The Garuda Purana is one of the Vishnu Puranas. It is essentially a dialogue between Lord Vishnu and Garuda, the king of birds. The Garuda Purana deals with the particular issues of Hindu Philosophy connected with death, funeral rites and the metaphysics of reincarnation. One might find often that the Sanskrit word ‘Naraka’ is taken to be “hell” in most English translations of Indian texts. The Hindu concept of “Heaven and “Hell” are not quite the same as what we imagine them to be in popular culture today. The western concepts of Hell and Heaven roughly correspond to the Hindu equivalent of “intermediate states between birth and rebirth”. One chapter of the text deals with the nature of punishment that is prescribed for sinners of the extreme kind that inhabit middle earth.
These are all the deadly punishments mentioned in the text (called “The Torments of Yama”):
1. Tamisram (Heavy flogging) – Those who rob others of their wealth are bound with ropes by Yama’s Servants and cast into the Naraka known as Tamisram. There, they are given a thrashing until they bleed and faint. When they recover their senses, the beating is repeated. This is done until their time is up.
2. Andhatamtrsam (Flogging) – This Hell is reserved for the Husband or the Wife who only treat their spouses well when they are to profit or pleasure to them. Those who forsake their wives and husbands for no apparent reasons are also sent here. The punishment is almost the same as Tamisram, but the excruciating pain, suffered by the victims on being tied fast, makes them fall down senseless.
3. Rauravam (torment of snakes) – This is the hell for sinners who seize and enjoy another man’s property or resources. When these people are thrown into this hell, those whom they have cheated, assume the the shape of “Ruru”, a dreadful serpent. The serpent(s) will torment them severely until their time is up.
4. Mahararuravam (death by snakes) – Here there is also Ruru serpents but more fiercer. Those who deny the legitimate heirs, their inheritance and possess and enjoy others property will be squeezed and bitten non stop by this terrible serpents coiling around them. Those who steal another man’s wife or lover will also be thrown here.
5. Kumbhipakam (cooked by oil) – This is the hell for those who kill animals for pleasure. Here oil is kept boiled in huge vessels and sinners are plunged in this vessels.
6. Kalasutram (Hot as hell) – This hell is terribly hot. Those who don’t respect their elders esp. when their elders have done their duties are sent here. Here they are made to run around in this unbearable heat and drop down exhausted from time to time.
7. Asitapatram (sharp flogging) – This is the hell in which sinners abandon one’s own duty. They are flogged by Yama’s Servants with whips made of asipatra (sharp-edged sword-shaped leaves). If they run about under the flogging, they will trip over the stones and thorns, to fall on their faces. Then they are stabbed with knives until they drop unconscious, When they recover, the same process is repeated until their time is up in this Naraka.
8. Sukaramukham (Crushed and tormented) – Rulers who neglect their duties and oppress their subjects by misrule, are punished in this hell. They are crushed to a pulp by heavy beating.When they recover, it is repeated until their time is up.
9. Andhakupam (Attack of the animals) – This is hell for those who oppress the good people and not helping them if requested despite having the resources. They will be pushed into a well, where beasts like Lions, tigers, eagles and venomous creatures like snakes and scorpions. The sinners have to endure the constant attacks of this creatures until the expiry of the period of their punishment.
10. Taptamurti( Burnt Alive) – Those who plunder or steal Gold and jewels are cast into the furnaces of this Naraka which always remains hot in blazing fire.
11. Krimibhojanam (Food for worms)– Those who do not honour their Guests and make use of men or women only for their own gain, are thrown into this Naraka. Worms, insects and serpents eat them alive. Once their bodies are completely eaten up, the sinners are provided with new bodies, which are also eaten up in the above manner. This continues, till the end of their term of punishment.
12. Salmali (Embracing hot images)-This Naraka is intended for men and women who have committed adultery. A figure made of iron, heated red-hot is placed there. The sinner is forced to embrace it, while Yama’s servants flog the victim behind.
14. Vaitarani (River of Filth) – Rulers who abuse their power and adulterers are thrown here. It is the most terrible place of punishment. It is a river which is filled with human excreta, blood, hair, bones, nails, flesh and all kinds of dirty substances. There are various kinds of terrible beasts as well. Those who are cast into it are attacked and mauled by these creatures from all sides. The sinners have to spend the term of their punishment, feeding upon the contents of this river.
15. Puyodakam (Well of hell)– This is a well filled with excreta, urine, blood, phlegm. Men who have intercourse and cheat women with no intention of marrying them are considered like animals. Those who wander about irresponsibly like animals are thrown in this well to get polluted by it’s contents. They are to remain here till their time is up.
16. Pranarodham (Piece by Piece)– This Naraka is for those who keep dogs and other mean animals and constantly hunt and kill animals for food. Here the servants of Yama, gather around the sinners and cut them limb to limb while subjecting them to constant insult.
17. Visasanam (Bashing from Clubs) – This Naraka is for the torture of those rich people who look down at the poor and spend excessively just to display their wealth and splendour. They have to remain here at the whole term of their punishment where they will be bashed non stop from heavy clubs from Yama’s Servants.
18. Lalabhaksam (River of semen)– This is the Naraka for lustful men. The lascivious fellow who makes his wife swallow his semen, is cast into this hell. Lalabhaksam is a sea of semen. The sinner lies in it, feeding upon semen alone until his period of punishment.
19. Sarameyasanam (Torment from dogs) – Those guilty of unsocial acts like poisoning food, mass slaughter, ruining the country are cast into this hell. There is nothing but the flesh of dogs for food. There are thousands of dogs in this Naraka and they attack the sinners and tear their flesh from their bodies with their teeth.
20. Avici (turned into dust) – This Naraka is for those who are guilty for false witness and false swearing. There are hurled from a great height and they are utterly smashed into dust when they reached the ground. They are again restored to life and the punishment is repeated till the end of their time.
21. Ayahpanam (Drinking of burning substances)– Those who consume alcohol and other intoxicating drinks are sent here. The women are forced to drink melted iron in liquid form, whereas the men will be forced to drink hot liquid molten lava for every time they consume a alcoholic drink in their earthly lives.
22. Raksobjaksam (Revenge attacks) – Those who do animal and human sacrifices and eat the flesh after the sacrifice will be thrown in this hell. All the living beings they killed before would be there and they will join together to attacking, biting, and mauling the sinners. Their cries and complaints would be no avail here.
23. Sulaprotam (Trident Torture) – People who take the lives of others who have done no harm to them and those who deceives others by treachery are sent to this “Sulaportam” hell. Here they are impaled on a trident and they are forced to spend their whole term of their punishment in that position, suffering intense hunger and thirst, as well as enduring all the tortures inflicted on them.
24. Ksharakardamam (hanged upside down) – Braggarts and those who insult good people are cast into this hell. Yama’s servants keep the sinners upside down and torture them in many ways.
25. Dandasukam (eaten alive) – Sinners who persecute others like animals will be sent here. There are many beasts here. They will be eaten alive by this beasts.
26. Vatarodham (weapon torture) – This hell is for those who persecute animals which live in forests, mountain peaks and trees. After throwing them in this hell, sinners are tortured with fire, poison and various weapons during their time here in this Naraka.
27. Paryavartanakam (torture from birds) – One who denies food to a hungry person and abuses him is thrown here. The moment the sinner arrives here ,his eyes are put by being pierced the beaks of birds like the crows and eagles. They will be pierced later on by this birds till the end of their punishment.
28. Sucimukham (Tortured by needles) – Proud and Miserly people who refuse to spend money even for the basic necessities of life, like better food or buying food for their relations or friends will find their place in this hell. Those who do not repay the money they have borrowed will also be cast into this hell. Here, their bodies will be constantly be pricked and pierced by needles.