Garuḍa Purāṇa 20

Lord begins to describe the world of Yama, the god presiding over deaths. Distance between the earth and the world of Yama is 1,032,000 Kilometers. The path to the world of Yama, though not very hot, still cannot be traversed. Particularly those who have predominantly bad karmic accounts will find the path extremely difficult to pass through.  Apart from the heat, there are thorns as well.  The subtle bodies of the dead are drawn by the noose of Yama.  Though the distance is too long, there is no food or water available enroute.  There is no place to rest and one has to traverse the entire distance without food, water and rest. The journey to the world of Yama purely depends upon one’s karmic account.  Those with good karmas traverse the zone with ease and those with bad karmic account find the path extremely difficult.  They cry in pain and suffering with no one to listen to him. Even the ceremonies and oblations are of no avail to the sinners.

The world of Yama lies in the South West direction of the earth. It is square in shape with four gates. It is like a fort with seven layers of walls around 1200 KMs area. In the middle, there is a golden palace for Yama. He is an embodiment of virtue and upholds virtue at any cost.  A little away from the palace of Yama, there is the palace of Citragupta, his deputy. It is only Citragupta who decides the age of all the beings. He is the one who finally evaluates one’s karmic account, not only in his last birth, but during all of his previous births. (Karmic account arises only because of one’s mind.  Hence Karmic theory does not apply to any other beings other than the humans.  Liberation is possible only during human birth.) Based upon one’s karmic account, his/her subtle body is either tortured or rested in a place of pleasure. 

The Lord then proceeds to talk about good and bad karmas. Gifts to the deserving, reciting mantras of Iṣṭadevata (one’s desired deity), planting of trees, digging tanks and bore wells, gifting fire woods or any other fuels during winter, gifting lands, etc cause good karmas. When the son performs śrāddha rituals, the dead ancestor derives pleasure, who moves around only with his subtle body. At the time of cremation and during the initial ten days, if water oblations are made, the dead goes to the world Yama with a little comfort. The subtle body of the dead drinks milk in the first three days, hence, milk should be offered as oblation. During the first three hours, the subtle body drinks a lot of water and hence more water should be offered during this period. After ten day ritual is completed, the subtle body of the dead is ready to enter the new body. The Lord also says that the merits of śrāddha rituals reach the subtle body of the dead whether it is reborn or not. After performing the eleventh day ceremony, all the impurities accruing on account of the death go. Whoever performs the first day śrāddha ritual should perform the tenth day ritual also.

Like the foetus taking ten months to become a fully developed human form, the subtle body takes ten days to fully develop.  The subtle body gradually attains its full form due to the performance of śrāddha rituals offering piṇḍas and water oblations.  All the goods used by the dead should be gifted to the deserving ones. Lord permits women to perform all the rituals. On the twelfth day, a ritual called sapiṇḍana where six equal sized piṇḍas and one big piṇḍa are prepared and clubbed together to signify that the preta body of the dead attains pitṛhood. If sapiṇḍana ritual is not formed on the twelfth day, there is no point in performing any other rituals including yearly rituals.