Garuda Purana, Chapter 4


Translated by Ernest Wood and S.V. Subrahmanyam

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An Account of the Kinds of Sins which lead to Hell.

1. Garuḍa said: For what sins do they go on that great Way? Why do they fall into the Vaitaraṇî? Why do they go to hell? Tell me this, O Keśava.

2. The Blessed Lord said: 'Those who always delight in wrong deeds, who turn away from good deeds, go from hell to hell, from misery to misery, from fear to fear.

3. The righteous go into the city of the King of Justice by three gateways, but the sinful go into it only by the road of the southern gate.

4. The Vaitaraṇî River is only on this very miserable way. I will tell you who the sinners are who go by it.

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5-12. Slayers of Brâhmiṇs, drinkers of intoxicants, slayers of owe, infanticides, murderers of women, destroyers of the embryo, and those who commit secret sins,

Those who steal the wealth of the teacher, the property of the temple or of the twice-born; those who take away the possessions of women, and those who steal the possessions of children;

Those who do not repay their debts; those who misappropriate deposits; those who betray confidence; and those who kill with poisonous foods;

Those who seize upon the fault and depreciate the merit, who are jealous of those who have merit, who are attached to the wicked, who are foolish, who turn away from the company of the good;

Those who despise places of pilgrimage, good men, good actions, teachers and Shining Ones; those who disparage the Purâṇas, the Vedas, the Mîmâṁsâ, the Nyâya and the Vedânta;

Those who are elated at seeing the miserable, who try to make the happy wretched, who speak evil words, and are always evil-minded;

Those who do not listen to good counsel nor even to the word of the Śâstras, who are self-satisfied, who are unbending, who are foolish, who thinks themselves learned;--

These, and many others, very sinful, devoid of righteousness, certainly go on the Way of Yama, weeping day and night.

13. Beaten by the messengers of Yama, they go towards the Vaitaraṇî. I will tell you what sinners fall into it.

14. Those who dishonour their mothers, fathers, teachers and preceptors and the reverend,--these men sink in it.

15. Those who wickedly abandon their wives, faithful, of good qualities, of noble birth, and modest, fall into the Vaitaraṇî.

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16. Those who ascribe evil to the good, possessed of thousands of merits, and treat them disrespectfully, fall into the Vaitaraṇî.

17. Who does not fulfil promises made to Brâhmiṇs, and who, having called them, says, 'There is nothing for you,'--of these two the stay is continued.

18-24. Who takes away what he gave; who repents of his gifts: who takes away another's livelihood; who hinders others making gifts;

Who obstructs sacrifices; who prevents the telling of stories; who removes field-boundaries; who ploughs up pastures;

The Brâhmiṇ who sells liquors, and consorts with a lowcaste woman; who kills animals for his own gratification, not for the prescribed sacrifices of the Vedas;

Who has put aside his Brâhmaṇic duties; who eats flesh and drinks liquor; who is of unbridled nature; who does not study the Śâstras;

The Śûdra who studies the letter of the Vedas, who drinks the milk of the tawny cow, who wears the sacred thread or consorts with Brâhmiṇ women;

Who covets the King's wife; who abducts others' wives, who is lustful towards virgins, and who slanders virtuous women;--

These, and many other fools, fond of treading forbidden paths, anal abandoning prescribed ditties, fall into the Vaitaraṇî.

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23. Having come all along the path the sinful reach the abode of Yama, and having come, by command of Yama, the messengers hurl them into that river again.

26. O King of Birds, they then hurl those sinners into the Vaitaraṇî, which is the foremost among hells.

27. Who did not make gifts of black cows, nor perform the ceremonies for those who are in the upper body; having suffered great misery in it, go to the tree standing on its bank.

28-30. Who give false witness; who perform false duties; who earn by cheating, and who gain a livelihood by thieving;

Who cut down and destroy big trees, gardens and forests; who neglect vows and pilgrimages, who destroy the chastity of widows;

The woman who despises her husband and thinks about another,--such and others at the silk-cotton tree experience much beating.

31. Those who fall down, through being beaten, the messengers cast into hells. I will tell you about the sinful who fall into them.

32. Deniers, those who break the laws of morality, the avaricious, those attached to sense-objects, hypocrites, the ungrateful,--these certainly go to hell.

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33. Those who destroy wells, tanks, ponds, shrines, or people's houses,--these certainly go to hell.

34. Those who eat, having neglected their wives, children, servants and teachers, and having neglected the offerings to the forefathers and the Shining Ones,--these certainly go to hell.

35. Those who obstruct roads with posts, with mounds, with timber, with stones or with thorns,--these certainly go to hell.

36. Those who, self-indulgent, do not worship Śiva, Śivâ, Hari, Sûrya, Gaṇeśa, the wise, and the good teachers,--these certainly go to hell.

37-38. The Brâhmaṇi who places a harlot on his bed, goes to a low condition; begetting offspring of a Śudra woman, he is certainly degraded from the Brâhmiṇ rank:

That wretched twice-born is not worthy of salutation at any time; those fools who worship him certainly go to hell.

39. Those who are fond of quarrels, do not give up causing dissension among Brâhmaṇs and cow-fights but delight in them,--they certainly go to hell.

40. Those who, through malignity, commit transgression at the time of conception, with women who have no other refuge,---these certainly go to hell.

41. Those men who, blinded by passion, consort with women in the monthly courses, on the four days of lunar change, in the day time, in water, on Śrâddha occasions, these certainly go to hell.

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42. Those who throw their bodily refuse into fire, into water, in a garden, in a road, or in a cowpen,--these certainly go to hell.

43. Those who are makers of swords, and of bows and arrows, and those who are sellers of them,--these certainly go to hell.

44. Vaiśyas who are dealers in skins; women who sell their hair; these who sell poisons;--all these certainly go to hell.

45. Those who do not compassionate the helpless, who hate the good, who punish the guiltless;--these certainly go to hell.

46. Those who do not feed the Brâhmaṇ guests, who have come full of hope to the house, even though food is cooked;--these certainly go to hell.

47. Those who are suspicious of all creatures, and who are cruel to them, those who deceive all creatures;--these certainly go to hell.

48. Those who assume observances, and afterwards, with senses uncontrolled, cast them away again,--these certainly go to hell.

49. Those who do not respect the teacher who imparts the knowledge of the Supreme Self, and the tellers of the Purâṇas,--these certainly go to hell.

50. Those who betray their friends; those who cut short friendship; and those who destroy hopes;--these certainly go to hell.

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51. He who interferes with marriage, processions of the Shining Ones, 1 or bands of pilgrims, dwells in a dreadful hell from which there is no return.

52. The very sinful man who sets fire to a house, a village or a wood, is captured by the messengers of Yama and baked in pits of fire.

53. When his limbs are burnt with fire, he begs for a shady place, and then is led by the messengers into the forest of sword-like leaves.

54. When his limbs are cut by its leaves, sharp as swords, then they say, 'Ah, ha! Sleep comfortably in this cool shade!'

55. When, afflicted with thirst, he begs for water to drink, then the messengers give him boiling oil to drink.

56. Then they say: 'Drink this liquid and eat this food.' As soon as he drinks it he falls down, burning inside.

57. Getting up again somehow, he wails piteously. Powerless and breathless he is unable even to speak.

58. Thus, it is declared, O Târkṣya, that there are many torments for the sinful. Why should I explain them fully, when they are spoken of in all the Śâstras?

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59. Being tortured thus, men and women by thousands are baked in dreadful hells until the coming of the deluge.

60-62. Having eaten there their undecaying fruits they are born again. By order of Yama they return to the earth and become unmoving and other creatures:

Trees, bushes, plants, creepers, rocks and grasses, these are spoken of as unmoving; enveloped in great delusion,--

Insects, birds, animals and fish;--it is said that there are eighty-four hundred thousands of fates of birth-fates.

63. All these evolve thence into the human condition; having come back from hell they are born in the human kingdom amongst low outcastes, and even there, by the stains of sin, become very miserable.

64. Thus they become men and women oozing with leprosy, born blind, infested with grievous maladies, and bearing the marks of sin.

Next: Chapter V. An Account of the Signs of Sins

Suggestions for Further Reading


36:1 The images are carried round the streets on occasions.

Source: Originally Scanned at, June 2006. Proofed and formatted by John Bruno Hare. The text has been reformatted and rearranged for this online edition at by Jayaram V. This text is in the public domain in the United States because it was published prior to January 1st, 1923. These files may be used for any non-commercial purpose, provided this notice of attribution is left intact in all copies.

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