The image shows a section of the Heavens and Hells bas-relief carved on the eastern section of the south gallery located on the perimeter of the lower level of the Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
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:
Upper layer: Depicts swargas (heavens)
Middle layer: Depicts the bhoomi (earth)
Bottom layer: Depicts narakas (hells)
The entire Heavens and Hells bas-relief depicts 37 swargas and 32 narakas. The bas-relief in the image shows one of the narakas. It depicts Yama‘s guards punishing the sinners. On the left side, sinners are tied to a frame and nails are driven in to them, and on the right sinners are burnt alive.
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.
Heavens and Hells Related Images
– Yama’s Court
– Pushing Sinners to a Naraka
– Three Layers of the Heavens and Hells Bas-Relief
– Depiction of a Naraka – Crucifying
– Depiction of a Naraka – Beating by Yama’s Guards
– Depiction of a Naraka – Stomping by Yama’s Guards
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