(Last Updated on : 29/03/2010)
Naraka is a Sanskrit word which literally means underworld. According to several religions like Hinduism, Sikhism
, Jainism and Buddhism, Naraka means a place of suffering, or in simple words it means Hell. In Hinduism
Naraka or Neraka is compared to the Abrahamic concept of Hell. It is mentioned specifically in dharmasastras, itihasas and Puranas. Moreover, Naraka is also mentioned in Vedic Sanhita, Aranyaka and Upanishads
. In the Upanishads it is said that Naraka is 'darkness' instead of hell. A summary of Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita
mentions hell several times. Adi Sankara
declared Naraka on Vedanta sutra. Still, some people like members of Arya Samaj do not accept its existence or consider it metaphorical.
In the Puranas like Bhagavata Purana
, Garuda Purana and Vishnu Purana describes the detail descriptions of many hells. Narakas are situated above Garbhodaka Ocean. It is believed that Yama
, Lord of Justice, puts human beings after death for appropriate punishment like in boiling oil. Even Muktiyogyas where the souls are eligible for mukti or moksha
or liberation and Nitya-samsarins are forever transmigrating ones in Dvaita theology can experience Naraka for expiation. After the completion of the punishment period, they are reborn on earth in human or animal bodies. Hence neither Naraka is a place of permanent abodes.
At the time of death, sinful souls are exposed for capture by Yamadutas, servants of Yama who comes personally only in special cases. Yama gave ordered to his servants to leave Vaishnavas alone. The power of Vaishnavas is urdhva pundra tilaka, which are the Tiruman, and Sri Choornam for Sri Vaishnavas or Gopi Chandan for Gaudiya Vaishnavas, tapa samskara is shoulders branded with Sankha and Chakra, and Tulsi mala or the necklace/garland made of Tulsi beads. Sri Vaishnavas are taken by Vishnudutas to Vaikuntha and Gaudiya Vaishnavas to Goloka.
As per Buddhism
, Naraka is described as the dreadful sufferings of human beings in the several bottomless layers of Narakas. However, this concept in Buddhist texts is not corresponding to the concept of Hell in Christian faith. It is generally a purgatory where all the soul gets purified of the various sins by pains. Interestingly, Hell is also a condition of consciousness and this torment does not take place after the death of beings, when the soul vacates the physical body, but it takes place during incarnation. It is well associated with the law of karma where one's inner self and outer actions bear their fruits sooner or later.
Naraka in Jainism
is the name that is given to dominion of survival in Jain cosmology having immense pain. The teachings of Jainism
state that the length of stay of a human being in a Naraka is not eternal. However, it is usually quite long and is measured in billions of years. It is further specified that a soul is born into a Naraka as a straight end result of his or her previous actions of body, mind and speech that is karma
, and dwells there for a limited time span until the karma has attained its complete result. The Jain texts also mention that these hells or narakas are placed in the seven grounds basically at the inferior portion of the universe and these are -
Naraka means the place where the human beings bear the suffering of his or her actions.