Definition - What does Preta Loka mean?
According to Hindu cosmology, the universe is divided into multiple worlds known as Loka. It is believed that when the physical body dies, the soul travels through several sub-worlds, the first of which is Preta Loka.
Preta Loka is a lower realm, in which departed spirits reside after physical death and prior to judgement in Naraka Loka. Directly translated from Sanskrit, Preta Loka means 'world of the dead,' but it is otherwise known as 'world of the departed' or 'world of the spirits'.
Yogapedia explains Preta Loka
Preta Loka is described in Vedic texts as a stage between death and rebirth. The gross physical world, known as Bhu Loka, is divided into four sub-worlds: Martya Loka, (where the soul lives in a physical body) Preta Loka, (the first resting place for the soul after physical death), Naraka Loka, (where the soul faces judgement) and Pitra Loka, (where the soul experiences their karma).
In Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and several other folk religions, Preta are understood to be 'hungry' or unhappy spirits. One becomes a Preta once the physical body has died, and remains so until judgement has been passed and re-birth determined. As such, spirits reside in Preta Loka only temporarily, after which they pass to Naraka Loka to serve their Karmic sentence prior to re-birth.