How can one save oneself from going to hell ? What are the ways from which one can save himself from hell ?
Here are some generalized guidelines from the Skanda Mahā-Purāṇa, which discuss ways to avoid the pangs of hell.
Chapter 227 - Means to Save One from Tortures in Hells, Tīrtha-māhātmya, Nāgara-khaṇḍa
- Fear has gripped me after listening to the description of the Narakas. O king, how can even those persons be liberated who have committed sins? Is it through Vratas, observances of restraints, Homas or by resorting to holy centres and shrines?
- If bones of the men are cast into Gaṅgā the Naraka (hellish) fire is incapable of adversely affecting those people remaining in between (dead but not having attained the final results of Karmas).
- If Śrāddha is performed in Gaṅgā by the sons (and descendants in their name,) those ancestors go beyond the Naraka, after being seated in an aerial chariot.
- After committing a sin, O king, if the people perform expiatory rites as laid down or make gifts of gold, they will not fall into Naraka.
- The remaining ones attain Svarga or Naraka in accordance with their Karma, O king.
- Those who die in front of their master in Dhārātīrtha (holy Tīrtha in the form of battle) (i.e. those who die in battle on behalf of their king) attain the greatest goal far beyond Naraka.
- He who casts off his body in Vārāṇasī, Kurukṣetra, Naimiṣa, Nāgarapura (i.e. Vadnagara), Prayāga or Prabhāsa will never see Naraka even if he has incurred Mahāpātakas (great sins).
- If one’s own son performs the rite of Utsarga (dedicatory release) of a dark bull along with the celebration of its marriage with a heifer, he will never see Naraka even if he happens to be a Brāhmaṇa-slayer.
- After adopting Prāyopaveśana (religious fast unto death) with due meditation on Janārdana, if a person casts off his life, he never sees Naraka.
- Those who perform Prāyopaveśana in the holy shrine Citreśvara will never fall into Naraka.
- He who serves food in time or out of time to the distressed, the blind and the miserable while they are going on a pilgrimage and are excessively fatigued on the way, never sees a hell.
- He who makes the gift of Jaladhenu (water in the shape of a cow’s mouth) when the Sun is in Taurus or Tiladhenu (gingelly seeds in the shape of a cow) when the Sun is in Capricorn never sees Naraka.
- By viewing Somanātha on a Monday or at the time of lunar eclipse and by taking the holy dip in the ocean or in Sarasvatī, one never goes to hell.
- He who takes his holy bath in river Sannihiti in Kurukṣetra on a Sunday when there is solar eclipse (when Rāhu swallows the Sun), never sees Naraka.
- He who silently circumambulates Tripuṣkara on Full-Moon day in the month of Kārttika when the constellation is Kṛttikā, never sees Naraka.
- Those who view Caṇḍīśa at the time of the transit of the Sun into Capricorn on a Sunday, never fall into hell.
- O king, those who save a cow from quagmire, a Brāhmaṇa lady from slavery, good people from a thief, a Brāhmaṇa from murder, never fall into hell.
- Thus, O king, everything I was asked has been narrated to you, viz. How a man falls into hell even if he commits a minor sin and how he avoids falling therein by means of his (good) activities.
English Translation by G.V. Tagare.
So basically we may summarize some ways to save oneself from hells, as per the Skanda Purāṇa, as follows -
Performing acts of peity like charity, penance, vrata, fasts, homa, etc.
Saving cows, Brahminas, and the weak.
Visiting sacred places and taking bath in sacred rivers during special festivities or tithis.
Righteous conduct conducive to one's varnaashrama dharma. For instance - a Kshatriya dying in a battle field attains Heaven, since he followed his dharma.
After death rituals being duly performed for the deceased by his sons, etc.
Casting one's body in sacred cities /towns or tirthas.
If a sin is committed, then if expiations are duly done for it as laid down in the Shastras, then that sin will nullify and hell maybe avoided.