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Nachiketa’s visit to Hell and its description


Once Sage Uddalaka was irritated by his son Nachiketa during a Yaga for his unnecessary questions, cursed his son to go to hell. The bad word came out of Uddalaka unmindful and he apologized to the child. But despite the father’s apology the virtuous son Nachiketa left for Yamapuri.

As Yamapuri is a place where nobody go by their own, the custodians of Yamapuri surprised at the new visitor who was too young to visit the place. Yamadharma being genuine to his work persuaded Nachiketa to return back. But the boy did not; instead he asked a question as to what is the knowledge or secret behind Death. Yamadharma offered a lot of boon instead of answering the difficult question. But the boy demanded answer to his question. Pleased by the integrity and steadfastness in knowing the secret of the ultimate reality, Yamadharma bend upon the young seeker of Truth and imparted the wisdom of the ultimate.

When Nachiketa did come back, his father knew no bounds of joy as this was indeed a miracle that anybody could return from hell. The news spread out fast and innumerable Munis and Yogis left their daily routines and thronged Nachiketa with questions that remained complex throughout their lives such as the description of hell, about Yama Dharmaraja and followers, the status of sinners and the treatment meted out to them, the dispensations provided to different kinds of sins by Chitragupta and so on.

Having respectfully greeted the mighty Yamadharma Raja, Nachiketa narrated that, All those who are liars; killers of men, women and children; killers of Brahmanas, the ungrateful, greedy, womanizers, rapists, non- believers of Vedas, who curse Vedas are all sinners. Those who are drinkers of wine, abandon or harass parents, loyal wife, children or Guru are also sinners. And those who willfully and wrongly secures property, destroys public utilities, hampers Vratas, Yagnas, or moral causes are equally bad.

The sinners of small, medium or large have graded classification for the purpose of retribution of justice. Yamalok is a thousand yojana wide and of length twice over. The entire place is made of gold and glittering buildings. It is having of rivers and water bodies, beautiful gardens full of flowers and fruits, well fortified walls impossible to scale or escape. There are two huge rivers ‘Pushpodaka’ and ‘Vaisvathi’ with divine waters. Two massive gates, one reserved for Sages, the Virtuous and devotees who might not stay there but visualize the fate of the Sinners and another one to let pass very huge crowd of sinners in continuous streams are the landmarks of Hell. Nachiketa says that he saw, ditches of massive magnitude, named ‘Adoombar’, ‘Avirchiman’ and ‘Uchchavatch’ meant for sinners to pass through. Sinners are also forced through flames to the west of Yamapuri.

Nachiketa also witnessed the Great Assembly of Sages like Manu, Vyas , Atr , Gautam , Angirasa , and Bhrighu . He also met the Goddess of Justice, worshipped by Yamaraja and controlling all the actions of the Sinners and found the fiery and powerful Goddess ‘Kala’ too known for retribution and revenge. Thousands of Yamadoots were on errands to fetch, classify, arrange and direct sinners and as there was no concept of time, rest, sleep or wake up; there was no respite but follow a continuous and rigorous work-schedule. While lesser content of sins were being dealt with by the Yama ‘dootas’by actions like beating, throwing into flames, treating them with icy winds and so on, the larger intensity of sins are to be directly dealt with by Yamaraja himself. Also, there is a classification of hells like, Tapta, Maha Taptha, Maha Rourav, Rourav, Saptataal Naraka, Kaalasutrak Naraka, Andhakar Narak, Andhatamisra Naraka and so on.

In the language of hell, there are gradations of sins and corresponding punishments of varying descriptions and potencies up to eight levels. After death, when the ‘Mritak Prani’or the Dead Being is brought to hell, the surroundings are peculiarly different; the Earth is molten like metal, sky looks like a fire ball; the experience would be of extreme hunger and thirst; food is too hot to eat and water is too cold to drink; the Prani is thrown into stenchy water ponds to be a target of huge fishes, crocodiles and water born snakes; by the time the Prani is able to escape to the banks, huge birds hit the target or so do the big flies! In ‘Kareeshgarth’ or Kumbhipak Naraks, there are Demons with big teeth making horrible sounds of biting and tearing the limbs of the Prani and after chewing, the limbs leap back again for another bite or tear! In ‘Asipatra’ or ‘Shringatak’ forests full of sharp edged thick leaves, the Prani is cut, pierced, twisted, or broken apart and ‘sported’ by dogs or worse still by giant scorpions. Then come the Kumbapalika Vana of Agni ‘Jwalas’ or flames; ‘Vyalakirna’ or serpent infested tanks, ‘Vaitarani’ Maha Nadi of fifty yojana wide and fifty yojana deep which is stated to let pass through by the grace of good deeds done only! One Yojana height of ‘Kalgarah’ mount, ‘Shingatakavan’named forest and so on are such experiences that nothing else but the process of punishment would be welcomed by the Soul tormented fully by now; in other words, ‘Karma paripak’ or the fruition of karmas performed by the Prani would be welcome by now as would be proposed by Chitragupta on the basis of ‘pluses and minuses’ account and finally endorsed By Lord Yama Himself! If the Soul has an account of Virtue, he is sent to heaven; if the content of the sin is large then the dispensations vary for the Prani to become a tree, or an animal, or another human being of a lesser value.

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