Continued from “The Eighteen Puranas”
Garuda Purana Part – 2
This chapter describes the way one has to pass to reach the abode of Yama. This way is full of grief and pain. Sri Hari describes to Garuda, when the latter asks him to let him know, how the sinners suffer on the frightful way.
Garuda, the great devotee and the trusted mount of Keshava, asks his Lord to let him know the way sinners traverse.
The Lord replies: “I would describe it to you, though you would be very disturbed and agitated to hear it.” Then Sri Hari gives the details of the dark and rough path.
There is no shade there and thus nowhere to take even a little rest. To add to this there is no food to sustain him. Though the sinner feels agonizingly thirsty there is no water. As though a huge group of ten suns are blazing there would be terrible, insufferable heat all around. The heat is like the heat produced at the end of creation, in pralaya. If there is no heat, there would be intolerable cold, icy winds. There are thorns all around and on the way they pierce and sting like poisonous snakes. One has to cross, on the way, a forest with trees having sharp sword like leaves. This thorny path is two thousand yojanas long. To make matters worse the way is infested with vicious birds: crows, owls, hawks, vultures, stinging bees, mosquitoes. Sometimes there are forest fires too on the way. In some places there are deep pits and in same places there are steep mounds-there are razor sharp edges and in some spots one has to tread on spear-points. There are patches of great thick, frightful darkness. In some others, there are muddy places infested with leeches that suck blood. Sometimes one comes across places with hot slime. There are places covered with hot sand. It would be like walking on molten metal. One has to pass through mounds of burning charcoals or thick dark clouds of black smoke. One has to suffer very painful showers of burning coal, hard stones, blood or to boiling hot water. The jeeva sometimes has to wade through excreta, blood, pus and such detestable things. On the way, one comes across the river Vaitarini. This runs for a hundred yojanas. The water therein is overgrown with moss and the entire river is infested with dire crocodiles, hundreds of frightful birds hovering overhead. The river appears to react very sharply to the approaching of the jeeva. It is full of all kinds of hateful and dangerous insects, vultures and beaked-birds. There are porpoises besides crocodiles and many flesh-eating water creatures. The worst sinners fall into this river and go on screaming and shrieking, calling for help from father, son or brother. They wail and shriek, scream and howl. Hungry and thirsty they are compelled to drink foaming blood. Some swoon and fall unconscious seeing and experiencing the horrors. Some are covered with scorpion stings and stung by black and dreadful snakes with none to go to their help. The sinners go down lower and lower and rise again but with no relief of any kind. The very purpose of the creation of the river is to put the paap|, sinner jeevas to great pain, suffering and terrible shame. The wretched ones are bound, dragged or pierced from behind and led on inexorably. Some sinners are led forward with ropes run through their noses and ears. Crows peck at them. There are some more terrible punishments; some are bound with ropes; their hands, feet are manacled. Some have to carry loads of iron too. Sinners are further humiliated and punished with hammer strokes on the head and dragged along with ropes tied to their body. They are made to swallow their own vomits. The sinners bemoan their evil and wicked deeds. They swoon in utter exhaustion.
The sinners are thrown into great sloughs of despond. They repent with screams calling their parents and progeny for help. They painfully realize that they had misused and abused their birth as human beings. They have not done their basic duties and revelled in their evil doings.
The sinners send up prayers to the members of their family to make amends and reparations for all their evil deeds. The sinners never made any fire offerings; never gave anything in charity; never observed pious principles like going on fast; never paid worship to any deities; never went on any pilgrimage. Every sinner regrets that he has not honoured the assemblages of pious and learned ones (Brahmins); that he has never taken a dip in any holy river as precribed by the holy elders. Now he is sour that he has not lent any support or help for good causes like sinking a well or digging a water tank; never did anything for any birds or beasts in compassion and charity; never held holy cows and pious Brahmins in esteem. The sinner realizes in deep penitence that he never fed a cow, never paid obeisance to the holy men and sacred scriptures and never bothered to listen to the recitation and exegeses of Puranas. The women among the sinners too are aware of their heinous past. A woman wails that she has not followed her husband’s advice. She has not observed the principle of total and complete fidelity to him, and did not honour her in¬laws. She feels excruciating pain while repenting that she has not served her husband while she had been alive. Even as a widow, she has not observed the usual and prescribed austerities and did nothing to please her elders or God.
Sri Hari continues his narration to Garuda. The sinner having lamented in agony wails that he has missed an opportunity and brought himself to that state. Later, he proceeds fast with the speed of wind and on the eighteenth day the jeeva reaches the city of Saumya, the first in his long journey through the sixteen cities. The city is beautiful and several jeevas experience some relief. In Saumya, they see a fig-tree and the river Pushpabhadra. The jeeva has a little rest and so do the Yamakinkaras, Yama’s servitors. In this short while the jeeva remembers the joy of his wife and children and envies that. The jeeva bemoans the loss of his riches etc. He is taunted by the kinkaras as to where went his wealth and how his people did not offer him any comfort or solace in his anguished moments. He is reminded that he suffers for his own foolishness and stupidity in committing sins. The sinner is asked a number of uncomfortable questions to add to his suffering.
The kinkaras of Yama ask him as to what provisions he has for his long journey. A traveller in a merciless world, there are no provisions that could give him any strength. He is in a path where nothing would be sold and nothing could be bought.
He is further taunted and heckled. Even children will have heard of this way to Yama: perhaps he the sinner feels, has not heard of this mentioned in the Puranas.
Thus humiliated and in pain, being thrashed thoroughly by Yamakinkaras, falling and rising, with great difficulty he proceeds. During this stage of his long journey he eats the monthlypindas (rice balls) offered to him by his pious son or some other either through goodness or their pity for the dead as he goes to the next city called Shauripura. Shauripura is ruled by King Jangama who looks as dreadful as Yama, the God of Death himself. The sinner is so frightened that he would give up all efforts. But in that city he receives a little food and water given after three fortnights by his son or somebody and goes forward.
From Shauripura he is taken to the next stop, the city of N agendrabhavana. There he feels more miserable for he has seen dreadful wilds. He goes on weeping for he is dragged and urged to go faster by Yama’s servitors. At the end of two months, he leaves Nagendrabhavana. About this time, on the elapse of two months after his death, he is offered oblations, rice- balls (pindas) and water again. The dragging continues.
The jeeva arrives at the city of Gandharvas and in the third month also he receives the oblations. In the fifth month, he is slightly comforted. Then he is taken to the next city, Krauncha. He gets the rice-balls (pindas) and water (tarpan) there. He receives rice-balls (pindas) and tarpan again when five and half months go by. The sixth- monthly ceremony gives him some more comfort. But the servitors goad him on and he is taken to the next city, Chitrabhavana. King Vichitra is the ruler there and he is Yama’s brother. His very appearance strikes terror in the jeeva who tries to take to his heels in great fear. The fishermen there accost him saying that they had come there to ferry him across the river Vaitarani if he deserves to be served and if he has done enough good deeds to earn the necessary merit (Punya). They tell the jeeva that they were told by sages and seers that the river is called Vaitarani since it can be crossed only by Vitarana, giving away as a gift or a charity. Only those who are liberal in giving away money, property etc. either in charity or a gift, would earn merit sufficient to be able to cross the river. They finally tell the jeeva if he has performed goudaan, charity of a cow, he would be ferried across the river. The jeeva is at his wits’ end for he has acquired no merit at all. The river appears to be seething and the sinners helplessly sink into it with howls and screams. But the servitors impale the sinner’s lips with a skewer and lift him to carry him across the river^e a fish upon a hook.
The jeeva proceeds further, or rather is taken forward after he eats the rice-balls (pindas) offered for the sixth month. He continues his wails of agony all along the way. He desires to eat more and more with his appetite increasing. Just before the seventh month approaches he is led into the city of Bahwapada. In this city he gets the pinda and tarpana offered to him by his sons. From there he now passes to the city called Duhkhada by air and suffers more. There he gets his pindas and tarpan given for the eighth month. At the end of the ninth month he is led into the city called Naanakranda. The name fo the city signifies the howls, wails and laments of multiple types. The akrandan or the helpless anguished wails terrify his faint heart; he screams in great fear and wretchedness. Then the servitors of the Lord of Wealth take him to the Jeeva city of Sutapabhava, the name signifying great heat and suffering. Even after getting the oblations for his tenth month He is not happy or satisfied. On the completion of the eleventh month he is taken into the city of Raudra where the oblations offered to him are enjoyed by him with little satisfaction. After the eleventh month the jeeva reaches Sheetadhya-the name signifying extreme cold. It is stated that the cold there is a hundred fold insufferable than the Himalayan cold. The jeeva is afflicted with severe hunger and looks to all the ten directions for someone who would offer him pindas. The servitors taunt the jeeva asking him if he has any merit at all. With the annual pindas and tarpans coming the jeeva’s spirits rise once again. At the end of the twelfth month the jeeva arrives at Yama’s abode called Bahubhe^ti, signifying manifold fears. The soul, the size of a thumb gets the body of torment to experience the fruit of his actions to work out his karma. The servitors of Yama take him by the aerial way. Those who sin more by not offering gifts for the dweller in the upper body (voordhva sareera) are taken bound in tight bonds. There are four gateways to Yamapuri, the abode of Yama. The sinner is led through the southern gate. Sri Hari tells his faithful and devout mount Garuda that he has given an account of the hardest way to Yama’s domain and asks him as to what he wanted to know further.
To be Continued