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Shri Vishnu has clearly said in the 20th Shloka of the 2nd chapter of Bhagavad Gita that—For the soul, there is neither birth nor death at any time.
न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचिन्
नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः |
अजो नित्यः शाश्र्वतोऽयं पुराणो
न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे ||
So, what happens to the soul after the death of a person?
The Garuda Purana talks about it in detail. It contains the dialogue between Garuda(An Eagle like bird who is vehicle of lord Vishnu) and Shri Hari Narayana.
So, let’s start.
At the time of death, Yama Duts (यमदूत) come and start snatching the soul out of the body. The person experiences a huge pain. Those who do not lie and are theist and faithful get easy death but for others, it’s not easy. For them, the malodorous Yama Dutas come with Sticks.
In Hinduism, After the death of a person from the first to the tenth day, a ritual of Pinda daan takes place. After each Pinda daan, a new organ of the body forms, and after the 10th day, the whole body is formed for the soul.
On the 13th day of death, the soul is captured by Yama Duts (यमदूत).
(Let’s understand Yojan for better understanding : 1 Yojana = about 8 miles = about 12.8 km (Approximately) and kos is about 3000 meters or 1.8 miles)
The distance between the earth and the Yama Loka is 86,000 Yojans. The soul travels at a speed of 247 Yojans and a half kos per day. So, he reaches Yama Loka in 348 days.
There are 16 cities on this path.
1) Yamya — On the 18th day, a Jiva (जीव) reaches here. The city has a beautiful river named Pushpabhadra and a good-looking tree. Soul wants to take a rest here but Yama dutas do not allow soul to do so. On the earth, whatever is given by his sons (monthly pindas), he eats the same in this city.
(So, In Hinduism after the death of the person we do pinda daan and perform dashkriya ritual. After that, soul’s family/so offer a good meal to the people. It is believed that this food reaches to the soul via peoples blessings(atmasantushti))
2) Sauripur — Yama dutas beats soul and soul reaches here. A king who can assume any shape at will, rules in this city. The soul trembles with fear seeing him.
3) Nagendrabhavan — Reaching here, when the Yama Dutas beat soul, it says that it had got human birth after doing virtuous deeds but still he couldn’t do good work. Here, soul eats the Pinda offered by soul’s relatives on the earth in the second month.
4) Gandharvapur — By the end of the third month, soul reaches here.
5) Shailagam — In this city, the stones rain upon soul continuously. Soul is struck with stones and then it cries and says —
मैंने न तो ज्ञानमार्ग का सेवन किया न योगमार्गका, न कर्ममार्ग और न ही भक्तिमार्गको अपनाया और न साधु – सन्तोंका साथ करके उनसे कुछ हितैषी बातें सुनी हैं। अतः हे शरीर! तब जैसा तुमने किया है, उसीके अनुसार अपना निस्तार करो।
(I have neither followed the path of knowledge, nor the path of yoga, nor the path of action, nor adopted the path of devotion, nor have I heard some benevolent things from the sages and saints. So oh body! Then dispose of yourself as you have done.)
6) Kranch — In the fifth month, soul reaches here. Here too, soul eats Pinda. It rests here for a while.
7) Krurpur — In the six months soul reaches here. Yama dutas beat it. So, soul falls and cries. Yama Dutas says to soul “Where are your mother, your father, wife, sons, friends?? O fool!! Now suffer the results of your evil activities. All sinners go by this ancients path”
8) Vichitrabhavan — Vichitra King rules in this city. Yama Dutas throw Javelin on soul here.
9) Bahyapad — On the path of this city, there is a river named Vaitarani which is 100 Yojans wide and full of pus and blood. Once he reaches here, the boatman says “if you have gifted (दान) the Vaitarani cow, you can get into the boat and cross the river. Of anyone has not gifted Vaitarani cow, soul has to swim across the river.” While swimming in the river soul is bitten by birds. In the 7th month, it reaches this city.
10) Dukhad — In the 8th month, the deceased reaches here. Soul eats ‘Ashtamasik Pinda’ here.
11) Nanakrandpur — In the 9th month, Soul reaches here. Yama duta beat soul with Ploughs.
12) Sutaptbhavan — In the 10th month, Soul reaches here.
13) Raudra — At the end of the 11th month, Soul reaches here. Yama Duta continue to beat Soul.
14) Payovarshan — Yama Dutas hit Soul on the head with an axe.
15) Shitadhya — Yama Dutas cut Soul’s tongue. Soul eats annual Pindas here.
16) Bahubhiti — It is the last city.
Finally, Soul reaches the Yama Loka. It is of 44 Yojans. Soul sees Lord Yamaraja with red eyes, looking fierce. Yamaraja has an iron rod in one hand and ‘Bhairav Paash’ in his other hand. Soul goes either to a good or bad state as directed by him.
Those who have been given umbrellas, shoes, and shelter see Lord Yama as gentlefaced with earrings.
The path to Yama Loka is full of extreme heat, that’s why an umbrella should be donated. Doing this gives shade. Those who donate shoes can cross the ‘Asipatravan’ path happily by riding horses. Yama Dutas don’t harass those who donate clothes.
There are thousands of Narakas (Hells) according to Hinduism.
The Main 7 are — Raurav, Maharaurav, Atishit, Nikruntan, Apratishtha, Asipatravan, Taptakumbh.
These are all located in the world of Yama.
One can go to Swarga Loka with Gandharvas and even become Devata or reach the post of ‘इंन्द्रत्व’ (Indratva). by his good deeds. But after spending all good deeds, soul again comes back to the earth.
It is the cycle of birth and death. Liberation from this cycle is called Moksha.
Shri Hari in Bhagavad Gita (9.25) says — Those who worship the Devatas(Gods) will take birth among the Devatas; those who worship the ancestors go to the ancestors; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings, and those who worship Me will live with Me.
According to Gita 8.16, one who attains to Shri Bhagwan’s abode, never takes birth again. (So, he attains Moksha).
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