Death is indeed a very difficult thing. Every one is afraiding of death whether the person is rich or poor, strong or weak, a believer of God or disbeliever of God, whether he be a Hindu priest or a Muslim preacher. Everyone is helpless in front of the inevitability of death. No-one knows when the time of death will come and where will the soul be taken after death. The Yamdoot (angels of death) is the greatest powerful and capable and he takes the soul out of the body whatever be the circumstances of the person. In short everyone is powerless in front of the Yamdoot (angels of death).
The holy scriptures say that the Lord of the body-the soul, when it leaves a particular body, it takes along with it, the mind, the wisdom, and the ego and it is with these things that it enters into another body in its onward journey. That soul, using the senses (eyes, nose, tongue, ears and touch) and the mind experiences the world around. (Geeta 15:1)
The Lord further says in the Geeta 15:7 that The soul in the body is but a fragment of his own self and that fragment draws around itself the five senses. Just as the wind waxes its scent from its source, the individual soul waxing the supreme Lord, takes along at the time of death the five senses and the mind and enters into another body.
The Lord further says that this soul in its endless journey is eternal but it takes many bodies all of whom are transitory and temporary. (Geeta 2:17) This eternal soul is never born nor does it ever die in any of the periods of Kaal. It is never born, eternal and ancient. It doesn’t die even when the body is killed (Geeta 2:20) Just as a person casts away old cloths to wear new ones similarly the soul casts away one body to take on another body. (Geeta 2:22) This soul is imperishable and weapons cannot cut this soul, fire cannot burn this soul, water cannot wet this soul and the wind cannot dry this soul (Geeta 2:23) but when the soul is leaving the body there is intense agony in the body. This agony is like the agony of being bitten by a 1000 scorpions.
The Garuda Purana page number 552 says when the time of death arrives then some time before that some disease enters into the body. The senses start to fail and all methods of healing fail. Consciousness starts receding and the messengers of the lord of death Yama come and stand next to the body and start pulling the Prana of the body by force. At that time the Prana of the body are pulled up to the throat and the mouth is filled with fluid. At that time the embodied being of the body laments, looks at its home-the body-in grief and is dragged towards the house of death.
At the time of death, the wind element is activated and merges into the fire element which starts using the body as a fuel and starts destroying the capacity of the body to carry life. This is extremely painful to the body. This is relevant to ordinary human beings but those persons who are devoted to the Supreme Lord another kind of wind called Udaan gets activated. All those who are free of indulgence and desire; who are righteous and who love only the Lord, their death is peaceful and those who are devotees of Lord Narayan, who constantly focus their attention on the supreme Lord, they donot have experience of death. The Yamdoot (angels of death) donot come to take their soul, instead the lord of death Darmraj comes with a garland of flowers and gives them permission to go the abode of Lord Narayan. The rest are dragged by the Yamdoot across the river Vaitarni through the sixteen bridges.
The Garuda purana page number 567 says the distance of the the house of death from the earth is 86000 Yojna this is equal to 1032000 kms. The soul is dragged though this long distance like a snake or a trapped monkey. Those who have done a lot of sins in their lives, experience this journey as very troublesome and painful and are made to suffer various punishments.
That sinner after the 13th day is tied to a post and angry Yamdoot strikes the soul repeatedly and take him towards their abode. That route is filled with thorns, stones and other difficulties such as fire, mosquitoes, intense heat and the soul crying pitiably as it is pulled by the Yamdoot (angels of death). The soul becomes extremely small and weak due to burning and according to its karmas is eaten, bitten by animals and its body is pierced by various animals. All this causes immense suffering to the soul.
There are 16 bridges on this way. They are
- Yaamya-In this way the soul cries for his progeny and remembers all the misdeeds that he has done and asks to be saved and reaches a river called Pushpa Bhadra.
- Sauripur-This place is ruled by a desire-action oriented king, whose very sight scares the soul. There the soul is struck by the Khadak-the weapon of lord of death and proceeds towards Narendranagar.
- Narendranagar-There the soul feeds on the offerings that have been made in his name and goes forward. On the way he is rained with blows by the angels of death and in the third month he reaches gandharva nagar.
- Gandharva-nagar- There the being feeds on the offering made In the third month and again proceeds to Shailaagampur and is again beaten by the angels of death on the way.
- Shailaagampur-there the being feeds on the fourth month offerings by his family and and is struck by stones on his way forward.
- Kraunchpur-The being partakes further offerings here and takes rest and reaches Kroorpur after six months.
- Kroorpur-In this place the angels of death strike the soul through weapons and the being falls down in terror and then proceeds onwards to Vichitra nagar
- Vichitranagar-the being is struck by weapons called shools or spears and the being proceeds to Bahavaapada pur
- Bahavaapada pur-The being partakes in the seventh month offering and is again struck by the angels of death and the being proceeds to Dukhpur.
- Dukhpur-The being partakes the eigth month offerings and is again given various punishments by the angels of death and proceeds to(11) Nanakrand namak puri,(12) Sutapta bhavan (13) Raudrapuri (14) Payovarshan (15) Sheetadaya puri and (16) Bahubheeti puri and finally reaches the land of death. There the being is sent to those places good or bad depending on the actions that the being has undertaken in his life.
What the being laments as it has to cross the 16 bridges is that why did he not spend his time on earth in worship of the lord. Why he did not spend his time meditating on the Lord and other such pursuits that would have brought him closer to the supreme lord. That is why it is essential to do these kind of works while one is able in this human body. The human body is the only place that the being can elevate himself in the service of the Lord. Although the name of the Lord is sung in every age and time of Kaal but in this particular time-Kaliyug, the name itself is very Important and the Lord’s sincere worship opens the door of enlightenment and saves one from suffering. This is why we all must spend our time and attention in uttering the Lord’s name and always remembering Him.