DEATH AND AFTER – Garuda Purana

God Garuda and Lord Krishna’s conversation


Garuda said- ‘ After visiting all the three ‘Lokas’ (World)I found the Earth (Prithvi) little overcrowded as compared to other ‘Lokas’. I also found that it provided better opportunities to a man both for materialistic enjoyments as well as his spiritual advancement. So, I have come to the conclusion that‘Prithviloka’ was the best of all the ‘Lokas’ in every respect.

But, all round prevalence of sorrow and misery in ‘Prithviloka’ made me sad. I was really perplexed to see people performing complex rituals after the death of their relative. All these rituals appeared so absurd to me. I was really amazed to see people laying down their dead relatives on the ground. I could also not understand why a dead body is laid on the bed of ‘kusha’ grass and sesame seeds. I witnessed so many rituals that surprised me, for instance I could not understand the reason why donations are made after a man dies. I am puzzled by the mystery called death or, what becomes of him after he dies. The sight of sons lifting the dead body of their father on their shoulders is still fresh in my memory. I could not understand the reason why ‘ghee’(clarified butter) is applied on a dead body or why the relatives of the deceased chant ‘Yama sukta’ facing north. I was also surprised to see the son of the deceased being debarred from having meal along with his other relatives.


O Lord! Please reveal to me the significance of making ‘pinda- daans’ or, the significance of ‘tarpan’rituals? Please tell me the proper method of offering ‘pinda daan’ and invoking ancestors? I find it hard to believe that all the deeds virtuous or evil committed by a man follows him after his death.’ This way Garuda flooded Lord Krishna with a barrage of questions and sought clarifications on them.

Lord Krishna replied–” I am so delighted that you have asked such important questions for the benefit of mankind. I am revealing to you the secrets, which were hitherto unknown even to the deities and yogis.

O Garuda! A man should try to beget a son with the help of means as mentioned in the scriptures because there is no salvation for a person bereft of son.

” Lord Krishna then went on to describe the proper rituals which are performed after the death of a man and said-

” First of all, the area should be purified by coating it with a layer of cow-dung (Gobar). This purified area is called ‘mandal’ and it is graced by the presence of the ‘Trinity’– Brahma, Shiva and Myself. Sesame seeds are then sprinkled on the purified area and kusha grass is spread. A person whose death is imminent is then laid down on the bed of kusha grass. Scriptures say that a person who does not leave his mortal body in the above mentioned way, wanders hither and thither in the form of a restless spirit. No amount of rituals can put such a soul to rest.

O Garuda! Sesame seed has manifested from my sweat and hence is extremely pure. All kind of evil forces like, ghosts, spirits, demons, etc. keep away from the place where it is used. Similarly,Kusha grass has manifested from my body hair and is graced by the presence of ‘Trinity’– Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu. Deities are satisfied if kusha grass is offered to them while ancestors are satisfied by the offerings of sesame seeds.

Scriptures say that if dying man is laid down on the bed of kusha grass spread on the land purified by cow-dung, he becomes absolved of all his sins.

There is a great significance of donating salt after the death of a person. Salt owes its origin to Me and donating it helps ancestors in attaining heaven. Donating salt also helps in reducing the pain and sufferings of a dying man and this is why it is donated along with other articles after a death of a person.

The relatives of the deceased should chant the sacred ‘Yama sukta’ facing north because it helps him to attain liberation.”

Lord Krishna then explained to Garuda the appropriate way of carrying the corpse to the cremation ground–

” The dead body should be carried to the cremation ground by the sons an other relatives of the deceased. In the cremation ground the dead body should be kept in such a way that it’s head should be either towards east or north. The pyre should be made either of sandal or ‘palash’ wood.” Describing the experiences of the soul when it leaves the body, Lord Krishna said–” The soul leaves the mortal body with great reluctance because the attachment with the mortal world exists even after his death. Yamdoots, descend down to earth to take the soul of the dying man to Yamloka. Those who have committed grave sins are tied with ropes and taken to Yamloka with great humiliation but virtuous souls are taken with honour and due respect. Yamraj- the Lord of Death receives the virtuous soul with all the honour and respect and metes out punishment to those who had committed sins during their lives. In his dark complexion and with a buffalo as his mount and with a noose and iron stick in his hands, Yamraj appears terrifying. On the other hand, the sight of lifeless body appears disgusting and people try to dispose it off as quickly as possible because it is worthless without a soul. So, one must try to make the best use of this mortal body by indulging in good deeds before the day of his final journey arrives otherwise he would be left with nothing but regrets at the time of his death.


Continuing with his narration, Lord Krishna said–

“O Garuda! Death comes at the predetermined time, which remains fixed and unaltered under all circumstances. A man’s sense organs become weak and his body feeble, which gets inflicted with numerous diseases in his old age. At the time of his death, man experiences unbearable pain and he begins to loose his consciousness. Yamdoots arrive and begin to retrieve the soul from the body and this aggravates the pain. Ultimately, the soul, which is not more than the size of a thumb, reluctantly comes out from the body as the attachment with the world exists even after his death. But, a virtuous person does not go through all these painful experiences at the time of his death. The soul has to take birth in different species as well as go through cycles of countless births, deaths and rebirths in order to taste the fruits of his Karmas.

Describing the significance of ‘Pinda daan’ rituals, Lord Vishnu told Garuda that they are performed so that manes are satiated. He also revealed to him that six pinda daans are offered to the manes while performing the rituals of last rites– ” The first ‘pinda-daan’ is made at the place where person has breathed his last while the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth ‘Pinda daans’ are made at the main entrance of the house, the nearest cross-roads, the cremation ground, on the pyre itself and at the time of collecting last remains (Asthi) respectively. After reaching the cremation ground the dead body should be laid down with its head towards south. The mortal body then should be consigned to flames and after some time sesame seeds and ghee should be poured into the burning pyre so that it continues to burn without any problem. For the next ten days the relatives coming from the samegotra of the deceased should observe a period of ‘Ashaucha’- a period during which he observes strict austerities and avoids social contacts. The son of the deceased is prohibited from having food along with his relatives simply because he is believed to be impure during this period.”

This way, being satisfied by Lord Krishna’s answers, Garuda thanked him for clearing whatever doubts he had in his mind. Lord Krishna blessed him.

-Garuda Purana
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