Nirṛti

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Nirṛti (निर्ऋति, sometimes spelled Nirruti or Nirriti) is a Hindu goddess, personifying death, decay and sorrows. In some Hindu scriptures, Nirṛti is associated with Adharma (immorality). In later Hinduism, Nirṛti and Nirṛta is also a male god, who is regarded as a dikapala ("guardian of the directions") of the southwest.

Etymology[edit]

The Sanskrit word Nirṛti means 'decay' and is derived from nirṛ (lit. 'to separate'). It can be interpreted as meaning "devoid of ṛta/i", a state of disorder or chaos.[1][2]

The name nirṛti has the meaning of "absence of ṛta", meaning 'disorder', or 'lawlessness', specifically the guardian to the absence of divine or cosmic disorder.[2][3]

This term was used in Vedic texts to indicate a realm of non-existence and absolute darkness, which threatened to consume those who failed in their duties to sacrifice and procreate. In nirṛti, there was no light, no food, and no children: none of the necessary elements of Vedic life and ritual[2]

Goddess[edit]

Nirṛti is mentioned in the hymns of the Rigveda, mostly to seek protection from her or imploring for her during a possible departure. In one hymn (X.59), she is mentioned several times. This hymn, after summing up her nature, also asks for her in departure from the sacrificial site. In the Atharvaveda (V.7.9), she is described as having golden locks. In the Taittiriya Brahmana (I.6.1.4), Nirṛtī is described as dark, dressed in dark clothes and her sacrificial shares are dark husks. In the sacred Shatapatha Brahmana (X.1.2.9), she is associated with the southwest quarter as her region. But elsewhere in the same text (V.2.3.3.) she is mentioned as living in the kingdom of the dead.[4][5][6]

In later Hindu texts, Nirṛti was re-conceptualized as a deity. According to some texts, she is the wife of evil Adharma (not-dharma) and the mother of three Rakshasas—Mrityu (death), Bhaya (fear) and Mahabhaya (terror)—who were collectively referred to as Nairrita.[7] In contrast, other texts portray her as the daughter of Adharma and Himsa (violence); she married her brother—Arita (not-ṛta) and became the mother of Naraka (personification of the hell) and Bhaya.[2][1] Some texts identify Nirṛti with other inauspicious goddess, Jyeshtha or Alakshmi. In this context, she is described to have emerged from the Samudra Manthan (the churning of the ocean).[8][9]

Dikpala[edit]

A painting of Nirrti, c. 1820. He is depicted riding a man and accompanied by servants.

Some authors including Suresh Chandra believe that the goddess Nirṛti transformed into a male in later Hindu mythology and became the Dikapala god.[10]

Nirrti is sometimes included as one of the Rudras and described as the son of Sthanu.[11][12][13] Varying descriptions of the god Nirṛti are found in different scriptures.[14] According to many texts including the agamas, he has a terrifying appearance. He is often depicted dark-skinned and has two or four arms. His vahana is a man.[15][16] He is the guardian (Dikapala) of the southwest direction. According to the scripture Devi-Bhagavata Purana, Nirṛti resides in a city named Krishnajana, which is located in the southwestern part of Mount Meru. The city is said to have an area of 2500 yojanas.[17]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b In Praise of the Goddess: The Devimahatmya and Its Meaning. Nicolas-Hays, Inc. 2003-12-01. ISBN 978-0-89254-616-9.
  2. ^ a b c d Witzel, Michael. “Macrocosm, Mesocosm, and Microcosm: The Persistent Nature of 'Hindu' Beliefs and Symbolic Forms.” International Journal of Hindu Studies, vol. 1, no. 3, 1997, pp. 501–539. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20106493. Accessed 10 Mar. 2020.
  3. ^ Chandra, Suresh (1998). Encyclopaedia of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Sarup & Sons. ISBN 978-81-7625-039-9.
  4. ^ Kinsley, David (1987, reprint 2005). Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-0394-9, p.13
  5. ^ Bhattacharji, Sukumari (2000). The Indian Theogony: Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva, New Delhi: Penguin, ISBN 0-14-029570-4, pp.80–1
  6. ^ Stutley, Margaret and James (2019-04-09). A Dictionary of Hinduism: Its Mythology, Folklore and Development 1500 B.C.-A.D. 1500. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-429-62754-5.
  7. ^ Mani, Vettam (1975). Puranic encyclopaedia : a comprehensive dictionary with special reference to the epic and Puranic literature. Robarts - University of Toronto. Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass. p. 540.
  8. ^ Benard, Elisabeth; Moon, Beverly (2000-09-21). Goddesses Who Rule. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-535294-8.
  9. ^ Daniélou, Alain (1991-12-01). The Myths and Gods of India: The Classic Work on Hindu Polytheism from the Princeton Bollingen Series. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-59477-733-2.
  10. ^ Chandra, Suresh (1998). Encyclopaedia of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Sarup & Sons. p. 238. ISBN 978-81-7625-039-9.
  11. ^ Dalal, Roshen (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books India. p. 283. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
  12. ^ Daniélou, Alain (1991). The Myths and Gods of India: The Classic Work on Hindu Polytheism from the Princeton Bollingen Series. Inner Traditions / Bear & Co. ISBN 978-0-89281-354-4.
  13. ^ Dikshitar, V. R. Ramachandra (1996-01-31). The Purana Index. Motilal Banarsidass Publishe. p. 246. ISBN 978-81-208-1273-4.
  14. ^ Rao, Saligrama Krishna Ramachandra (2003). Encyclopaedia of Indian Iconography: Hinduism - Buddhism - Jainism. Sri Satguru Publications. ISBN 978-81-7030-763-1.
  15. ^ Gopinatha Rao, T. A. (1916). Elements Of Hindu Iconography, Vol. II Part II.
  16. ^ Rodrigues, E. A. (1842). The Complete Hindoo Pantheon, Comprising the Principal Deities Worshipped by the Natives of British India Throughout Hindoostan: Being a Collection of the Gods and Goddesses Accompanied by a Succinct History and Descriptive of the Idols. E.A. Rodrigues.
  17. ^ Mani, Vettam (1975). Puranic encyclopaedia : a comprehensive dictionary with special reference to the epic and Puranic literature. Robarts - University of Toronto. Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass. p. 62, 540.

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