Although it might look a bit kiddish I am curious to know is there any description present in any of the Hindu scriptures that tells us about where the heaven and hell actually are. I have heard sometime that it's closer to Himalayas, or it's just a plain thought. Also, I have heard that there are various realms in both heaven and hell where a person ascends/descends based on his karma.

There are some texts which tell the distance between the earth and the sun like 'Yug Sahastra Yojan par bhanu' in Hanuman Chalisa. Is there any such text about Heaven and Hell's distance from earth?

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    By the way, if you're interested in the various places people end up in based on their Karma, you may want to read the Mahabharata chapter in my question here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/7138/36 – Keshav Srinivasan May 12 '15 at 14:44
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  • @KeshavSrinivasan here it is mentioned in atharva Veda. “This gold-hued Hansa’s wings, soaring to heaven, spread over a thousand days’ continued journey, supporting all the Gods upon his bosom; he goes his way beholding every creature.” [Atharva Ved Kaand 13; Sookt 2; Mantra 38] “For the heavenly world is at a distance of about thousand days’ travelling on a horseback (ashveen)” [Aitareya Brahman- Panicka 2: Paragraph 17 – user9554 Jun 23 '17 at 7:59

This chapter of the Vishnu Purana describes the distances to the various Lokas above the Earth:

The sphere of the earth (or Bhúr-loka), comprehending its oceans, mountains, and rivers, extends as far as it is illuminated by the rays of the sun and moon; and to the same extent, both in diameter and circumference, the sphere of the sky (Bhuvar-loka) spreads above it (as far upwards as to the planetary sphere, or Swar-loka). The solar orb is situated a hundred thousand leagues from the earth; and that of the moon an equal distance from the sun. At the same interval above the moon occurs the orbit of all the lunar constellations. The planet Budha (Mercury) is two hundred thousand leagues above the lunar mansions. Śukra (Venus) is at the same distance from Mercury. Angáraka (Mars) is as far above Venus; and the priest of the gods (Vrihaspati, or Jupiter) as far from Mars: whilst Saturn (Sani) is two hundred and fifty thousand leagues beyond Jupiter. The sphere of the seven Rishis (Ursa Major) is a hundred thousand leagues above Saturn; and at a similar height above the seven Rishis is Dhruva (the pole-star), the pivot or axis of the whole planetary circle. Such, Maitreya, is the elevation of the three spheres (Bhúr, Bhuvar, Swar) which form the region of the consequences of works. The region of works is here (or in the land of Bhárata).

Above Dhruva, at the distance of ton million leagues, lies the sphere of saints, or Mahar-loka, the inhabitants of which dwell in it throughout a Kalpa, or day of Brahmá. At twice that distance is situated Janaloka, where Sanandana and other pure-minded sons of Brahmá, reside. At four times the distance, between the two last, lies the Tapo-loka (the sphere of penance), inhabited by the deities called Vaibhrájas, who are unconsumable by fire. At six times the distance (or twelve Crores, a hundred and twenty millions of leagues) is situated Satya-loka, the sphere of truth, the inhabitants of which never again know death.

Note that "league" is just how they're translating the word "Yojana". Also, the order of these Lokas from lowest to highest is Bhuloka (where we live), Bhuvarloka, Svarga (i.e. Devaloka or heaven), Maharloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka, and Satyaloka (i.e. Brahmaloka). (These are the seven Lokas we mention in the Pranayamam mantra, if you've ever done Sandhyavandanam.)

In any case, if we go by what the translator tells us in a footnote, then the realm of Devaloka extends from a distance of 100,000 Yojanas all the way up to the pole star.

Now this chapter describes the seven Patala Lokas beneath the Earth:

The extent of the surface of the earth has been thus described to you, Maitreya. Its depth below the surface is said to be seventy thousand Yojanas, each of the seven regions of Pátála extending downwards ten thousand.... Below the seven Pátálas is the form of Vishńu, proceeding from the quality of darkness, which is called Śesha, the excellencies of which neither Daityas nor Dánavas can fully enumerate. This being is called Ananta by the spirits of heaven, and is worshipped by sages and by gods. He has a thousand heads, which are embellished with the pure and visible mystic sign: and the thousand jewels in his crests give light to all the regions.

And then this chapter describes the realms of Yamaloka, where people are punished for sins, and which lie below the seven Patala Lokas and Vishnu's serpent Adiseshan:

I will now, great Muni, give you an account of the hells which are situated beneath the earth and beneath the waters, and into which sinners are finally sent.

The names of the different Narakas are as follows: Raurava, Śúkara, Rodha, Tála, Viśasana, Mahájwála, Taptakumbha, Lavańa, Vimohana, Rudhirándha, Vaitaraní, Krimíśa, Krimibhojana, Asipatravana, Krishńa, Lálábhaksha, Dáruńa, Púyaváha, Pápa, Vahnijwála, Adhośiras, Sandansa, Kálasútra, Tamas, Avíchi, Śwabhojana, Apratisht́ha, and another Avíchi. These and many other fearful hells are the awful provinces of the kingdom of Yama, terrible with instruments of torture and with fire; into which are hurled all those who are addicted when alive to sinful practices.

It's also worth noting that Yamaloka is described as lying to the South, whatever that means. For instance, in this chapter of the Kishkindha Khanda of the Ramayana, when Sugriva gives instructions to the Vanaras on how to search for Sita in different directions, he says that if they keep proceeding South they'll eventually reach Yamaloka:

After that, farther from earth there is the most dreadful world of manes, namely the abode of Yama, the Terminator, and you need not consider going there. You can go or search only up to this point, oh, the best braving vanara-s, as that world of manes will be encompassed with an alarming darkness, and it is the capital city of Yama, the Terminator. After that there is no entry into the abode of Yama for the mortals.

I should add that while these passages discuss spatial separations, personally I don't think these Lokas are actually in our physical universe; in addition to spatial separation they might also be located in separate universes, but that's just speculation on my part.

  • Very nice answer Keshav. That tells a lot. And I am wondering how much calculative the people might be in past when they found the distance between planets even when they donot have all the modern equipments and computers like today to calculate for you. Its a really nice answer. Thanks again. – Aby May 13 '15 at 14:34
  • @Aby You're welcome. Yeah, mathematics was quite sophisticated back then; just read the astronomical calculations given in the Surya Siddhanta. By the way, one thing that's confusing in the passage is the claim that the Sun is closer to the Earth than than Moon and Mercury are. But of course the Sun is actually farther away. I'm not sure how to interpret that. – Keshav Srinivasan May 13 '15 at 14:47
  • A Book by Richard Thomson called "Vedic Cosmology", describes what exactly these distance really mean. Also He describes , how exactly one can call why moon is ABOVE sun , even though moon is nearer to earth. – tekkk May 14 '15 at 4:09
  • One can even refer to Arjuna's travel to devaloka in Mahabharata and what direction he went – tekkk May 14 '15 at 4:10
  • @sysinit I've read Thompson's book, but I profoundly disagree with it. Thompson subscribes to the ISKCON view, according to which Bharata Varsha refers to the Earth, Jambudvipa refers to something even beyond that, etc. I think that's a strained reading of Hindu scripture, and moreover, Thompson is concerned with supplanting the modern astronomical view with the ISKCON view, rather than showing that Hinduism is consistent with the modern astronomical view. So I think Thompson is mistaken in a lot of ways. – Keshav Srinivasan May 14 '15 at 4:24

The Upanishads do speak of heavens (lokas), the heaven of brahma and the heaven of the fathers. Some people believe that the lokas referred to in scripture are actual places that exist in the material universe. Others believe that the lokas exist on a different vibrational level than the material universe, as you go there in a subtle body. If it is a different vibrational level, the heavens are all around us, you don't go anywhere. You just don't have the subtle senses developed to see them. For instance, some commentators when translating chandraloka, translate it as the loka of the moon plane and not the loka on the moon.

Regardless, if here or there, you go there in your subtle body not your material body.

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    Thanks for your reply but I was actually looking for reference in scriptures related to the location. Also, for your statement, 'you go there in your subtle body not your material body'. This is not always true, as can be seen in case of Yudhishthir and Trishanku. They went in their mortal bodies in heaven. – Aby May 12 '15 at 8:12

For this kind of questions, you get 'N' number of answers. All the answers are to their perspectives and their experience gained. Neither i gained nor experienced more about it. But i want to share something interesting and weird scripts written in Garuda Purana

The journey to hell or heaven takes almost 48 days with our subtle body or so called soul. So in this journey, we will find 12 suns of burning heat and also need to cross Sowparnika River which is made up of complete blood,flesh and bones of human. And also while attaining this journey, there is also plenty of punishments as stated in it for every sin. So after completion of this 48 journey, Man will re-take the birth again. Its a chain...

So according to me, Heaven or Hell is Invisible to our bare eyes either it is found here near Himalayas or somewhere else outside the earth or an different planet. Nobody sure, all talks are scriptless and proofless. And each person's experience cannot be explained and also just cant be ignored. Science may daily evolve, but nature and its mystery always ranks on top of it.

  • Thanks Mithun, I know the topic is more speculative than scripted but just trying to find out what all relevant to this is scripted. The Himalyas point I coined because that was the way chosen by Pandavs to reach Heaven with their material body, so either it might be near from that place or it is at an altitude above the earth so Himalyas being above the normal ground level can be right place to set off. As you have found some reference, I am sure there must be some other texts also which talks something about it – Aby May 12 '15 at 11:32
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    @Aby I don't think proximity or altitude have anything to do with it. The point of the Swargarohini mountains is that if you're not worthy then you'll fall off, so that only the worthy ones will be taken by Indra's Vimana. – Keshav Srinivasan May 14 '15 at 4:11

Well in Puranas you will get a detailed description of both heaven and hell. Heaven is attained when you do good karma here and hell when you end up in bad karmas. Example: Yudhistira saw hell for his 'Ashwathama hatha kunjaraha' comment, and them came to heaven to be with his family.

But the point to be noted here is that there is NO mention of both Heaven and Hell's distance from earth. Also to be noted here is that Upanishads neither speak of heaven or hell. They speak of Brahman which is beyond both heaven and hell(positives's and negative's)

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