Wish there was someone who could share and describe the experience after their death. As much as it is scary, life-after-death is equally thrilling to talk about. Though almost all cultures on Earth believe that the story doesn’t end with one’s death, none of them shows a solid proof of what will really happen after one's death.
While Egyptians believed that the dead left the Earth and proceeded to live in a different Star, and the Greeks believed that the souls had to cross a river and be transported to the Underworld by a mythical boat-man, ancient Indians believed that regardless of caste, creed and race, everyone will be punished after death - for every ill thought and act, as per the laws of Garudapurana. While the righteous get to gracefully glide to the Heaven, the sinners are left to rot in the banks of the terrifying Vaitarani river! I did promise that this will be scary yet thrilling, didn't I? Read on for more.
Most interesting of all were the ancient Egyptians, who had elaborate beliefs in life after death, and immortality. They not only mummified the Pharaoh's bodies, but also placed their internal organs in canopic jars, kept food, drink, furniture, clothes, and jewelry which were to be used in their afterlife. It is also so intriguing to notice that the three Pyramids of Giza mimic the alignment and relative sizes of the three stars in the Orion (the Hunter) constellation. The most uncanny of all is - back in 2500 BC, when the Great Pyramid of Giza was built, the air shafts within it had aligned with high precision to Sirius star (and three other mystical stars) in the skies during that time. These stars symbolize Egyptian Gods (Isis, Osiris, etc.) that symbolize afterlife, resurrection, and immortality. Through these shafts, the Kings’ souls are believed to have ascended to these stars for their after-life!
(If you were wondering, Sirius is nothing but Mirigasirisha nakshatra. Remember the comedy sequence from the movie Chandramukhi where Rajinikanth tells Vadivelu that it is demons' favorite star?)
While these cultures had such intriguing beliefs, no wonder Indians had even more elaborate beliefs. As per Garudapurana, which is one of the 18 Puranas of Hindu Mythology, there is a dreaded river called Vaitarani which is located midway between the world that we live in, and Naraka, the City of Yama Raja, the God of Death. A soul that has departed its body has to cross this river, after which it is judged at Yama’s place. Once the souls are judged, they get to proceed to either the Heaven or the Hell. While a righteous soul sees the Vaitarani river as though it is filled with nectar, it is a totally different case for the sinful souls. For them, it is said that the Vaitarani river is very frightening, filled with blood and heaps of bones on the bank. It is crowded with huge crocodiles and flesh eating birds, and filthy with faeces and urine. The souls that are left astray on the river will have to go through the torture without even getting a chance to go to the Hell and to be born again in some form at a later time. These souls that have not passed the Vaitarani are considered as “ghosts” who have not passed on for the next “journey”, and are stuck midway. And wait, that is not all. Garudapurana also lists 28 different terrifying punishments used in the Hell based on the sins committed by the souls. Just for the sake of sanity, I would like to refrain from elaborately explaining the punishments. If you still insist on knowing more, click on the below picture.
Quite interesting from everything above, there is an interpretation (or perhaps not an interpretation at all, but just based on pure "knowing") from the ancient yogis about what happens after death. As per the spiritual tradition, what is oneself is just the soul, but not the body or the mind. During the moment of death, when a soul departs its physical body, it loses the discretionary mind which usually helps someone spring back to routine after anything. Hence after losing the discretionary mind, whatever the tendency at the moment of death is, it multiplies. If someone dies in peace, the peacefulness grows exponentially within the soul. On the other hand, if someone leaves unwillingly or in sorrow, this will multiply into something terrible within them that it feels “Hell-like” and lasts much longer. (Now you know why they wish the dead, “RIP- Rest In Peace”!) So basically, Heaven and Hell are just experiential realities of the soul that departed the body, rather than “geographical entities”, such as underworld, higher worlds etc. And this makes much sense, and perhaps the stories in Garudapurana were all allegorical to this fact!
Now, keeping aside all these beliefs, what will really happen after death? With the rising inflation and plummeting value of the currency, maybe many more coins need to be thrown in, as part of the Greek tradition! And what if Charon isn’t accepting the Euro coin anymore?! Neither here, nor there. Neither in, nor out. A sail in Styx forever. And maybe I’ll get a “Kumbipaagam” punishment at the Vaitarani river as a bonus, for being lazy and spending too much time on this blog!! Well, when I have a choice of what to believe, I’d rather choose to believe the ancient Egyptians, as it would be fantasical to explore Sirius after death. What the Hell! :)