Deathly Realms, sorrow
Nirṛti (निरृति) is the Hindu goddess of deathly hidden realms and sorrows, one of the dikpāla ("guardians of the directions"), representing the southwest. The name nirhti has the meaning of "absence of ṛta", meaning 'disorder', or 'lawlessness', specifically the absence of divine or cosmic order.
Nirṛtī is a Ketu-ruled nakshatra in the Vedic astrology, strongly associated with Kali in the form of Dhumavati. Nirṛtī is mentioned in a few 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.
"Alakshmim krishnavarnamcha krodhanam kalahapriyam,
Krishnavastram paridhanam lauhavaranabhushitam.
Vagnasanasham dwibhujam sharkaraghrishtachandanam,
samarjanisabyastahastam dakshina hastasurpakam.
Tailavyangitagatramcha gardhavaroham bhaje."
The goddess has a dark black complexion, and she is similar to Kali. Nirṛtī is also similar to Mahavidya Dhumavati. She is also named Alakshmi, and she wears a black dress and iron ornaments. She uses a large crow as her vehicle. She holds a scimitar.
In the Vedas, Nirṛti represented the lightless realm of disorder that was held at bay by ṛta and the Vedic rituals. In later Hindu thought, this realm of non-existence was replaced with various hell realms, and Nirṛti was re-conceptualized as a deity- the daughter of Adharma (the embodiment of non-dharmic behavior) and mother of Naraka, a personification of the hell realms.
In Puranic story, Nirṛtī is known as Alakshmi. When the ocean was churned to get ambrosia, the venom kalakuta released from that a goddess was born known as Nirṛtī. After that Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, was born. So Nirṛtī is considered as the elder sister of Lakshmi. Lakshmi presides on wealth, and Nirṛtī presides on sorrows that is why she is called Alakshmi. Lakshmi married Vishnu.
Pronunciation and etymology
Her name's correct original pronunciation is three syllables with all vowels short: "Ni-rṛ-ti"; the first 'r' is a consonant, and the second 'r' is a vowel as in "grrr". A common modern Indian pronunciation is "Nir-ri-ti".
The name Nirṛti can be interpreted as meaning "devoid of ṛta/i", a state of disorder or chaos. 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
In popular culture
In the video game Ninja Gaiden 2, the dual-wielded swords have a technique called Blade of Nirrti.
In Roger Zelazny's novel Lord of Light, set on a world where humans with vastly advanced technology have set themselves up as the gods of Hinduism, Nirriti the Black is one of their enemies. In that work, Nirrti is male, and actually a Christian clergyman.
In the TV series Stargate SG-1, Nirrti — played by Jacqueline Samuda — is a Goa'uld System Lord who has taken on the persona of the Hindu goddess in order to enslave the populations of some planets and force them to worship her. She experimented on humans in order to create and exploit advanced humans, which she continued to do up until she was killed by one of the subjects of her experiments.
- 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.
- 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
- Bhattacharji, Sukumari (2000). The Indian Theogony: Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva, New Delhi: Penguin, ISBN 0-14-029570-4, pp.80–1