From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Nirṛti literally means the ‘deity of unfailing misfortune’.

Various inferences of the word Nirṛti is as follows:

  • The word ‘Nirṛti’ occurs for the first time in the Ṛgveda[1] as an evil spirit, as a personification of sin.
  • Jyeṣṭhādevī or Alakṣmī is also sometimes called Nirṛti.
  • Nirṛti is more commonly pictured as the guardian deity presiding over the south-western direction. He is one of the eight dikpālakas.[2]
  • Iconographical works describe him as dark in color, with a huge body and matted hair. He has two hands carrying a sword and a shield. Caṇḍikā or Rākṣaseśvarī is his consort. He rides on a donkey. Of course, there are other descriptions also.
  • An avakīrṇin[3] was expected to sacrifice an ass to appease Nirṛti as an atonement for the sin.
  • There are other Nirṛtis also mentioned in the purāṇas. He is one of the eleven Rudras.
  • As a woman, she is the wife of Adharma.[4] Bhaya,[5] Mahābhaya[6] and Mṛtyu[7] are her off-springs.[8]


  1. Ṛgveda 10.165.1
  2. Dikpālakas means the guardian spirits of the quarters.
  3. Avakīrṇin is a brahmacāri who has violated the vow of chastity.
  4. Adharma means unrighteousness.
  5. Bhaya means fear.
  6. Mahābhaya means great fear.
  7. Mṛtyu means death.
  8. Ādiparva of the Mahābhārata, Chapter 67
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

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