Nirrti, the Presiding Deity of Mula Nakshatra & Dikpalaka
(Compilation for a discourse by N.R. Srinivasan, Nashville, TN, September 2017)
Nirrti is Hindu (Vedic and Puranic) destructive Goddess of darkness, whose name means destruction. She is associated with pain, misfortune and death, and is much feared by many Hindus. Nirrti (also: Nirriti) also features in the group of Ashta Dikpalakas.
She is the guardian or regent of the South-West and is often featured in temple iconography. For example, the Rajarani Temple outside Bhubaneswar features a statue of Nirrti controlling the South-West direction. She is depicted on this temple holding a sword and a severed head, and standing over a prostrate body, may be representing Kaali.
Contemporary texts tend to portray Nirriti as demonic or destructive and she is often linked to Kaali, Alakshmi or Dhumavati. David Kinsley, in his book on the Mahavidyas, contends that there is little evidence to suggest that Kaali is related to Nirrti, but opines that Dhumvati is an “amalgamation” of the qualities of Nirrti, Jyestha and Alakshmi. Arthur Avalon, writing in Shakti and Shakta does stress that Nirrti is both “goddess of misfortune” and also the “remover” of misfortunes like Vighnesvara.
Generally, Nirrti is associated with calamity & misfortune; death (particularly untimely death); poverty and infertility. There are also some indications that she is associated with stealing children. The Rakshasas – with whom she is associated – are related to disrupting the sacrificial rituals. Nirriti is mentioned as demon at many places in Valmiki Ramayana that refers to many aliens in God’s creation.
In the Rig Veda Nirriti is the personification of destruction, calamity, corruption and death. She is also however, the abode or place of dissolution or decay. A verse in the RV (RV 7.104.1,9-11) describes the ‘realm’ of Nirriti as an endless pit without light or warmth – a place reserved for those who act against the basic ideals of Vedic society. Those who are condemned to the realm of Nirriti neither receive nourishment from the offerings of their descendants nor from their own accumulated merit. The following mantra from Srisukta is worth mentioning here:
kṣhutpipāsāmalāṁ jyeṣṭhām alakṣmīṁ nāśayāmyaham,
abhūtimasamṛddhiṁ cha sarvāṁ nirṇuda me gṛihāt.
I shall venerate the elder sister of Lakshmi, Alakshmi, the embodiment of inauspiciousness and such evil as hunger, thirst, and the like for extinguishing such qualities from me. O Lakshmi! Drive out from my abode all misfortune and poverty.
In the Mahabharata Nirriti is the wife of Adharma (unrighteousness) and the mother of three sons: Bhaya (“fear”); Maha-Bhaya (“great fear”) and Mrityu (“death incarnate”). Another version of this text says that she is the daughter of Adharma and Himsa (“violence or injury”). She is also however, one of the creations of Brahma, as recounted in the Bhagavatam:
“Here is the story of Nirrti. Brahma’s creative energy was showing on his body and mind. Narada popped out from the lap, Daksa trotted out of his thumb, Vasistha spiraled out of his breath, Bhrigu crawled out of his skin, Kratu muscled his way out of his hand, Pulaha sprouted out of his navel, Pulastya wriggled out of his ear, Angira gushed out of his mouth, Atri brimmed over the eyelid, Marichi dawned out of his mind, Dharma burst out of his right breast, Adharma scratched his way out of his back, the god of love (Kāma) blossomed out of his heart, Anger bounced off his brow, Greed gyrated on his upper lip, the goddess of Speech (Vak) vaulted out his of mouth with the aid of a pole of nimble wit, the oceans rained down from his phallus, Nirrti plunked out of his anus, and the sage Kardama stepped out of his shadow. Dharma was Lord Narāyana Himself. Thus, Brahma’s creations came out of his body and mind.”
According to the Agni Purana the spirit of the “doer of bad deeds” leaves the body through the anus. The implication is that if the Jiva leaves the body through the lower orifices (rather than, for example, the head) then the future of the Jiva is bound to the lower worlds.
In a section of the Taittiriya Samhita which lists the various animals to be sacrificed to the gods, the pigeon, owl and the hare are listed as being sacrifices to Nirrti. Both pigeons and owls were considered to be inauspicious birds and there are is charm in the Atharva Veda which refers to the pigeon as the “messenger of Nirrti”. There are folk stories in North India in which Bhutas – believed to be the spirits of those who have suffered untimely deaths – take on the form of owls (ulluka). In the Dharmasastras, the cry of an owl is considered an inauspicious sign – a student of the Vedas who hears the owl is enjoined not to continue his studies until he has slept.
The association of owls and Nirrti is quite interesting, as later, the owl becomes the vehicle of Lakshmi. This might be an instance of the goddess “conquering” an animal associated with misfortune or delusion and taking it as her vehicle – as with Ganesha and the rat/mouse.
In later texts Nirriti seems to change sex – for example the Mahanirvana Tantra describes Nirriti as a god of dark green hue, seated upon a horse and bearing a sword.
In Vedic astrology Mula is ruled by Nirriti, the Goddess of destruction. It has the power to ruin or destroy. Its basis above is breaking things apart (Barhana shakti). Its basis below is crushing things. Through these three one gains the power to destroy destruction.
“In bringing afflictions Mula Nakshatra allows us to destroy their root, as long as they don’t overcome us. It shows the necessary destruction to proceed a new creation. Nirriti is Alakshmi or the denial of Lakshmi (abundance and prosperity). She is Kaali or the negative effect of time that we must protect ourselves from or use to our advantage” says David Frawley.
Going through Vedic astrology of 27 Nakshatras (Birth stars) Grahas that are concerned with our lives are Sun, Moon, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and Earth (Sun, the Star, five planets and the Satellite of the Earth, the Moon). I wonder why the days were not named after these 7 astral bodies and also worshiped as Saptagrahas; only Sun, Moon and Jupiter find place in present day Navagraha altars. However Hindu daily worship rituals include Indra (Neptune), Varuna (Uranus) Prajapati (Pluto), Bhoomi (Earth), though they do not figure among Navagrahas. Vedic Astrology has not mentioned about Rahu and Ketu Grahas of Puranas as presiding deities of any Birth star from among 27. According to Modern astrology Mula Nakshatra is presided by the demon Ketu.
Mula Nakshatra born people are very powerful, assertive, self-standing and easily overcome all hurdles on their way. Hanuman as well as Ravana are born on Mula Nakshatra and both were themselves responsible for their destiny. One chose the power of destruction and the other the power of devotion!
RAVANA, the mightiest Titan King and sorcerer of Silver Age was born in Mula Nakshatra. As narrated in Ramayana, he gained immense power and lordship over the three worlds through rigorous penances aimed at pleasing Lord Shiva. This shows Mula's ability to gain power on a universal level through a close association with the root forces. He however fell prey to the haughty, bashful and unwise aspect of Mula energy and met his end as a villain in the hands of Rama, the 7th incarnation of Vishnu according to his Karmaphala. He was born with Rajoguna dominating.
See the contrast. Lord Hanuman also born in Mula Nakshatra is an ardent devotee of Lord Sri Rama and is widely known for his unflinching devotion to Sri Rama. He is Chirnjeevi and came out victorious on many situations threatened with death— challenge with Sun, Simhika, burning of his tail in Lanka-dahana etc. Hanuman is the symbol of strength and energy. He is said to be able to assume any form at will, wield the mace (including many celestial weapons), move mountains, dart through the air, seize the clouds and equally rival Garuda in swiftness of flight. Lord Hanuman is worshiped as a deity with the ability to attain victory against evil and provide protection. He was born with Sattvaguna predominating and with lot of good Sanchita Karma and continued with ascending spiritual goal and achieved the status of Chiranjeevi to be ever present with us. This clearly shows in whatever situation you are born you are still bound by your Karma which you can shape by your own strong determination or spoil it by your own will.
Nirriti is said to be the chief of the demons in Puranas. Ramayana often refers to Nairritis as ogres. He may be riding on a donkey, lion or a man and surrounded by the demons and seven Apsaras. The intermediate direction of South-west is ruled by Nirrti. While Puranas describe Nirrti as male demon Vedic astrology describes Nirrti as female deity. Modern astrologers identify Nirriti as Ketu Graha which is not a planet that is also not at all mentioned in Vedic astrology. Horoscope studies on birth star and predictions of the future are based on studying the life of great people born on a specific Janma Nakshatra. While Vedic astrology predicts greatness of Hanuman born on Mula Nakshatra, modern astrologers have falsely identified Ketu the demon as the presiding deity of Mula nakshatra and also predict horror and misfortune for those born on Mula Nakshatra based on the life study of Ravana who was under curse from four sages. This suits well their profession for good exploitation of people born on Mula Nakshtra by suggesting various expensive Shantis (appeasements) and Navagraha Homas. David Frawley a renowned Vedic astrology scholar identifies Nirrti with Kali worshiped popularly by Ramakrishna as Mother and by Bengalis predominantly.
It is strange that a cut off and accidentally immortalized body and head of a demon, alive due to the magic power of Amrita, has entered the altar of Navagrahas leaving out most worshiped planets Earth, Pluto, Uranus and Neptune, but including lifeless Mars and Venus as well as dreaded Saturn condemned in the Holy Bible. I refer Holy Bible because naming of our seven days are based on Greek and Roman Gods which the Western world has adopted. Saturn is presented as an evil spirit trying to tempt Jesus Chris on fast. You now understand why we are wrong in worshiping Rahu or Ketu, the decapitated demon and also believe in its influence on our lives! No mutilated Vigraha is fit for worship. That includes glorified Ekadanta who was installed by Siva as Gajavadana with two tusks but later made Ekadanta with a broken tusk due to sudden anger by mythological stories and then glorified!
1) Swami Harshananda, Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India
2) David Frawley on Vedic Astrology, Facebook
3) Wikipedia, Internet