Hinduism believes in the rebirth and reincarnation of souls. What happens after the soul leaves the body and before it reincarnates again is a great mystery about which we can form an idea after studying the scriptures.
In Hinduism there are two paths along which souls travel after death. The Paths of the Sun and the Moon.
- Path of the Sun or the Path of Light (DEVAYANA) (Archi Marga) or The Uttara Marga
- Path of the Moon or the Path of Darkness (PITRIYANA) (Dhoom Marga).or Dakshin Marga.
THE PATH OF LIGHT (DEVAYANA)
The Uttara Marga or Devayana path or Northern path or the path of
light is the path by which the Yogins go to Brahman. This path leads
to salvation. This path takes the devotee to Brahmaloka. Having
reached the path of the gods he comes to the world of Agni, to the
world of Vayu, to the world of Varuna, to the world of Indra, to the
world of Prajapati, to the world of Brahman. They go to light, from
light to day, from day to the waxing half of the moon, from the waxing
half of the moon to the six months when the Sun goes to the North,
from those six months to the year, from the year to the Aditya. When
the person goes away from this world he comes to Vayu. Then Vayu makes
room for him like the hole of a wheel and through it he mounts higher
till he comes to Aditya. The bright path is the path, to the Devas,
Devayana, of the devotees; the bright path is open to the devotees.
THE PATH OF DARKNESS (PITRIYANA)
The Pitriyana path or the path of darkness or the path of ancestors
leads to rebirth. Those who do sacrifices to gods and other charitable
works with expectation of fruits go to the Chandraloka through this
path and come back to this world when their fruits of Karmas are
exhausted. These two paths are not open to the whole world. The bright
path is open to the devotees and the dark path to the Karmins. Samsara
is eternal and so the paths also are eternal. Knowing the nature of
the two paths and the consequences they lead to, the Yogi never loses
his discrimination. The Yogi who knows that the path of Devayana or
the path of light leads to Moksha (Karma Mukti) and the path of
darkness to Samsara or the world of births and deaths, is no longer
deluded. Knowledge of these two paths serves as a compass or
beacon-light to guide the Yogi’s steps at every moment.
Here Prashna Upanishad Describing these two paths in detail -:
संवत्सरो वै प्रजापतिस्तस्यत्यने दक्षिणं चोत्तरं च तद्येह वै
तदिष्टापूर्ते कृतमित्युपासते ते चान्द्रमसमेव लोकमभिजयन्ते त एव
पुनरावर्तन्ते तस्मादेत ऋषय प्रजाकामा दक्षिणं प्रतिपद्यन्ते एष ह वै
रयिर्यः पितृयाणः ||9||
The Year is verily Prajapati and two are his paths The southern and
the Northern; Now those who perform Ishtapoorta (sacrifices and
charitable works) (thinking them) as works of supreme value , attain
the world of the Moon and afterwards return (there) again. Therefor
those Rushies (sage) who desire offspring go by the southern path.
Matter verily is this path of the Manes.
अथोत्तरेणा तपसा ब्रह्मचर्येण श्रद्धया
विद्यात्मानमन्विष्यादित्यमभिजयन्ते एतद्वै प्राणानामायतनमेतदमृतमभयमेतत्
परायणमेत्तस्मान्न पुनरावर्तन्त इत्येष निरोधस्तदेष ||10||
But those who sought the Atman by austerity , abstinence , faith and
knowledge attain Adityas by Northern path.This is the source of all
the forces , this is immortal and free from danger – this is supreme
resort , from there they do not return (for) it is the end
You can read More about Prashna Upanishad Here
The Bhagavad-Gita describes two paths along which souls travel after death. One is the path of the sun, also known as the bright path or the path of gods and the other is the path of the moon, also known as the dark path and the path of ancestors. When a soul travels along the path of the sun, it never return again, while those which travel along the path of the moon return again.
अग्निर्ज्योतिरहः शुक्लः षण्मासा उत्तरायणम्।
तत्र प्रयाता गच्छन्ति ब्रह्म ब्रह्मविदो जनाः।।8.24।।
agnir jyotir ahaḥ śuklaḥ ṣaṇ-māsā uttarāyaṇam
gacchanti brahma brahma-vido janāḥ
Those who know the Supreme Brahman attain that Supreme by passing away
from the world during the inﬂuence of the ﬁery god, in the light, at
an auspicious moment of the day, during the fortnight of the waxing
moon, or during the six months when the sun travels in the north.BG
We can see ample description of these two paths in our Puranas also. Here Shreemad Bhagvat purana verse describing one of the Path.
सूर्यद्वारेण ये यन्ति पुरुषं विश्वतोमुखं |
प्रकृतिमस्योत्पत्यन्तभावनम् ||7|| SB 3.32.7
sūrya-dvāreṇa te yānti puruṣaṁ viśvato-mukham
And finally they through Surya Marga (Archi Marga OR Deva Yaan Marga )
The word sūrya-dvāreṇa means “by the illuminated path,” or through the
sun planet. The illuminated path is devotional service. It is advised
in the Vedas not to pass through the darkness, but to pass through the
sun planet. It is also recommended here that by traversing the
illuminated path one can be freed from the contamination of the
material modes of nature; by that path one can enter into the kingdom
where the completely supreme Lord resides.
Moksha derives from the root verb ‘muk’ = to loose, to let loose, to free, to let go, to slacken, to release, to liberate, through its participle form mokshyati = to be loosed, to be set free, to be released. Moksha thus means emancipation, liberation, release. Two other terms often used as synonyms for Moksha are kaivalya and nirvana,
Moksha is the highest of the four legitimate aims (purusharthas) of human existence. However, it is difficult to get clear definitions of Moksha in Hindu scripture. The state of Moksha has been differently conceptualised by various schools of thought, and the Upanishads, the bedrock of Hindu philosophy, often describe Moksha in metaphorical and poetic language that easily lends to different interpretations.
However I am providing some definitions of moksha from Vedanta School of thought.
Here Mundaka Upanishad Mundaka 3 -Khanda 2 -Page 8 says
किं च मोक्षकाले – What at the time of Moksha ?
गता : कला: पञ्चदश प्रतिष्ठा देवाच्श सर्वे प्रतिदेवतासु |
विज्ञानमयच्श आत्मा परेsव्यये सर्व एकीभवन्ति ||7||
The fifteen parts go back to their causes, and all the senses to their
deities; the actions, and the Atman reflected in the buddhi, become
one with the highest imperishable Brahman, which is the Self of all.
The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (IV.3.21) Page 660 , however, describes Moksha as the state where all desires and the resultant sorrows have been quelled; “
तद्भा अस्यैतदतिच्छन्दा अपहतपाम्पाभयं रूपम् |
स्त्रिया संपरिव्षक्तो न बाह्यं किञ्चन वेद नान्तरम् |
परुष: प्राज्ञेतात्मा संपरिव्षक्तो बाह्यं किञ्चन वेद नान्तरम् |
तद्वा अस्यैतदात्पकाममात्मकाममकामं रूपं शोकान्तरं ||21||
That is his form-beyond desires, free from evils, and fearless. As a
man, fully embraced by his beloved wife~ does not know anything at
all, either external or internal, so does this infinite being (self),
fully embraced by the Supreme Self, not know anything at all , either
external or internal. That is his form. in which all objects of desire
have been attained and are 'but the self, and which is free from
desires and devoid of grief.
Now liberation in the form of identity with all, which is the result, devoid of action with its factors
and results, of knowledge, and in which there is no ignorance, desire, or work,