In my local community area, the recitation and listening of the Garuda Purana from the 8th to the 11th day ( within the 12 day period of after-death rituals for the deceased) by the family priest and family members respectively, forms an integral part of the afterlife rituals to be performed.

Vaitaraṇî River ( वैतरणी नदी) has been a term, I have encountered quite often. It's kind of an equivalent of the Styx river found in other religions. While the basic paradigm for it as I have always known is: it's a river (instead of water although, it contains all sort of litter) one has to cross to reach the abode of the Yama.

The Wikipedia article cites the rivers' mention in several of the puranas like skanda purana and Itihaasa - Mahabharata.

However, other texts like the Harihareshwara Mahatmya in the Skanda Purana mention a physical river as well, that joins in the eastern ocean; he who bathes in it is supposed to forever be free from the torment of Yama. It first appears in the Tirtha Yatra Parva (Pilgrimage Episode) of the Mahabharat, where it is mentioned to be rising from the Vindhyas and falling into the Bay of Bengal after passing through Orissa as present Baitarani River.


Apart from that it appears in Matsya Purana, and Vamana Purana, lastly it is the Padma Purana which reveals the etymology of Vaitarani in Vaitarani Mahatmya, where it is defined as Vai (truly) tarini (saving) and that related the legend wherein it was brought on to the earth from Patala, due to the penance of Parashurama resulting in a boon from Shiva.

So here are my several questions:

  1. What are the various stories and the significance of Vaitarani river, as per various puranas ? How is this river situated in the Yamaloka in terms of flow and orientation, direction, etc? What is It's source and destination-end? For ex:- Like almost all rivers, does it ultimately drain in some (divine) sea, considering the river itself is divine? If yes, which one?
  2. Does this river finds any mention in any of the Vedic Literature?
  3. What are the associated legends of the Baitarani River in Odisha, as per various puranas and or local puranas or folklore.
  4. How and why did Parashuram had to bring it from Patala? And if that river existed in Patalaloka, then why it says the river is in the narakaloka? Why such anomaly?
  5. It also says that the river looks different to the sinner and the pious. However, only the sinners are brought through the South door of the Yamaloka, which is where the river is said to flow. If so, why would or how would ever a pious person look at the river, if they are never brought through the south door?
  6. Considering Garuda Purana, is a predominantly Vaishanavite purana, How authoritative is the premise of this river and subsequently the Garuda purana as beliefs systems, across various sects and Schools?
  7. Lastly, I have heard several interpretation of this river in terms of the metaphysical and spiritual meaning (lakṣyārtha). One being:- "It's representative of the delusion of all materiality of this samsara, which is equivalent to the litter found in the river." Any help in the form of commentaries by eminent personalities or scriptural references, regarding same will be appreciated.


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