Last Updated on February 1, 2023
Hinduism is a diverse religion with a wide range of beliefs and practices. One question that is often asked about Hinduism is what happens to the soul after death.
In this article, we will explore the different beliefs and traditions within Hinduism regarding what happens after death according to different holy texts and Garuda Purana.
The Concept Of Afterlife In Hinduism
Beliefs About the Afterlife in the Garuda Purana
The destination of the soul depends on the actions (karma) of the individual in their previous life. If a person has lived a good and virtuous life, they are believed to go to one of the heavenly realms, where they will enjoy bliss and happiness. On the other hand, if a person has lived a sinful and evil life, they are believed to go to one of the hellish realms, where they will suffer for their misdeeds.
The Garuda Purana also describes a concept known as “samsara,” which refers to the cycle of death and rebirth. According to this belief, the soul is not permanently confined to one of the heavenly or hellish realms, but instead continues to be reborn into new bodies until it attains liberation (moksha).
The goal of Hindu spiritual practice is to break free from the cycle of samsara and achieve moksha, which is seen as the ultimate release from suffering and the attainment of a state of eternal bliss.
You can also understand through a very simple day-to-day explanation of a souls journey according to Hinduism:
- The soul is believed to leave the body at the time of death and begin its journey to the next world.
- Feet start getting cold a few hours before death. It is believed that Yama, the God of Death, will manifest at the time of one’s passing to assist the spirit in its journey.
- After that, Astral Cord is cut.
- For 7 days the atman is believed to wander around his/her family, friends and the things it loved and by the the week it starts it journey to the afterlife.
- As the rituals are carried out, the soul travels to a tunnel or crosses the vaitarni. This happens on the 10th day.
- The atman meets the ancestors on the 12th day.
- Then it takes one year for the final reaching to the abode of the dead, where the soul spends some time depending upon its karma phala.
- The soul then is reborn.
According to the belief in reincarnation, the soul is eternal and indestructible, and at the time of death, it leaves the body and is reborn into a new one. The process of death and rebirth is thought to continue until the soul reaches a state of spiritual perfection and is able to break free from the cycle of rebirth, achieving a state of liberation called moksha.
The specific details of the belief in reincarnation vary depending on the specific tradition and beliefs of the individual. In some cases, the soul may be believed to be reborn into a new human body, while in others it may be reborn into the body of an animal or even a plant.
The nature of the new body that the soul is reborn into is believed to be determined by the individual’s karma, or the moral quality of their actions in their previous life.
In Hinduism, the belief in reincarnation is seen as a way of explaining the suffering and inequality that exists in the world. It is believed that the soul is constantly being tested and purified through the process of death and rebirth, and that eventually, through spiritual practice and the accumulation of good karma, the soul will be able to achieve liberation from the cycle of rebirth and attain a state of eternal bliss.
Realms of the Afterlife
In some traditions of Hinduism, the soul is believed to reside in specific realms after death. These realms may be seen as either positive or negative, depending on the actions of the individual in their previous life.
For example, the soul of a virtuous person may be believed to reside in a realm of paradise that too for a short amount of time in order to enjoy the good deeds or Bhog, while the soul of a wicked person may be believed to suffer in a realm of torment and after that no matter how bad you were or good you were, if you’ve not attained a specific stage of enlightenment, then it is believed that you’ll be reincarnated on any realm according to your Asktis (addictions or attachements) and Karma.
The god Yama is often seen as the ruler of the underworld in Hinduism, and is responsible for determining the fate of the soul after death. In some traditions, the soul must undergo a series of trials and judgments before being reborn or released from the cycle of rebirth.
Release from the Cycle of Rebirth
Some Hindus believe in the ultimate release of the soul from the cycle of reincarnation. This release, known as moksha, is seen as the ultimate goal of the individual soul.
It is achieved through spiritual enlightenment and the abandonment of worldly desires. Once the soul has achieved moksha, it is believed to be united with the divine and freed from the cycle of rebirth.
Now, as you have understood the concept of afterlife in Hindusim let’s now understand the rituals that are done in order to make a souls journey easy so that it can cross the Vaitarni (a river thaty lies between the eath and other realms) with ease.
The Hindu Funeral And Rituals
After death, Hindus follow a variety of religious rites, each of which can be unique to the family or individual practising it. The rituals are diverse as what is done in the south is totally different from the northern India and vice versa. But still, the basic rituals are:
- The body is typically washed and clothed in new garments.
- The body is placed on a bamboo or wooden pyre and cremated.
- The ashes are typically collected and immersed in a holy river, such as the Ganges.
- The family may perform a ritual known as “sraddha,” in which offerings of food and water are made to the deceased and to the gods.
- The family may also recite prayers and perform other rituals to honor the deceased and to help guide their soul on its journey to the next world.
Why Are The Ashes Are Immersed In The River?
All of the deceased person’s clothing, especially anything that came into contact with their body, such as their underwear, is burned as soon as possible after their passing. This is due to the fact that the being has not yet come to terms with the fact that it is over, and is thus still searching for traces of the body, such as the sweat or the smell of the corpse.
Ashes are scattered in a river, where they will mix with water and eventually disappear. So, they’ll be impossible to track down. It’s being done everything possible to make the being realise it’s over.
Do Hindus Believe In Heaven And Hell?
No, the concepts of heaven and hell do not exist in Hinduism; rather, these are concepts that come from the Abrahamic religion and Christianity. Hindus believe that between death and rebirth, the soul travels through a number of different planets or regions.
Do We Meet Our Loved Ones After Death In Hinduism?
Hindus believe in the possibility of reuniting with loved ones through the cycle of reincarnation, while others believe in the possibility of being reunited with loved ones in a personal afterlife. Ultimately, the specific beliefs and practices of an individual Hindu will depend on their tradition and their personal beliefs.
How Atma Leaves the body?
In some Hindu traditions, the Atma is believed to leave the body through a any of the Nava Dvar or 9 doors. It is through one of these openings that the Atma is believed to leave the body at the time of death.