In Hinduism, we have many heavens. Swarga Loka, or heaven as is commonly understood is one of the seven lokas or planes in Hindu cosmology. Sequentially they are:
- Bhu loka (Prithvi Loka, Earth)
- Bhuvar loka
- Swarga loka
- Mahar loka
- Jana loka
- Tapa loka
- Satyaloka or Brahmaloka, that is the highest.
Swarga is a heaven where those who have lead righteous lives move into this plane of paradise before their next reincarnation. During each pralaya or the great flood or dissolution, the first three realms are destroyed… Bhu loka (Earth), Bhuvar loka and Swarga loka.
Below all these upper realms or heavens with earth in the middle, lie the realms of Patala, the underworld and netherworld.
Swarga is seen as a transitory place for righteous souls who have performed good deeds in their lives but are not yet ready to attain moksha, or salvation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. When the soul completely merges with the divine, then there is no birth.
The three important aspects of life on earth or even the universe is creation, existence and termination. The Hindu Trinity assigns Lords to these three processes and we have Brahma the creator, Vishnu the Caretaker/Protector/Preserver and Shiva the terminator or destroyer. Shiva however is the family man with a wife and two sons with their own consorts as well. Vishnu takes many forms from the basic amphibian, to the animal, half-animal-hald man, the Neanderthal, pigmy and then the highly evolved human form. His vaathar in the future is going to be somewhat like an alien-extra terrestrial being who will ride a horse to save the world from all its troubles.
Vaikunta, the abode of Lord Vishnu is considered to be the Supreme Abode as the Rig Veda (1.22.20) states. “Oṃ tad viṣṇoḥ paramam padam sadā paśyanti sūrayaḥ” meaning “All the suras or devas (godly ones) look towards the feet of Lord Vishnu as the Supreme Abode. The capital of Swarga is Amaravati and its entrance is guarded by Airavata, the white elephant. Swarga lok is presided over by Indra, the Chief Deva (God) and he too is somebody who is replaced after a time by another Indra.
Vaikuntha is a place that is beyond the sky, firmament or material world. Vaikunta planets are estimated to be located 26,200,000 yojanas (209,600,000 miles) above Satyaloka.
Mount Kailash, Tibetan: Kangrinboqê or Gang Rinpoche is a peak in the Kailas Range (Gangdisê Mountains), which are part of the Trans- Himalaya in Tibet. It lies near the source of some of the longest rivers in Asia: the Indus River, the Sutlej River (a major tributary of the Indus River), the Brahmaputra River, and the Karnali River (a tributary of the Ganges River). It is considered a sacred place in four religions: Bön, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. The mountain lies near Lake Manasarovar and Lake Rakshastal in Tibet.
According to Hinduism, Lord Shiva, the destroyer of ignorance and illusion, resides at the summit of this legendary mountain named Kailāsa, where he sits in a state of perpetual meditation along with his wife Pārvatī. Devotees of Lord Shiva pray to merge with his divinity after death.
According to Charles Allen, one description in the Vishnu Purana of the mountain states that its four faces are made of crystal, ruby, gold, and lapis lazuli. It is a pillar of the world and is located at the heart of six mountain ranges symbolizing a lotus.
When people became old after having fulfilled their family responsibilities, they would distribute all their goods, personal belongings and turn their footsteps towards North and set out for Kailas. This was renunciation at its best. On their journey North they would eat and sleep in religious places, temples, free dormitories and plod on. The place where they collapsed would be their Swarga and the bodies were disposed off by local people who had no connection to them at all. That too was part of their punya—for the dead to have somebody take care of their last rites and for the performer of those rites as he had nothing to gain from it—the ultimate in service as it were.
To Hindus, Devaloka is a plane of blissful existence that can be reached by being attuned to the light of eternal bliss and goodness. However, to become more enlightened, a soul must return to a life on Earth, until all the learning possibilities have been exhausted. Then, any other lives become unnecessary and liberation (moksha) is achieved. When that happens, the practitioner can even reach higher planes, such as Vaikunta and Sivaloka or Kailasam, the abode of Lord Shiva and become one with Vishnu and Shiva.
In Buddhism, a deva loka is a dwelling place of the Buddhist devas. The worlds of the devas differ greatly from each other depending on the nature of their inhabitants
This topic seems to have been planned to help me go through a very difficult time. My
family has just lost a wonderful friend. Balasubramaniam was the senior-most bureaucrat in the Central Board of Direct Taxes in the Indian Government. He retired as Chairman of the CBDT Board with not a single finger raised against his integrity, honesty or veracity—a completely rare condition in a country plagued by corruption at all levels in the IT department especially. Baluli, as we had affectionately nicknamed him took on the responsibility of his aging parents, his brothers, their families, his wife’s family and after retirement, the problems and issues that plagued their village in South India.
His wife Gnanam is my soul mate as only 4 days separate our age—she being older.