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Angkor Wat: Depiction of hell in the Heavens and Hells bas-relief


Punishing Sinners by Crucifixion
The image shows part of the Heavens and Hells bas-relief carved on the eastern section of the south gallery located on the boundary of the lower level of the Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia.

Yama‘s guards are seen punishing the sinners by tying them to a frame and driving nails into them (similar to crucifixion).

As the name suggests, the Heavens and Hells bas-relief is about the depiction of heavens and hells as described in ancient Hindu texts called Puranas. The bas relief has three horizontal layers, which are:

  1. Upper layer: Depicts swargas (heavens)
  2. Middle layer: Depicts the bhoomi (earth)
  3. Bottom layer: Depicts narakas (hells)

The entire Heavens and Hells bas-relief depicts 37 swargas and 32 narakas.

The narakas are much more descriptive than the swargas. As you can see from the image, the punishment of sinners is gory and elaborate. Although naraka translates to hell, it is not the hell as understood in the West. A naraka is more akin to purgatory because it is not eternal and the sinners can redeem themselves once they pay for their sins. In Hindu mythology, sinners are reborn, but not always as human beings.

Related Pages
Angkor Wat, Angkor Wat Bas-Reliefs, Angkor Thom, Bayon, Ta Prohm, Banteay Srei
Phnom Kulen, Tonle’ Sap, Cambodia
Bali, Prambanan, Borobudur, Indonesia

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