man used to take away other men’s articles, not given to him. Catch hold of his palms, sprinkle them with oil and roast them on hot charcoal fire.

67. O Bhīsaṇa, introduce hot iron rods and bars into the mouths of those who had made scandalous remarks about their preceptors and censured Devas.

68. Fix red-hot iron pegs into all the joints of this sinner who used to pierce the vital parts of other people and to reveal their secrets and frailties.

69. O Durmukha, cut off the tongue of this sinner who denies having received the money given by others and who robs others of their means of sustenance.

70. O Kroḍāsya, quickly cut open the belly of this sinner and fill it with faecal worms. He used illegitimately to enjoy temple properties and assets of Brāhmaṇas.

71. O Andhaka, cook this sinner in the vessels of the hell Kuṃbhīpāka. He was utterly selfish cooking for himself and not (sharing them with) the deities, Brāhmaṇas and guests.

72. O Ugrāsya, hurry up and take this sinner to the hell of Mahāraurava or Raurava. He was ungrateful. He used to kill infants. He was guilty of breach of trust.

73-75. O Durdaṃṣṭra, take this Brāhmaṇa-slayer to Andhatāmisra, this alcohol-addict to Pūyaśoṇita, this gold stealer to Kālasūtra, this defiler of the preceptor’s bed to Avīci. This sinner is in intimate contact with them. Take him to the hell Asipatra-Vana till the year is over. Put all these great sinners into the cauldrons filled with hot oil. Let them be constantly afflicted by ferocious ravens with steel-like beaks. Make these sinners stay there permanently till the end of the Kalpa.

76. Hang up for a long time on the Kūṭaśālmali tree the sinners who had killed women, cows and friends, with their feet above and the head down.

77. O Mahābhuja, with a pair of tongs tear off the skin of this sinner who had embraced the wife of his friend. Very soon cut off his hands too.

78. Cause this sinner to fall into the great hell Jvālākīla. He had set fire to and burned other men’s fields and houses.

79. Cast the sinner who had administered poison to others and who is guilty of perjury into the hell Kālakūṭa. Throw the sinner who used to cheat others through false measures and weights into the hell Kaṇṭhamoṭa (or push him down after wringing his neck).

80. O Duṣprekṣya, take the sinner who spits into the sacred waters to the hell Lālāpiba, the sinner who destroys foetus to the hell Āmapāka and that man who distresses others to Śūlapāka hell.

81. Torture in the sugarcane-crushing machine that Brāhmaṇa who used to sell juices and beverages (Ikṣuyantra may be the name of a hell also). Throw the king harassing his subjects into the hell Andhakūpa.

82-84. O Halāyudha, with mortar and pestle thrash constantly the Vaiśya who sells hemp and alcohol, as well as the base Brāhmaṇa who sells cows, gingelly seeds and horses.

O Dīrghagrīva, torture in the hell Adhomukha the Śūdra who insults Brāhmaṇas and occupies a cot in the presence of a Brāhmaṇa.

85-87. O Pāśapāṇi, O Kaśāpāṇi, bind the feet of these sinners: the Śūdra who competes with a Brāhmaṇa, the Vaiśya professing to be a Brāhmaṇa, the Kṣatriya who performs Yajñas on behalf of others, the Brāhmaṇa who is bereft of the Vedas, and the base Brāhmaṇa who regularly sells red lac, salt, meat, oil, poison, ghee, weapons and sugarcane products. Hit them hard with whips and take them to Taptakardama.

88. Make this woman who had been an unchaste harlot, a stigma on the family, embrace the red hot iron image of her paramour.

89. O Durādharṣa, take into the hell named Bahubhramaradaṃśaka (‘where there are many black bees and wasps’) the sinner who having taken up vows and observances forsakes them, because he could not restrain his sense-organs.”

90. Yama is heard uttering these words from far off by men of evil deeds. He is seen as extremely terrible by the sinners who are suspicious of their own activities.

91. Those kings who protect the subjects like their own bosom-born children and punish them as demanded by justice are the members of his assembly.

92. Those kings in whose kingdom the persons belonging to different castes and stages of life invariably perform their respective duties and those who die at the proper time are the members of his assembly.

93. Those kings in whose kingdom neither the impoverished nor the evil-behaved, neither the persons overwhelmed with calamities nor those who are grief-stricken are to be found, are the members of his assembly.

94. The Brāhmaṇas, the Kṣatriyas and the Vaiśyas who are steadfast in their own duties and others who have perfect self-control live in the city Saṃyaminī.

95-97. Uśīnara, Sudhanvan, Vṛṣaparvan, Jayadratha, Rāji, Sahasrajit, Kukṣi, Dṛḍhadhanvan, Ripuñjaya, Yuvanāśva, Dantavaktra, Nābhāga, Ripumaṅgala, Karandhama, Dharmasena, Paramardaka, Parāntaka—these and many other kings abiding by good policies and conversant with the discussion on what is pious and what is not, stay in Sudharmā.[2]

98. We shall mention another thing also to you as to who do not see the son of the Sun (i.e., Yama) or his messengers of fierce faces, wielding staffs and nooses in their raised hands.

99. O Bhaṭas (Yama’s officers), those who always repeat the following names are to be let off. (Yama instructs his soldiers thus[3]:) O Govinda, Mādhava, Mukunda, Hari, Murāri, Dāmodara, Acyuta, Janārdana, Vāsudeva (Viṣṇu’s names), O Śaṃbhu, Śiva, Īśa, Śaśiśekhara, Śūlapāṇi (Śiva’s names)!

100. O Gaṅgādhara, Andhakaripu, Hara, Nīlakaṇṭha, Bhūteśa, Khaṇḍaparaśu, Mṛḍa, Caṇḍikeśa (Śiva’s name)! O Vaikuṇṭha! O Kaiṭabharipu! O Kamaṭha (Divine tortoise)! O Abjapāṇi (lotus-handed) (Viṣṇu’s names)!

101. O Viṣṇu, Nṛsiṃha, Madhusūdana, Cakrapāṇi, Nārāyaṇa, Asuranibarhaṇa, Śārṅgapāṇi (Viṣṇu’s names)! O Gaurīpati, Girīśa, Śaṅkara, Candracūḍa (Śiva’s names)!

102. O Mṛtyuñjaya, Ugra, Viṣamekṣaṇa, Kāmaśatru, Īśāna, Kṛttivasana, Tridaśaikanātha (Śiva’s names)! O Śrīkānta, Pītavasana, Aṃbudanīla, Śauri (Viṣṇu’s names)!

103. O Lakṣmīpati, Madhuripu, Puruṣottama, Ādya, Ānandakanda, Dharaṇīdhara, Padmanābha (Viṣṇu’s names)! O Śrīkaṇṭha, Digvasana, Śānta, Pinākapāṇi (Śiva’s names)!

104. O Sarveśvara, Tripurasūdana, Devadeva, Tryakṣa, Uragābharaṇa, Bālamṛgāṅkamauli (Śiva’s names)! Brahmaṇya Deva, Garuḍadhvaja, Śaṅkhapāṇi (Viṣṇu’s names)!

105. O Śrīrāma, Rāghava, Rāmeśvara, Rāvaṇāri, Cāṇūramardana, Hṛṣīkapati, Murāri (Viṣṇu’s names)! O Bhūteśa, Manmatharipu, Pramathādhinātha (Śiva’s names)!

106. O Śūlin, Giriśa, Rajanīśakalāvataṃsa, Bharga, Trinetra, Bhava, Bhūtapati, Purāri (Śiva’s names)! O Kaṃsaprāṇāśana, Sanātana, Keśināśa (Viṣṇu’s names)!

107. O Gopīpati, Yadupati, Vasudevasūnu! O Govardhanoddharaṇa, Dharmadhurīṇa, Gopa (Viṣṇu’s names)! O Karpūragaura, Vṛṣabhadhvaja, Bhālanetra (Śiva’s names)!

108. O Sthāṇu, Trilocana, Pinākadhara, Smarāri, Viśveśvara, Tripathagārdrajaṭā-kalāpa (Śiva’s names)! O Kṛṣṇa, Aniruddha, Kamalākara, Kalmaṣāri (Viṣṇu’s names)!

109. O Brāhmaṇas, this series of one hundred and eight excellent names has been wreathed into a garland as though with clusters of excellent jewels. The heroes of these names are exquisite ones (Gods Viṣṇu and Śiva). The string is strong. (It is full of good qualities.) He who wears (commits to memory) this garland will not see Yama.

110. Thus, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, that Dharmarāja always instructs the groups of his servants going to the earth. Others too on the earth, who may be having the marks and characteristics of Hari or Hara, are to be avoided from afar.

Agastya said:

111-112. A bold and intelligent man who always repeats this series of names of the Kaustubha-wearing Viṣṇu and the Moon-adorned Śiva wreathed into a lucid composition by Dharmarāja will never drink the secretion from the breasts of any mother. It destroys the seeds of all sins. Even as he heard this fascinating story that is faultless, O beloved one, Śivaśarman became delighted with a beaming face. He saw in front of him the city of the celestial damsels.

Footnotes and references:


VV 57-89 describe the various kinds of punishments meted out to sinners in different hells.


The pious acts of these ancient kings are described in Mbh and Purāṇas, for example Uśīnara’s (Śivi’s) offer of his own body to a falcon to protect his protégé, a pigeon. Thereby they became the members of Indra’s assembly, Sudharmā.


These verses 99-110 contain 108 names of Viṣṇu and Śiva.

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