What is Naraka (Hell) and Where it located?

What is Naraka (Hell) and Where it located?
Naraka is the Hindi name for hell. Hell as we all know is the place where souls go after death. It is said that when one does a lot of sins in this life then they are sent to hell. In the hell, the souls are punished and tortured for the sins that they have done during their life time. We will now discuss what is Naraka? In more detail so that you get a better idea as to what our scriptures have to say about it.

What Does Naraka Mean in Hinduism?
This is primarily a Sanskrit word. It means the underworld. The concept is present in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.

Naraka in Vedas is a place where souls are sent for the expiation of their sins. It is mentioned especially in dharmaśāstras, itihāsas and Purāṇas but also in Vedic Samhitas, Aranyakas and Upaniṣads. Some Upanishads speak of 'darkness' instead of hell. A summary of Upaniṣads, Bhagavad Gita, mentions hell several times. Even Adi Sankara mentions it in his commentary on Vedanta sutra. Still, some people like members of Arya Samaj don't accept the existence of Naraka or consider it metaphorical.

In Puranas like Bhagavata Purana, Garuda Purana, and Vishnu Purana there are elaborate descriptions of many hells. They are situated above the Garbhodaka Ocean.

Yama, Lord of Justice, puts living beings after death for appropriate punishment, for example, in boiling oil. Nitya-samsarins (forever transmigrating ones) can experience Naraka for expiation. After the period of punishment is complete, they are reborn on earth in human or animal bodies. Therefore, neither Naraka nor svarga is permanent abodes.

Yama Loka is the abode of Lord Yama. Yama is Dharmaraja or Dharma king; Yama Loka is a temporary purgatorium for sinners (Papi). According to Hindu scriptures, Yama's divine assistant Lord Chitragupta maintains a record of the individual deeds of every living being in the world, and based on the complete audit of his deeds, dispatches the soul of the deceased either to Svarga (Heaven) or to the various Narakas according to the nature of their sins. The scriptures describe that even people who have done a majority of good deeds could come to Yama Loka for redemption from the small sins they have committed, and once the punishments have been served for those sins they could be sent for rebirth to earth or to heaven. In the epic of Mahabharata, even the Pandavas (who represent righteousness and virtuousness) spent a brief time in hell for their small sins.

At the time of death, sinful souls are vulnerable for capture by Yamadutas, servants of Yama (who comes personally only in special cases). Yama ordered his servants to leave Vaishnavas alone. Sri Vaishnavas are taken by Vishnudutas to Vaikuntha and Gaudiya Vaishnavas to Goloka.[citation needed]

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What Does Naraka Mean in Buddhism?
In Buddhism, Naraka refers to the worlds of greatest suffering. Buddhist texts describe a vast array of tortures and realms of torment in Naraka; an example is the Devadūta-sutta from the Pāli Canon. The descriptions vary from text to text and are not always consistent with each other. Though the term is often translated as "hell", unlike the Abrahamic hells Naraka is not eternal, though when a time scale is given, it is suggested to be extraordinarily long. In this sense, it is similar to purgatory, but unlike both Abrahamic hell and purgatory, there is no divine force involved in determining a being's entry and exit to and from the realm and no soul is involved. Rather, the being is brought here—as is the case with all the other realms in the Buddhist cosmology—by natural law: the law of karma, and they remain until the negative karma that brought them there has been used up.

What Does Naraka Mean in Jainism?
In Jainism, Naraka is the name given to realm of existence in Jain cosmology having great suffering. The length of a being's stay in a Naraka is not eternal, though it is usually very long—measured in billions of years. A soul is born into a Naraka as a direct result of his or her previous karma (actions of body, speech, and mind), and resides there for a finite length of time until his karma has achieved its full result. After his karma is used up, he may be reborn in one of the higher worlds as the result of an earlier karma that had not yet ripened. Jain texts mention that these hells are situated in the seven grounds at the lower part of the universe.

The seven grounds are:
  1. Ratna Prabha
  2. Sharkara Prabha.
  3. Valuka Prabha.
  4. Panka Prabha.
  5. Dhuma Prabha.
  6. Tamaha Prabha.
  7. Mahatamaha Prabha.
Where Naraka Location?
The Bhagavata Purana describes Naraka as beneath the earth: between the seven realms of the underworld (Patala) and the Garbhodaka Ocean, which is the bottom of the universe. It is located in the South of the universe. Pitrloka, where the dead ancestors (Pitrs) headed by Agniṣvāttā reside, is also located in this region. Yama, the Lord of Naraka, resides in this realm with his assistants. The Devi Bhagavata Purana mentions that Naraka is the southern part of the universe, below the earth but above Patala. The Vishnu Purana mentions that it is located below the cosmic waters at the bottom of the universe. The Hindu epics to agree that Naraka is located in the South, the direction which is governed by Yama and is often associated with Death. Pitrloka is considered as the capital of Yama, from where Yama delivers his justice.

Number and names of Naraka (Hell)
Naraka, as a whole, is known by many names conveying that it is the realm of Yama. Yamālaya, Yamaloka, Yamasādana and Yamalokāya mean the abode of Yama. Yamakṣaya (the akṣaya of Yama) and its equivalents like Vaivasvatakṣaya use pun for the word kṣaya, which can be mean abode or destruction. It is also called Saṃyamanī, "where only truth is spoken, and the weak torment the strong", Mṛtyulokāya – the world of Death or of the dead and the "city of the king of ghosts", Pretarājapura.

The Agni Purana mentions only 4 hells. Some texts mention 
  • 7 hells: Put ("childless", for the childless), 
  • Avichi ("waveless", for those waiting for reincarnation), 
  • Samhata ("abandoned", for evil beings), 
  • Tamisra ("darkness", where darkness of hells begin), 
  • Rijisha ("expelled", where torments of hell begin), 
  • Kudmala ("leprous", the worst hell for those who are going to be reincarnated) 
  • Kakola ("black poison", the bottomless pit, for those who are eternally condemned to hell and have no chance of reincarnation).
The Manu Smriti mentions 21 hells: 
  1. Tamisra
  2. Andhatamisra.
  3. Maharaurava. 
  4. Raurava.
  5. Kalasutra.
  6. Mahanaraka.
  7. Samjivana.
  8. Mahavichi.
  9. Tapana.
  10. Sampratapana.
  11. Samhata.
  12. Sakakola.
  13. Kudmala.
  14. Putimrittika.
  15. Lohasanku.
  16. Rijisha.
  17. Pathana.
  18. Vaitarani.
  19. Salmali.
  20. Asipatravana.
  21. Lohadaraka. 
The Yajnavalkya Smriti also lists twenty-one: 
  1. Tamisra.
  2. Lohasanku.
  3. Mahaniraya.
  4. Salamali.
  5. Raurava.
  6. Kudmala.
  7. Putimrittika.
  8. Kalasutraka.
  9. Sanghata.
  10. Lohitoda.
  11. Savisha.
  12. Sampratapana.
  13. Mahanaraka.
  14. Kakola.
  15. Sanjivana.
  16. Mahapatha.
  17. Avichi.
  18. Andhatamisra.
  19. Kumbhipaka.
  20. Asipatravana.
  21. Tapana.
Description of (Naraks) hells:
Early texts like the Rigveda do not have a detailed description of Naraka. It is simply a place of evil and a dark bottomless pit. The Atharvaveda describes a realm of darkness, where murderers are confined after death.

The Shatapatha Brahmana is the first text to mention the pain and suffering of Naraka in detail, while the Manu Smriti begins naming the multiple hells. The epics also describe Hell in general terms as a dense jungle without shade, where there is no water and no rest. The Yamadutas torment souls on the orders of their master.

The names of many of hells are common in Hindu texts; however, the nature of sinners tormented in particular hells varies from text to text.

The summary of twenty-eight hells described in the Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana is as follows:
  1. Tamisra (darkness): It is intended for a person who grabs another's wealth, wife or children. In this dark realm, he is bound with ropes and starved without food or water. He is beaten and reproached by Yamadutas till he faints.
  2. Andhatamisra (blind-darkness): Here, a man – who deceives another man and enjoys his wife or children – is tormented to the extent he loses his consciousness and sight. The torture is described as cutting the tree at its roots.
  3. Raurava (fearful or a hell of rurus): As per the Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana, it is assigned for a person who cares about his own and his family's good, but harms other living beings and is always envious of others. The living beings hurt by such a man take the form of savage serpent-like beasts called rurus and torture this person. The Vishnu Purana deems this hell fit for a false witness or one who lies.
  4. Maharaurava (great-fearful): A person who indulges at the expense of other beings is afflicted with pain by fierce rurus called kravyadas, who eat his flesh.
  5. Kumbhipaka (cooked in a pot): A person who cooks animals and birds is cooked alive in boiling oil by Yamadutas here, for as many years as there were hairs on the bodies of their animal victims.
  6. Kalasutra (thread of Time/Death): The Bhagavata Purana assigns this hell to a murderer of a brahmin (the Hindu priestly caste), while the Devi Bhagavata Purana allocates it for a person who disrespects his parents, elders, ancestors or brahmins. This realm is made entirely of copper and extremely hot, heated by fire from below and the red hot sun from above. Here, the sinner burns from within by hunger and thirst and the smoldering heat outside, whether he sleeps, sits, stands or runs.
  7. Asipatravana/Asipatrakanana (forest of sword leaves): The Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana reserve this hell for a person who digresses from the religious teachings of the Vedas and indulges in heresy. The Vishnu Purana states that wanton tree-felling leads to this hell. Yamadutas beat them with whips as they try to run away in the forest where palm trees have swords as leaves. Afflicted with an injury of whips and swords, they faint and cry out for help in vain.
  8. Shukaramukha (hog's mouth): It houses kings or government officials who punish the innocent or grant corporal punishment to a Brahmin. Yamadutas crush him as sugar cane is crushed to extract juice. He will yell and scream in agony, just as the guiltless suffered.
  9. Andhakupa (well with its mouth hidden): It is the hell where a person who harms others with the intention of malice and harms insects is confined. He is attacked by birds, animals, reptiles, mosquitoes, lice, worms, flies and others, who deprive him of rest and compel him to run hither and thither.
  10. Krimibhojana/Krimibhaksha (worm-food): As per the Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana, it is where a person who does not share his food with guests, elders, children or the gods, and selfishly eats it alone, and he who eats without performing the five yajnas (Pancha-yajna) is chastised. The Vishnu Purana states that one who loathes his father, Brahmins or the gods and who destroys jewels is punished here. This hell is a 100,000 Yojana lake filled with worms. The sinful person is reduced to a worm, who feeds on other worms, who in turn devour his body for 100,000 years.
  11. Sandansa/Sandamsa (hell of pincers): The Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana state that a person who robs a Brahmin or steals jewels or gold from someone, when not in dire need, is confined to this hell. However, the Vishnu Purana tells the violators of vows or rules to endure pain here. His body is torn by red-hot iron balls and tongs.
  12. Taptasurmi/Taptamurti (red-hot iron statue): A man or woman who indulges in illicit sexual relations with a woman or man is beaten by whips and forced to embrace red-hot iron figurines of the opposite sex.
  13. Vajrakantaka-salmali (the silk-cotton tree with thorns like thunderbolts/vajras): A person who has sexual intercourse with animals or who has excessive coitus is tied to the Vajrakantaka-salmali tree and pulled by Yamadutas so that the thorns tear his body.
  14. Vaitarni/Vaitarna (to be crossed): It is a river that is believed to lie between Naraka and the earth. This river, which forms the boundary of Naraka, is filled with excreta, urine, pus, blood, hair, nails, bones, marrow, flesh and fat, where fierce aquatic beings eat the person's flesh. As per the Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana, a person born in a respectable family – kshatriya (warrior-caste), royal family or government official – who neglects his duty is thrown into this river of hell. The Vishnu Purana assigns it to the destroyer of a bee-hive or a town.
  15. Puyoda (water of pus): Shudras (workmen-caste) and husbands or sexual partners of lowly women and prostitutes – who live like animals devoid of cleanliness and good behavior – fall in Puyoda, the ocean of pus, excreta, urine, mucus, saliva and other repugnant things. Here, they are forced to eat these disgusting things.
  16. Pranarodha (obstruction to life): Some Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas (merchant caste) indulge in the sport of hunting with their dogs and donkeys in the forest, resulting in the wanton killing of animals. Yamadutas play archery sport with them as the targets in this hell.
  17. Visashana (murderous): The Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana mention that Yamadutas whip a person, who has pride of his rank and wealth and sacrifices animals as a status symbol, and finally kill him. The Vishnu Purana associates it with the maker of spears, swords, and other weapons.
  18. Lalabhaksa (saliva as food): As per the Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana, a Brahmin, a Ksahtriya or a Vaishya husband, who forces his wife to drink his semen out of lust and to enforce his control, is thrown in a river of semen, which he is forced to drink. The Vishnu Purana disagrees stating that one who eats before offering food to the gods, the ancestors or guests is brought to this hell.
  19. Sarameyadana (hell of the sons of Sarama): Plunderers who burn houses and poison people for wealth, and kings and other government officials who grab money of merchants, mass murder or ruin the nation, are cast into this hell. Seven hundred and twenty ferocious dogs, the sons of Sarama, with razor-sharp teeth, prey on them at the behest of Yamadutas.
  20. Avici/Avicimat (waterless/waveless): A person, who lies on oath or in business, is repeatedly thrown head-first from a 100 yojana high mountain whose sides are stone waves, but without water. His body is continuously broken, but it is made sure that he does not die.
  21. Ayahpana (iron-drink): Anybody else under oath or a Brahmin who drinks alcohol is punished here. Yamadutas stand on their chests and force them to drink molten-iron.
  22. Ksarakardama (acidic/saline mud/filth): One who in false pride, does not honour a person higher than him by birth, austerity, knowledge, behaviour, caste or spiritual order, is tortured in this hell. Yamadutas throw him head-first and torment him.
  23. Raksogana-bhojana (food of Rakshasas): Those who practise human-sacrifice and cannibalism are condemned to this hell. Their victims, in the form of Rakshasas, cut them with sharp knives and swords. The Rakshasas feast on their blood and sing and dance in joy, just as the sinners slaughtered their victims.
  24. Shulaprota (pierced by sharp pointed spear/dart): Some people give shelter to birds or animals pretending to be their saviours, but then harass them poking with threads, needles or using them like lifeless toys. Also, some people behave the same way to humans, winning their confidence and then killing them with sharp tridents or lances. The bodies of such sinners, fatigued with hunger and thirst, are pierced with sharp, needle-like spears. Ferocious carnivorous birds like vultures and herons tear and gorge their flesh.
  25. Dandasuka (snakes): Filled with envy and fury, some people harm others like snakes. These are destined to be devoured by five or seven hooded serpents in this hell.
  26. Avata-nirodhana (confined in a hole): People who imprison others in dark wells, crannies or mountain caves are pushed into this hell, a dark well engulfed with poisonous fumes and smoke that suffocates them.
  27. Paryavartana (returning): A householder who welcomes guests with cruel glances and abuses them is restrained in this hell. Hard-eyed vultures, herons, crows and similar birds gaze on them and suddenly fly and pluck his eyes.
  28. Sucimukha (needle-face): An ever-suspicious man is always wary of people trying to grab his wealth. Proud of his money, he sins to gain and to retain it. Yamadutas stitch thread through his whole body in this hell.
Though the Vishnu Purana mentions 28 hells, it
gives information only about sinners condemned in 21 hells and does not give details about the punishments. The hells described in the Vishnu Purana, but not in the Bhagavata Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana are as follows:
  1. Rodha (obstruction): A causer of abortion, a murderer of a cow, a plunderer or one who strangles a man is cast here.
  2. Sukara (hog): A murderer of a Brahmin, a stealer of gold or an alcoholic and those all associated with them fall into this hell.
  3. Tala (padlock): Murder of a Kshatriya or a Vaishya and adultery with wife of a religious leader leads here.
  4. Taptakumbha (hot pots): Incest with sister and murderer of an ambassador results in torment in this hell.
  5. Taptaloha (hot iron): A wife-seller, a jailer and one who abandons his followers is tortured here.
  6. Mahajwala (great-fire): Incest with daughter or daughter-in-law brings one here.
  7. Lavana (salt): One who vilifies his guru, people superior to them or the Vedas go to this hell.
  8. Vimohana (the place of bewildering): A thief or those who despise prescribed observances are tormented here.
  9. Krimisha (hell of insects): One who uses magic to harm others is condemned here.
  10. Vedhaka (piercing): The maker of arrows is damned to this hell.
  11. Adhomukha (head-inverted): He who takes bribes, an astrologer and he who worships improper objects is cast here.
  12. Púyaváha (where matter falls): A Brahmin who sells lac, meat, alcohol, salt; he who commits violence and him who eats sweets without sharing falls in this hell.
  13. Rudhirándha (wells of blood): Wrestlers or boxers who commit violence for entertainment, fishermen, followers of bastards, arsonists, prisoners, informants, fortune-tellers, traitors, those who have coitus on sacred taboo days and those who live off their wives' prostitution are cast here.
  14. Krishna (dark/black): A fraudster, a trespasser and one who causes impotence is cast into this hell.
  15. Vahnijwala (fiery flame): Potters, hunters and shepherds and others are punished here.
  16. Shwabhojana (food of dogs): A religious student who sleeps in the day and one who does not have spiritual knowledge and learns it from children are damned here.


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