For example, Brahmanas who drink liquor will have molten lead poured down their throat in hell, men who commit adultery will be forced to embrace a burning hot, iron image of a woman, those who eat meat unlawfully will be devoured by dogs, etc.

What is the punishment in hell for women who commit adultery?

  • What do you mean by "unlawfully" eating meat? Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 11:45

2 Answers 2


What is the punishment in hell for women who commit adultery?

From the Shiva Purana:

  1. In a certain temple a scholar of divine wisdom was conducting a discourse on the holy Śivapurāṇa story some of which she happened to hear.

39—40. The portion that fell on her ears was the context in which it was said that the servants of Yama would introduce a red hot iron into the vaginal passage of women who indulge in sexual intercourse with their paramours. This narrative made by the Paurāṇika to increase detachment, made the woman tremble with fear.


According to Mahābhārata, only the man is to be blamed if a woman commits adultery, so any kind of punishment on earth or hell does not apply to the woman:

If men, after accepting the hands of wives in marriage and pledging themselves to earn religious merit without being dissociated from them, seek congress with other people's wives, they then cease to be worthy of respect. The husband, because he supports the wife, is called Bhartri, and, because he protects her, he is on that account called Pati. When these two functions disappear from him, he ceases to be both Bhartri and Pati. Then again woman can commit no fault. It is man only that commits faults. By perpetrating an act of adultery, the man only becomes stained with guilt. It has been said that the husband is the highest object with the wife and the highest deity to her. My mother gave up her sacred person to one that came to her in the form and guise of her husband. Women can commit no fault. It is man who becomes stained with fault. Indeed, in consequence of the natural weakness of the sex as displayed in every act, and their liability to solicitation, women cannot be regarded as offenders. Then again the sinfulness (in this case) is evident of Indra himself who (by acting in the way he did) caused the recollection of the request that had been made to him in days of yore by woman (when a third part of the sin of Brahmanicide of which Indra himself was guilty was cast upon her sex). There is no doubt that my mother is innocent.

Even assuming the woman is at fault, the Manusmṛti prescribes the following punishment.

If a woman, proud of relations and her qualities, passes over her husband, the king shall have her devoured by dogs in a place frequented by many. — (8.371)

Medhātithi's commentary (manubhāṣya):

‘Passing over’ means neglecting the husband and going over to another man; if a woman does this through ‘pride,’—the pride consisting in the idea,—‘I have several relations who are powerful and wealthy, and I myself am possessed of all the excellent qualities of a woman, such as beauty and love,—why then should I mind my character?’

Such women the king shall get devoured, till they die.

The Manu contradicts itself by also prescribing a simple prāyaścitta (atonement) for adultery:

If the wife is particularly corrupt, her husband should keep her confined in one room, and should make her perform that penance which has been prescribed for males in cases of adultery.—(11.176)

If she happens to be corrupted again, on being solicited by a man of equal caste,—then the Kṛcchra and the Cāndrāyaṇa would be the means prescribed for her purification.—(11.177)

Now according to this verse (from Viṣṇu Purāṇa) quoted in this answer, after having undergone a punishment or prāyaścitta for a sin on Earth, a second punishment ("double retribution") in hell doesn't apply:

yāvanto jantavaḥ svarge tāvanto narakaukasaḥ /
pāpakṛd yāti narakaṃ prāyaścittaparāṅmukhaḥ // ViP_2,6.36 //

(And through these stages) the beings that are either in heaven or in hell are destined to proceed, (until final emancipation be obtained.) That sinner goes to Naraka who neglects the due expiation of his guilt.

  • "The Manu contradicts itself by also prescribing a simple prāyaścitta (atonement) for adultery" - It's not contradicting itself; If the sinner doesn't do the prayaschitta, then the king has to punish, and if the king doesn't punish, the sinner gets punished in hell. Usually the king tells people to do prayaschitta before punishing them.
    – Ikshvaku
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 1:27
  • AFAIK, prāyaścitta is completely voluntary and a private matter. "If the sinner doesn't do the prayaschitta, then the king has to punish" - what's the source for this? @Ikshvaku Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 19:11
  • The shastras say the punishment of the king destroys the sins accrued from committing the crime: "Manu 7.25 - Where dark-complexioned and red-eyed Punishment stalks about, destroying sins, there the people are not misled, provided that the Governor discerns rightly." And: "11.99 - A Brāhmaṇa who has committed the theft of gold shall go to the King, and confessing his crime, shall say ‘sire, punish me.’", "Taking up a club, the King himself shall strike him once. The thief becomes purified by death; but the Brāhmaṇa by penance alone."
    – Ikshvaku
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 0:12
  • Both those references are not same as "If the sinner doesn't do the prayaschitta, then the king has to punish". Is the king supposed to run house to house and make note of everyone's sins for that day and their prāyaścittas? Besides capital punishment for adultery seems ridiculous. @Ikshvaku Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 3:13
  • There are more explicit verses but I have to find them. But anyways the prayaschitta serves the same goal as regal punishment, which is removal of sins, so only one or the other is done. And I don't believe the king personally does all the punishments, etc because it would be impractical for a large kingdom and he would just get his governors and executioners to work on his behalf.
    – Ikshvaku
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 17:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .