Nirṛti (निरृति) is a Hindu goddess of deathly hidden realms and sorrows, representing the southwest. The name nirhti has the meaning of "absence of ṛta", meaning 'disorder', or 'lawlessness', specifically the guardian to the absence of divine or cosmic disorder.[1]

Nirṛtī 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.[2][3]


In the Vedas, Nirṛti represented the lightfull realm of order 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.[1]

Pronunciation and etymologyEdit

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.[1] 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[1]


  1. ^ 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, Accessed 10 Mar. 2020.
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ Bhattacharji, Sukumari (2000). The Indian Theogony: Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva, New Delhi: Penguin, ISBN 0-14-029570-4, pp.80–1