Hava Nagila!

Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid

After Death – Part 2

Certain practices: In Gujarat Kanchi community even as the dead body lay in state all relatives have to be given something to eat and drink! In our villages I have seen the body being carried to the cemetery on a fully decorated ‘chapparam’ [a kind of canopied chariot] with all that local music [tharai-long brass trumpet and thampattai-a large round tom-tom] and dance.

Sins & Miseries: This purana also gives a detailed account of sins and the miseries that would follow such sinners before and after birth and on death. According to one’s demerits [papa, sins] torments would be meted out. Similarly according to one’s merits [punya] heavenly enjoyment would also be provided. There is no adjustment or balancing possible between these two. Each of these is to be experienced. These are experienced by the ‘subtle body’. Lord Yama though doing all these is considered as Justice Personified. He has no likes, dislikes for anyone, no vested interests but acts only according to one’s own merits and demerits.  We all know there is no equal to Karna of the Mahabharata, not even the Dharma Devatai, in granting and giving what one asks for. Unfortunately he suffers punishment at the hands of Lord Yama as it was found that Karna had not performed ‘annadhana’ [providing food for the needy]!


Vyasa Maharshi is the author of Brahmasutra. Vyasa Maharshi deals with only those who have attained ‘knowledge’! In Chapter IV Section II Vyasa describes some details about the path of Gods by which the knower of Saguna and Nirguna Brahman travels after death. Some portions cover the path of an ordinary man also who had not cared about attaining any knowledge! It describes about how ‘prana’ life principle gets out of the gross body [like through which ‘nadi’, part of the body etc] and the way it merges with the five elements outside of it. It says that the Soul of a knower of Saguna Brahman follows the rays of the sun after death and goes to Brahma Loka. Surprisingly even those who go to Brahma Loka would be sent back under the ‘rebirth’ scheme! There is a belief that it is beneficial to die during ‘uttarayana’ [north course of sun] and less beneficial to die during ‘dhakshinayana’ [southern course of sun]. For each of the five elements there are deities. There are deities for the Varuna, Year etc., etc.

Bhagavat Gita [Chapter XVIII] 12-Pleasant, unpleasant and mixed-threefold is the fruit of action accruing after death to those who have not relinquished; there is none, whatever, for those who have renounced.


Thirumoolar also gives a detailed account of ceremonies, rites to be conducted but only in respect of those who renounced world [took to sainthood]. This is contained in his work Thirumandiram.

Thirunavukkarasar, the saivite saint says that after death no one can help the Soul except to put the dead body on fire! This is the prayer he makes to Lord Siva.

எத்தாயர் எத்தந்தை எச்சுற்றத்தார் எம்மாடு சும்மாடம் ஏவர் நல்லார்

செத்தால் வந்து உதவுவார் ஒருவர் இல்லை சிறுவிரகால் தீ மூட்டிச் செல்லா நிற்பர்

சித்தாய வேடத்தாய் நீடு பொன்னித் திருவானைக் காவுடைய செல்வா என்றன்

அத்தாவுன் பொற்பாதம் அடையப் பெற்றால் அல்லகண்டங் கொண்டடியேன் என்செய்கேனே

Oh howsoever great the mother, father, relation, friend                                  Oh whatever great the wealth, possessions, serving men around                    On death, not one would come, to extend that helping hand                           No not beyond that pyre fired with a wood stick smallest would any a place find

Saiva doctrine’s treasure Lord at Thiruvanaikovil on bank of Cauvery lasting long

Lord mine getting at your golden feet what more to do holding you in joy I surrender

Can ‘dead’ be brought back to life?

Poompavai, daughter of saiva devotee Sivanesan, died of snake bite. Only her bones could be preserved. Thirugnasambandhar brings back the body to life all its original beauty at Mylapore. Similarly at Thingalur Thirunavukkarasar [Appar] brings back to life a devotee’s [Appudhi Adigal] son, who died of snake bite. Sukracharyar’s ‘sanjeevini’ could bring back to life the dead. Even today Ayurveda talks of ‘kayakalpa’ [kaya means body, kalpa means time, timeless]

Vallalar prays to Lord Nataraja to give him powers to bring back to life the dead. However He does not seem to have performed any such miracle.

அத்தாநான் வேண்டுதல் கேட்டருள் புரிதல் வேண்டும்

அருட்பெருஞ்சோதியை பெற்றெ அகங்களித்தல் வேண்டும்

செத்தாரை மீட்டுமிங்கே எழுப்பிவிடல் வேண்டும்

திருச்சபைக்கே அடிமைகளாகச் செய்வித்தல் வேண்டும்

Oh Lord grant me my prayers my heart to dance in joy in your great light

So I can wake up the dead back to life bring them to your holy presence as devotees

Here ‘dead’ is not about those who died but about those, though alive, who do not live a righteous life. It is these persons Vallalar wants to bring back to purposeful life. He wants to bring about the spiritual awakening in men. Those who live a life with that kind of spiritual awakening truly does not die. They live through their deeds!

Thirumoolar, a great saivite saint, who is the author of Thirumandiram, gives life back to the body of a shepherd and enters his body. Adi Sankaracharya too gives live to a dead king and enters his body as a witness!

Do we make the dead useful to us?

Paul Brunton meets an Egyptian magician at the then Bombay [Mumbai] in a hotel. This magician shows some fine tricks. Impressed with his tricks Paul Brunton asks him about acquiring those skills. The magician said apart from the magic tricks he also gets the help of his dead brother. With such a help he has even solved a murder case for the German Police! You can find this in his book ‘A Search in Secret India’.

Talking to dead

There is a strong belief that one can talk to the dead through ‘medium’. This is shown in the recent film Talash. About 50 years back in the then Bombay [now Mumbai] ‘stove’ was the medium through which people claimed to talk to the dead. R.K.Narayan in his autobiography writes about talking to his dead wife through a medium in Mylapore. At times the dead may talk on its own as it happened with my wife Rohini and with me too. Her father had passed away in the year 1971. One of her brothers was regular in offering ‘tharpanam’. Once he missed. This was perhaps in the year 1980, nearly 10 years after his death. Her father came in Rohini’s ‘dream’ and said he was hungry. Similarly when Rohini’s sister Lalitha’s marriage was fixed in 1975 they were not able to fix up a marriage hall at Chennai. Sitting at Ahmedabad we were worried about it. Rohini’s father appeared in my ‘dream’ and said that the hall has been fixed! We get a phone call the next day confirming the fixation of the hall!

Talking to ourselves

Yes, we do talk to ourselves many times because we don’t want others to hear us! One of that I am referring here. I will first state it in Thamizh: பிரசவ வைராக்கியம்-ஸ்ம்ஸான வைராக்கியம். Translated in English it is: Resolve at the time of delivering child-Resolve at cemetery. The first resolve [the pain makes one to resolve ‘no more delivery’] remains hidden forever and not heard at all except when it was taken [because of the pleasure involved]! The second resolve [also due to the pain caused as the departure of that person caused inconsolable grief] too is never thought of, once you leave the cemetery [because the ‘maya’ puts you back in the saddle; you want to ride it faster than others and win!]. Someone has to take the blame for it all. True to human nature, put it on someone else! It is all due to the ‘maya’ of the world!

Not in Lord Yama’s clutches and in different styles: There are enough and more number of persons who have outwitted and got out of the clutches of Lord Yama, purely on account of their merits [penance, utmost devotion and total surrender to God] right from Adi Sankaracharya [There are two versions. One is, he merged in the Himalayas. The other is he attained jeevan-mukti on ascending the Sarvanja Peeta [the supreme seat of knowledge] at Kanchipuram in the precincts of Kamakshi temple], Avudai Akkal of Shenkottai [A young girl married before puberty and widowhood fell upon her before consummation of marriage. [what an act of cruelty, inhumanity on woman] She was blessed by Thiruvisanallur Sridhara Venkatesa Iyyaval and turned a ‘saint’. She merged in the thin air in the presence of her devotees.], Bhagar & Dalpier Maharishis, Sringeri Sankaracharya Chandrasekara Bharathi [attained ‘mukti’ through water. Along with his attendants He went for bathing in the river Tunga at Sringeri, got into the waters for a dip and disappeared. His attendants were all around him and yet didn’t have a clue! A few minutes later they found him in the ‘mukti’ state on the bank of the river in ‘padmasana’ posture],   Chiranjeevis 7, Dhruvan [His end time had come. Lord Vishnu sent his emissaries with a vehicle to fetch Dhruvan to Vaikunta. But Lord Yama too was waiting to ‘catch’ him. Dhruva ascended the vehicle using Lord Yama’s head as a stepping stone!], Lohidasa gets his life back because of the strict adherence and vow on TRUTH of his father King Harishchandra, Madhwacharya [mingled with Vayu [air] at the Anantheswara temple in Udupi], Markandeya [Chiranjeevi, ever living,  at the feet of Lord Siva. Lord Yama got into trouble by throwing his ‘rope’ even over the Sivalinga as Markandeya was hugging Lord Siva at that moment], Maruthanallur Sathguru Swamigal [believed to have merged with Lord Rama], Nachiketan [Lord Yama himself blessed him], Nerur Sadasiva Brahmendral and Seshadri Swamigal [both of whom attained bliss with the same physical body at more than one place!], Saint Raghavendra Swami [fixed his time and place of liberation,  made the “holy pit”, entered into it alive and asked his disciples to close it!] Sandipani’s [Lord Krishna’s Guru] son {Lord Krishna brought Sandipani’s son’s life back from Lord Yama, as guru dhakshina], Savitri [wife of Satyavan. She followed Lord Yama to his abode, fought with him and got her husband’s life back by tricking Lord Yama into a boon], Sridhara Iyyaval [merged with Lord Siva, Mahalingeswarar at Thiruvidaimaruthur], Thirugnasambandhar [Parvathi, Parameswara themselves came in person to the temple in Nallurperumanam in ‘Jyoti Swarupa’ [in the form of Holy Fire]. Along with Thirugnasambandhar who attained liberation and bliss are: Murugar, Nambiandar Nambi, Sivapada Hridayar, Thirunilakanta Yazhpanar and Thirunilanakkar], Tiger Varadhary [a veteran Carnatic Musician shed his body at his will [at Kalakshethra, Theosophical Society, Adayar]. He waited for his disciple M.D.Ramanathan to reach and hearing him ‘sing’ he shed his body with Rama Nama on his lips], Vallalar [entered ‘Jyoti’-the Holy Fire at Vadalur]. The list would be endless!

Click here for next section – Ghost!

Other Sections:

Soul and Body | Creation

Death Part 1 | Death Part 2 | Death Part 3

Chitragupta, The Accountant

At the time of Death Part 1 | At the time of Death Part 2 | At the time of Death Part 3

After Death Part 1 | After Death Part 2

Ghost | Rebirth | Liberation

Author’s Note Part 1 | Author’s Note Part 2

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