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Lord Dattatreya Origin | Story | Legend

Avadhootha, Sadaananda, Parabrahma, Swaroopine ||
Videha Deha, Roopaaya, Dattatreya, Namosthuthe ||

Lord Dattatreya Birth Story:

According to Datta Puran written by Maharishi Veda Vyas, Datta is one of the incarnations of Sri Vishnu. There are so many Avatars of Sri Vishnu like Mohini Avatar, Datta Avatar which are not as popular as Dasa avatars. Lord Datta is an embodiment of Gnana (knowledge). Here, Gnana does not simply mean mere knowledge or common sense. Here it means Brahma Gnana or knowledge of ultimate truth or Parabrahman. The main purpose of the Datta avatar of being on earth is to impart Brahma Gnana to all who seek to obtain it. The name Dattatreya symbolizes the idea of ​​unity in diversity, connecting people of different faiths and synthesizing various differences found in society. Dattatreya is described as an ocean of knowledge and a giver of joy. Sandilyopanishad gives Maheshwara and Dattatreya as synonyms of Brahman, and Adhidevatha is the chief and supreme deity of Yoga as Yoganath, and of Gnaana as Gnaana pradhaatha and Guruparampara as Jagatguru. It is enough to recite the name of Datta to sanctify and enlighten the minds and purify the hearts. Datta is the Lord of love, compassion and mercy. It is very uncertain that those who chant Datta’s name, meditate on it and worship it will be blessed with both Bhakti in abundance and Mukti in the end. DATTA means God has given to the world in an inhuman form.

According to Datta Puran, Atri Maharshi is one of the seven sons of Lord Brahma and was born out of the pure will. Anasuya is the daughter of Maharshi Kardama. Both were great connoisseurs of spirituality and were deeply devoted to God. Atri Maharishi did great penance for Parabrahman on the mountain called Rushika and impressed with his long penance, the Trinity appeared before him and told him to surrender to him. After that, Atri and Anasuya ma were blessed with three children. Chandra was born with the power of Brahma, Durvasa with the power of Shiva and Datta with the power of Vishnu. Chandra and Durvasa left their AMSA (powers) in Datta and went to their respective places. Lord Datta remains on this earth ever since for the sake of the devotees.

Lord Dattatreya Birth Story 2:

Once Goddess Parvathi, Laxmi and Saraswathi wanted to test the loyalty of Anasuya Mata towards her husband and sent Trinity to Earth to test her. Soon Trinity stood in front of Atri’s hermitage seeking alms. At that time Atri was not at home so Anasuya took them inside and made them comfortable. When she was getting ready to serve food, they stopped her saying that they cannot accept the food until she serves them in nudity. Surprised and shocked to know their demand Anasuya Mata was in great dilemma whether to give them food or not. But she believed in the words” ATITHI DEVO BHAV” which meant guest is equal to God.

Immediately she remembered the Lotus feet of her husband and sprinkled water on the three guests and turned them into infants. She then fed them and made them fall asleep. Meanwhile, Atri returned home after his regular rituals and knew the facts from his wife and understood that they were none other than Lord Brahma, Sri Vishnu & Lord Shiva. Knowing about their husbands, Goddess Laxmi, Saraswathi & Parvati Devi came to Atri’s hermitage and asked to give their husbands to them. Then on prayers of Atri & Anasuya Trinity took their original forms and blessed them with three sons who bear the power of Trinity. In both the above legends it is told that Lord Datta is an Avatar of Shri Vishnu.

Why Atri Maharishi & Anasuya Mata ?

Atri means one who is beyond the three attributes of sattva, raja and thamas. These three attributes cause birth and death and condition a soul. One who is above the trinity of attributes can be the true devotee of the Almighty. Then the Lord offers himself to such a devotee. Anasuya is the one who lacks Asuya’s quality. The characteristic of the complaint. Eersha and Asuya are said to be twin brothers. Feeling jealous of someone is eersha and therefore hating and complaining about them is asuya. So Mata is above all those silly emotions.

Importance of Datta Nama……His parents did not give his name to Lord Datta. He was born with this name. Datta means a gift that Rishi Atri received as a result of his unconditional prayers. As he was born to Atri, he was called Aatreya (son of Atri). So finally he became Dattatreya. According to Srimad Bhagavatham, the birth of Lord Datta was said to be

Atre rapathya mabhikaankshathaaha thushtha |
Datto mayahamithi yath bhagawan sadattha |
Yath paada pankaja paraaga pavitra dehaa |
Yogiddimaa purubhayeem yadu hayi hayaadhyaa |

which means “I GIVE MYSELF TO YOU”

Lord Dattatreya commonly known as Guru Dattatreya, has fascinated the hearts of Millions of devotees with his highly gracious nature and pleasing personality throughout the centuries. He is renowned as ” SMRUTHI MAATRANUGRAHA KARTHA ” –bestowing favor as soon AS he is remembered. He has been rightly called ‘SMARTHRUGAAMI’ – presenting himself as soon as he is recollected.

Gnana Roopa Datta:

Lord Datta came into a physical form to spread Gnana. But he does not give it to everyone. He first tests the seeker, his intensity and eligibility and then he gives it. Guru’s grace is a very potent and vital necessity in spiritual sadhana for a Sadhak to progress and march on safely. Spiritual sadhana is a very subtle, intricate and complex process. Shastraas can indicate the path removing your doubts and give guidance up to a certain extent only. So, not only the guidance of the Guru is essential but his grace is also most essential in Spiritual sadhana. The Guru can impart certain spiritual vibrations and some Shakthi to his disciple even by touch, by a look, by thought or by word. Lord Dattatreya, the teacher of teachers, had been Guru to Brahma, Parashurama, Prahlada, Kings Yadu, Alarka, Kartaveeryaarjuna and carved out a stupendously marvelous Guru sampradaya and Guru parampara throughout all the ages.


THERE IS NOTHING THAT TRANSCENDS THE GURU, THERE IS NO PHILOSOPHY IN LIFE OTHER THAN THE GURU. The ‘ga’ sound in the name of the guru gives siddhi (ultimate victory over the self) and the ‘ra’ sound annihilates all sins. The ‘u’ sound depicts the unmanifested form of Vishnu (avyaktha swaroopa).

As Lord Dattatreya is a combination of Guru and God, we are calling him as ‘JAI GURU DEVA DATTA’. The two letters DA and TTA are more powerful and one can attain BRAHMA GNAANA by reciting the name of LORD DATTATREYA. One can observe the same in the words of Mahadeva told to SHRI Shuka Maharshi as


A Guru is praised as Guru Brahma , Guru Vishnu, Guru Devo Maheshwara, Guru Saakshath Parabrahma. This means after a child attains a suitable age he is put to Gurukul where his Guru gives him a Deeksha so he becomes Guru Brahma. Then Guru takes care of his disciple’s progress and well-being and becomes Guru Vishnu and finally, when the disciple turns into a Siddha Purusha (elevated soul) he attains salvation and his Guru becomes Maheswara. Dattaguru is the perfect example of the above lines. So in the Datta cult, Guru is given utmost priority and his lotus feet are worshipped. “Dattam Chhinnam” is said which means “Datta cuts”. The Upanishads are clearly telling that “DATTA VEEJASTHAM JAGATH SARVAM” …means the total Universe is Datta swaroopa. Dattatreya is Trimoorthi swaroopa, so every Datta sadhaka can see the Unity in Diversity and can see the PARA BRAHMA TATVA. .Generally, God’s nature (DAIVATVA) can appear in any Upasana. But in this Datta sampradaya, one can see the GURU and GOD’s nature (Gurutva and Daivatva). So, this is the main reason to perform ‘PAADUKAARCHANA’ ( Archana to lotus feet/sandals of Guru) in Datta sampradaya. We can see this Paadukaarchana in SHaaktheyam and in Datta sampradayam only. Generally, God gives only what is asked by his disciples/servants/ devotees. He won’t judge the results of such askings. He will grant that boons irrespective of such results. But Guru always gives what is needed by his disciples/servants/devotees. So, he will always sanction the boons of what is needed by his servants at proper times. Hence Gurutatwa is more powerful than Bhagavat tatwa. But one has to surrender at the lotus feet of his Guru. Dattatreya tatwa is AVYAKTHA, NIRGUNA, NIRAAKAARA, NIRANJANA, NISHKRIYA, PARA BRAHMA, SAGUNA SWAROOPA and it is SHREEMANNARAAYANA, PARAMESHA TATWA.

Significane and Benefits of praying for one’s GURU:

(a) Reduction in Ego: Often seekers forget to thank God when their prayers are answered or after deriving Bliss from rendering service. By paying gratitude to God for all the things in our lives we acknowledge the Lord’s help. This in a way helps to also reduce our ego, so that we rely less on our capabilities and more on our faith in God to give us the capability. Gratitude is a means of offering the doer-ship of an act to God / the Guru, hence it helps in reducing the ego.

(b)Increasing Spiritual emotion: When we have spiritual emotion which means having an intense awareness of God in our lives we constantly experience the Guru’s grace. One of the most essential attributes of spiritual emotion is our ability to pay gratitude for all that the Lord has given us. Guidance: For a seeker, the all-wise and all-knowing Guru skillfully guides the spiritual progress of the seeker, which if left up to the seeker alone, would have taken many lifetimes. For this, the seeker is eternally indebted to the Guru. The unseen aspect – is also known as ‘The Guru Principle. The Guru is the Teaching Principle of God. This is the aspect of God that performs the function of guiding us to grow spiritually.

The appearance of Lord Dattatreya:

Maalaakamandalu dharah karapadmayugme
Madhyastha paaniyugale damarutrishoolam;
Adhyastha urdhva karayoh shubha shankhachakre
Vande tamatrivaradam bhujashatkayuktam.

Meaning: I meditate on Lord Dattatreya, the son of Atri, who has six hands, who holds the rosary and water-vessel in two hands, with damaru and spear in the other two hands, and with conch and discus in the upper two hands. Lord Dattatreya is having a face like a fully bloomed lotus flower and bears a lotus-like heart melted with pity, he is possessed by a mass of matted hair yellow-red like lightning and has eyes in the form of the moon, the Sun and the fire. He bears divine saffron (kaashaya) colored garments and possesses six arms. He removes infatuation created by ignorance by the rays of the moon in the form of nails on his feet. I bow down to Dattatreya, the preceptor of the world, who is propitious, perfect, supreme, eternal, pure, free from blemishes (i.e., unstained) and the highest divine resort who is absorbed in playing with the cow and the dogs.

Kalidas, the top Sanskrit writer says

namaha trimoortaye thubhyam praak srushte kevalaatmane ||
gunatraya vibhaagaya paschaad bhedamupeyushe ||

I bow to the oh trinity, who was alone before the creation of the universe and who turned into different shapes in order to have division according to the three attributes”. the following verse describes his appearance:

vaamapado dhrutha seshe |
dakshinaha koormaprustagaha ||
dattatreya dwibaahustaathu vaamothsange shriyasaha ||

the left foot is placed on the shesha cobra, the right one is on the back of a tortoise. Dattatreya has two hands with Laxmi on the left side. Here Dattatreya is described as the almighty Vishnu.

Dattaguru is having three heads as he is Trinity rolled in one form. Datta. This can be understood by a layman. But for those who seek salvation, there is an underlying meaning. In Tripura Rahasya taught by Dattatreya to Parasurama, he said that the entire universe is three-folded and only one Parabrahman is keeping it alive.

Loke Tri Tri Kramollasai: Vasthu poorva sthithi yada:
Tripurethi thatha: proktha: Brahmadeenam parasayaa:

This means the entire world is three-folded like

  1. Jagruth, Swapna, sushupthi
  2. Srushti, sthithi, laya
  3. Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwar god
  4. Vani, Laxmi, Parvathi
  5. Satva, rajas, tamo
  6. Bhoo, Bhuva,  Suva:
  7. Bhootha, Vardaman, bhavishya
  8. Ida, Pingala, Sushumna
  9. Sthoola, sookshma, kaarana
  10. Gargyapathya, Aavahaneeya, Dakshina agnis
  11. Soorya, Chandra, Agni
  12. Aa  I, u in om

So in this 3D world, the one & only driving force which is leading is Paramatman or Parabrahman which is symbolically depicted by Lord Datta’s appearance with one body and 3 faces. Lord Datta has six hands. Whenever we want to show our power we show our hands. So Dattaguru is the most powerful. He holds Shankhu, Chakra, Trishool, Dhamaru Rosary and a water pot in his hands which are the weapons of Trinity. But there is a second meaning which is.

the entire universe has five main elements called Pancha bhoota. They are Agni (fire), Vayu(air) , Jala(water) , Bhoomi (earth) & Aakash(sky).

Lord Dattatreya Chakra

Sudarshana Chakra: So the Sudarshana chakra in Dattaguru’s hand is representing fire as it is said according to shastras TEJAS TATVAM SUDARSHANAM.
Shankhu: APAMTATVAM JALAVARAM SHANKHAM meaning Shankhu is coming from water bodies and is used by blowing air so it represents air & water.
Water Pot: The water pot is either made of copper or mud which represents Bhoomi as the mineral ores are coming from the earth and agin earth is said to be the combination of OJAS & SAHAS.
Dhamaru: According to THAITTARIYA UPANISHAD it is said that ……”RTHAM VADISHYAMI SATHYAM VADISHYAMI” which means I speak of the natural rhythm of the universe which is the truth. The beat of Dhamaru is depicted as the sound of Laya representing the fifth element SKY.
So the five elements of the universe are in the control of Lord Dattatreya. The cow indicates the Dharma and the four dogs serving him are four Vedas.

Sadguru Dattatreya has attained the highest stage of yogis I.e., parama avadhotha. He is considered the embodiment of knowledge, Compassion, soft-heartedness, truth, sincerity and faith etc., Therefore all his actions are meant for the prosperity and well-being Of humanity. Being the supreme Guru in the Universe, he showers Blessings on all sadhaks, whatever their religion or sect. Sadguru Dattatreya is said to have descended on this earth at the beginning Of this kalpa.

Meaning of “DA”

The initial letter in Datatreya is “DA” and as it is a trinity rolled into one, we get three `da’s. The first da represents “DAMAN” or control. The second one means “DAN” or giving offering. The third “DA” stands for “DAYA” compassion. Man is a bundle of propensities.

The three attributes are indicated in the gods, the human beings and the demons. It may be noted that every human being is a multiple-being and the three attributes are blended in him.. Man is at times divine, very human in give and take, while at another moment, very selfish like a demon. How can a nice benevolent personality develop? For this, the divine self should follow “dama” (control) . The human self should resort to “DANA” (giving) and the lower spirit in man must have “DAYA” or compassion to others. This aspect was put in an interesting episode in Brihadaaranyaka in an allegory.

Gods, men and demons were receiving education under their common Father Prajaapathi Brahma. They observed celebacy and served the preacher-father. After some time, the Gods went to Prajapathi and said, “O sage, preach us suitably”. Prajapathi only uttered `DA’. The Gods were pleased and started going. So Prajapathi said, “did you get the meaning of the letter given to you?”. Gods said, “yes sir, you want us to control our senses and so `da’ means `daman’. Gods live in heavenly abodes, enjoy all comforts and hence they must control their senses for rising higher. Prajapathi okayed their interpretation and asked them to follow it.

Next human beings went and said “Please preach us”. Prajaapathi said, `da’. When men were moving out, Prajapathi wanted to know if they had grasped the meaning, so he said, “You are going. Do you know the meaning of the word given?”. “Yes sir, you want us to give gifts and offerings. You mean `dan’ by `da’. Prajaapathi said “Right, but mere knowledge is useless, you have to behave and do what’s expected”.

When men had left, the demons went to Prajaapathi and bowed to him saying, “Give us your message”. Prajaapathi said `da’ and asked them:”do you follow what I say?”. The demons said sure sir, you want us to have pity on others and avoid violence. Your advice is to be compassionate to every being. Prajaapathi said, you have rightly grasped the sense. Now, forget difference between you and others. Behave equally with everyone. That will make you happy!

Thus the three qualities of control, charity and compassion are essential requisites for making the life sublime. Those with abundance of worldly pleasures should restrain from too much enjoyment. In order to be happy as a social being, men should be happy by giving things to others and sharing with the others.

The Dattaguru’s Special Charachterstics:

  1. Dattatreya is a great healer of ailments, both physical and spiritual.
  2. Dattaguru’s work is primarily to transform and salvage by guiding: he does not kill the impious. Datta is primarily a teacher god (Guru). He was born in the sattva sphere, there is no room here for tragedy. Everything is austere beauty, love and serenity.
  3. Datta is an Avadhutha.As such, Datta is unbounded by Vedic injunctions. The Avadhootha is above all these.
  4. The passing or termination of other avatars has been mentioned by the Puranas, not so of Dattaguru.
  5. Datta grants a vision of himself in such diverse forms as a shepherd, a sanyasin, a Yathi, a Brahmin, or a Faqir. He comes in dreams to fulfill the desires of his devotees. Whatever the form, it rounds off with a vision of a six-handed figure and the face is heavenly bright.
  6. Datta’s padukas are worshiped. He loves the oudumbar tree and has Kamadhenu and dogs with him.
  7. He taught aatma-vidya and the path of yoga.
  8. His behavior was like the non-intoxicated behavior like the intoxicated.

Dattatreya is said to be ATHYASRAMA VASI which means he is above 4 ashrams namely Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha & Sanyasa. He need not follow any of the principles but to show the right path to his disciples he followed all the rituals in his two incarnations. He is seen incaves, jungles under Audumber tree as a Digambar.

Lord Dattatreya and Lord Rama are two forms of same energy:

In Valmiki Ramayana, in Aranya Kanda it is written that after Bharatha (younger brother of Lord Rama) takes the holy padukas of Rama to Ayodhya, Laxmana, Seetha & Rama went to the hermitage of Atri Maharishi and Anasuya mata. Then Atri says to Rama “SEYAM MATHEVATHE ANAGHA” which means O ANAGHA! (anagha means one who is not touched by sin. Dattaguru is also called Anagha Swamy) she is like your mother. While saying this Atri looked at Rama as PUTRAVATH PRATHIVADYATHA meaning as if Rama were his son. Datta had been the son of Atri in KRUTHA YUGA and Rama is born as the son of Dasharatha in Treta Yuga. So Atri used the words “LIKE YOUR MOTHER” while referring to Anasuya Mata. In his earlier Avatara, Rama was Datta himself and that is why Lord Rama also wandered in Jungles like Datta wearing normal clothes like Avadhootha.


The Lord of all living beings, four-armed Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Lord Dattatreya, the Lord of Yoga. His disciple, sage Sanskriti, was immensely devoted to him. One day, when alone, he (Sanskriti) asked his guru in a polite way, “Oh Lord! Describe to me the Yoga of eight limbs (Ashtang Yoga) so that I may be liberated from bondage in this life”.

Lord Dattatreya told his disciple: “Oh Sanskriti! I will describe to you the Yoga of eight limbs. Listen carefully. Yam, Niyam, Asan, Pranayaam, Pratyahar, Dharana, Dhyaan and Samadhi are the eight limbs of Yoga.

There are ten kinds of Yam: non-violence, truth, non-stealing, celibacy, kindness, forgiveness, fortitude, simplicity, proper food and cleanliness. To give pain by thought, word or deed to anyone is violence. The spirit is imperishable and cannot be grasped by the senses or intellect. Having this attitude towards the spirit has also been considered to be non-violence by those who are well versed in Vedanta.

Truth is to convey something through words or gestures in the same form in which it is seen, heard, smelt or understood by the senses of seeing, hearing etc. Apart from that, there is no other form of truth. According to those who are well versed in Vedas and Vedanta, only the Supreme Brahma is the ultimate truth. Non-stealing is not to desire any ornament, jewel, gold, diamond, pearl or even a straw belonging to others. Never having temptation or greed for anything big or small belonging to others is also known as non-stealing. In all dealings in this world, the attitude should be to keep the mind away from attachment and, according to wise people, that attitude is also non-stealing.

To consider all living beings, on par with oneself is called kindness. Attitude of equanimity towards the son, friend, wife, enemy and oneself is simplicity. Not to have the slightest effect from pain given by the thought, words or deed of an enemy is forgiveness. Only the knowledge of the Vedas leads to liberation from the cycle of birth and death. According to wise people, such determination is called fortitude. The intellect that never deviates from the faith ‘I am not separate from the cosmic spirit’ is also fortitude. To take pure and nourishing food in a limited quantity and fill half of the stomach with food, one-fourth with water and leave one-fourth for air is considered proper food according to Yoga.

The external body is cleaned with clay (soap) and water. Internal cleaning is done through pure thoughts in the mind. A person who is CONSCIOUS ABOUT the external cleanliness forgetting the internal purity is like a fool who collects stones discarding pieces of gold. It is mentioned in the Markandeya Purana that he taught the ashtanga yoga to Patanjali, who then wrote the yoga sutras. He is also attributed to the composition of the jivanmukta Gita which is a short compendium of 23 verses that talks about the gnani (jivan mukta). Dattatreya is also attributed to avadhuta Gita, a text of eight chapters. ‘ Dattatreya is the narrator of the Gnana Kanda of Tripura rahasya to Parasurama to dispel the latter’s doubts on liberation. (The story of Samvrata found in Tripura rahasya has been cited by Shankara in his brahma suutra bhashya). Further, Dattatreya is attributed to a couple of Tantric works. Dattatreya is also mentioned in the Mahabharata. Certain vaishnavites hold him in high esteem since he is mentioned as an incarnation of Vishnu. As Dattaguru is HariHariBrahma rupa, he explained the importance of “ANANTHA PADMA NAABHA VRATHA” in the form of Sri Nrusimha Saraswathi Swamy as the second incarnation of Lord Dattatreya. One can refer to Shree Gurucharitra for reference. As he is trimurti swaroopa, Shiva bhaktas also follows the Datta sampradaya. The incarnation of Lord Dattatreya Shri Nrusimha Saraswathy Swami explained the “SMAARTHA” sampradaya traditions like Rudraabhisheka, Bhasmadhaarana vidhi, the importance of Rudraksha, The power of Somavaara vratha etc.,One can refer Shree Gurucharitra for reference.

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