Madhva doctrine believes in eternal hellish life for some souls. If I am not wrong, they believe in creation and destruction of this worlds. Then, What exactly is 'eternal' here? What is scriptural basis for this belief?

3 Answers 3


The scriptural source is Gita 16.6-20. I am posting two of these verses.

These vicious men, oppressive, cruel and sinful as they are, - are always hurled down by Me into demoniac wombs in life after life, in the transmigratory cycle.

Gita 16.19

O son of Kunti! Falling into demoniac wombs, in life after life, they go to still lower states of degradation, without attaining Me.

Gita 16.20

In these verses and those preceding them, a theory of two types of souls with inherently opposite tendencies seems to be propounded. Vivid description of both these types is given in verses 1 to 5 and 7 to 20. One type called Daivi or divine, is Godward-looking and is receptive to ideas leading to liberation from the clutches of Prakrti. The other type called Asuri is just the opposite. Those who are included in it are steeped in worldliness and are anti-God and anti-spiritual. According to the theory propounded here, the former gradually evolve their higher faculties, and attain liberation from Prakrti, while the latter become eternally involved in Samsara. It is also said in verse 20 that they are repeatedly born in 'devilish wombs' (asurim yonim) and without taking the Godward path, attain to adhamam gatim - 'the most heinous destiny'.

On the basis of such texts, some schools of Vedanta like those of Sri Madhva and Sri Vallabha have propounded the theory of taratamya or inherent qualitative differences in Jivas, some being made for salvation and others for degradation. There is no eternal damnation in Hinduism, but this confinement to 'adhamam gatim' or continued embodiments among the lowest creatures like insects, fish, snakes etc., corresponds to it as the wages for confirmed evil doers.

There is a theoretical possibility of salvation even for such degraded souls when Divine grace descends on them through Incarnations and through very holy saints. Since Samsara or the transmigratory cycle is a never-ending process, perpetual involvement in it is the attaining to that most heinous destiny - yanti-adhamam-gatim.

Commentary on Gita 16.6-20 by Swami Tapasyananda

  • Where is eternal hell here? Re-birth into physical plane is NOT hell, neither continuous birth is considered eternal.
    – user29449
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 13:14
  • There is no eternal hell, the soul has free will. Some souls keep on degrading themselves to the point their atman is so blanketed by Darkness that it is nearly impossible to escape without divine intervention, in the same manner, some souls keep on elevating until they reach moksha. That being said, as per some philosophies Naraka and Swarga are states of the mind one happiness or pleasure and the other distress. One should ultimately pervade both.
    – Haridasa
    Commented Dec 10, 2023 at 14:51

The Following verses from various scriptures Are the Basis of the Madhva concept of eternal Hell.

इन्द्रा॑सोमा दु॒ष्कृतो॑ व॒व्रे अ॒न्तर॑नारम्भ॒णे तम॑सि॒ प्र वि॑ध्यतम् । यथा॒ नात॒: पुन॒रेक॑श्च॒नोदय॒त्तद्वा॑मस्तु॒ सह॑से मन्यु॒मच्छव॑: ॥

“Indra and Soma, chastise the malignant (rākṣasas), having plural send them in surrounding and inextricable darkness, so that not one of them may again issue from it; so may your wrathful might be triumphant over them.”

—Rgveda, Shaakala Samhita, Mandala 7, Sukta 104

यक्ष उवाच अक्षयोनरकः केन प्राप्यते भरतर्षभ । एतन्मे पृच्छतः प्रश्नं तच्छीघ्रं वक्तुमर्हसि ॥ युधिष्ठिर उवाच रब्राह्मणं स्वयमाहूय याचमानमकिंचनम् । पश्चान्नास्तीति योब्रूयात्सोक्षयंनरकं व्रजेत् ॥ वेदेषु धर्मशास्त्रेषु मिथ्या यो वै द्विजातिषु । देवेषु पितृध्रमेषु सोऽक्षयंनरकं व्रजेत् ॥

The Yaksha said, “O bull of the Bharata race, who is condemned to eternal naraka?” Yudhishthira replied, ''One who summons a poor Braahmana promising to provide him a gift and then claims that he has nothing to give, goes to the eternal naraka. One who imputes falsehood to the Vedas, the scriptures, the Braahmaṇas, the devas and the ceremonies in honour of the Pitrs, must also go to the eternal naraka.”

— Mahaabhaarata, Udyoga Parva, Adhyaaya 314, Shlokas 105-107

41 b-43a. And a man, a practised deceiver, who would approach (i.e. cohabit with) a cāṇḍāla woman or a Mleccha woman or a Pulkasa woman, having suffered there (i.e. in the hell) twice, thrice or four times that period (is reborn), and having cohabited with his mother, his preceptor’s wife, a brāhmaṇa woman, a queen or someone else who is the wife of a superior person, is not born again (i.e. eternally lives in hell only).

—Padma Puraana Srishti Khanda , 52.41b-43a

Shri Madhvacharya also quoted the following shlokas from the Mahaabhaarata, in his Brahma Sutra bhaashya, Adhyaaya 3, Paada 1, Sutra 16:

रौरवोऽथ महांश्चैव वह्निर्वैतरणी तथा ।कुम्भीपाक इति प्रोक्तान्यनित्यनरकाणि तु ॥ तामिस्रश्चान्धतामिस्रो द्वौ नित्यौ सम्प्रकीर्तितौ ।इति सप्तप्रधानानि बलीयस्तूत्तरोत्तरम् । एतानि क्रमशो गत्वैवारोहोऽथावरोहणम् ॥

“The temporary narakas are said to be Raurava, Maha-raurava, Vanhi, Vaitarani, and Kumbheepaka; and the two eternal narakas are known as tamas (darkness) and ‘andhan tamas’ (blinding darkness). These are the seven chief narakas, in their ascending order of horribleness. By regularly going through these only, ascent or descent takes place.”


The Prakasha samhita (A Pancharatra Agama) mentions the existence of two eternal hells (nitya narakas) beside the non-eternal ones into which one goes one after the another.

शिरमर्मग्रन्थिकूटजलनीरोधनादयः । सन्त्येवाष्टोत्तरशतनरकाः पातकालयाः ॥३९॥

अनित्यनरका एते तामिश्रन्धतामिश्रकौ । नित्यौ द्वौ नरकौ तत्र गतायान्ति तमः क्रमाथ् ॥४०॥

~ प्रकाशसंहिता - द्वितीयपरिच्छेदः - पञ्चमोऽध्यायः

Garuda Purana also mentions permanent hell(s) from where there is no return.

Garuda Purana preta Khanda Ch 35

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Garuda Purana Brahmakhanda Ch 4

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Garuda Purana Preta khanda Ch 46

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