Datta Jayanti

Dattatreya or Datta is a Hindu deity encompassing the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, collectively known as Trimurti. The name Dattatreya can be divided into two words - "Datta" and "Atreya" referring to the sage Atri, his physical father.

In the Nath tradition, Dattatreya is recognized as an Avatar or incarnation of Shiva and as the Adi-Guru (First Teacher) of the Adinath Sampradaya of the Nathas. Although Dattatreya was at first a "Lord of Yoga" exhibiting distinctly Tantric trait he was adapted and assimilated into the more devotional Vaishnavite cults; while still worshiped by millions of Hindus, he is approached more as a benevolent god than as a teacher of the highest essence of Indian thought. Dattatreya is credited as the author of the Tripura Rahasya given to Parasurama, a treatise on Advaita Vedanta. Dattatreya was born to the sage Atri, who had been promised by Parameshvara (the Almighty), that He, Parameshvara, would be incarnated as his son. Since Parameshvara subsumes all three members of the trimurti, Dattatreya is at once the incarnation of Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma. This is just one of the many legends related to the birth of Lord Dattatreya. In some he is not Atri's son, but Atri's descendent. Others suggest a more mystical origin of Dattatreya.

Dattatreya left home at an early age to wander naked in search of the Absolute. He seems to have spent most of his life wandering. In The Pathless Path to Immortality, Shri Gurudev Mahendranath writes:

Shri Dattatreya was a dropout of an earlier age than the period when Veda and Tantra merged to become one simple cult. It was men like Dattatreya who helped to make this possible. Three of his close disciples were kings, one an Asura and the other two both belonging to the warrior caste. Dattatreya himself was regarded as an avatar of Maheshwara (Shiva) but later was claimed by Vaishnavites as the avatar of Vishnu. Not such a sectarian claim as it appears; Hindus regard Shiva and Vishnu as the same or as manifestations of the Absolute taking form.... Indeed, the Dattatreya Upanisad, which opens proclaiming Dattatreya's identity with Vishnu, ends with the mantra Om Namah Shivaya, identifying Datta with Shiva. In the last portion of the third chapter, Mahesvara (Shiva) alone is said to pervade reality and shine in every heart of man. He alone is in front, behind, to the left, to the right, below, above, everywhere the center. Finally, Mahesvara is identified with Dattatreya, depicting the latter as an Avatar of Shiva.

Guru Gobind Singh writes in the Dasam Granth that Dattatreya(Datt Muni, Datt Dev etc.) was an incarnation of Rudra (The Supreme Power). He has written the whole story of Dattatreya life.

Werness (2004: p. 138) ventures the semiology of the four dogs each of a different colour oft-depicted in Dattatreya iconography as holding the valence of the four Vedas:

Pre-Vedic Indian dogs were regarded as auspicious symbols, and later deities assumed dog forms, became associated with dogs, and were linked with the glory and fidelity of warriors. Four different-coloured dogs accompanied the Dattatreya, who represented the four Vedas... There is other symbolism attachable here. Dogs also held the cultural significance of 'dog eaters' (Sanskrit: candala) those who existed beyond the confines of Varnashrama Dharma. Dogs are both wild and tame, and symbols of fidelity and devotion. Dattatreya is one of the oldest deities. The first reference of this deity is found in epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana. In the Dattatreya Upanishad which is a part of the Atharva Veda, he is described as being able to appear in the form of a child, madman, or demon in order to help his devotees achieve moksha, liberation from the bonds of worldly existence.

The single head for Dattatreya can be explained if one sees the Tantric traditions which prevailed in India about 1000 years back. It was Gorakshanath who changed/removed the aghori traditions and made the Nath sampradaya in the acceptable civil form of today. Dattatreya must have been a very powerful sage existing before this time and over the centuries sometime he was defined to the form of Dattatreya. The three heads have come definitely later in the last 900 years or so.

Dattatreya incarnation of the Divine Trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Siva and his avatars- Shripad Shri Vallabha, Sri Nrusimha Saraswati and Swami Samarth Maharaj.

According to the book "Shridattareya Shodashavatar Charitanee" by Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati, Dattatreya is supposed to have taken 16 Avatars. The names and their birthdate (as per the Lunar calendar) are given in brackets.

1. Yogiraaj (Kaartik Shu.15)
2. Atrivarad (Kaartik Kru.1)
3. Dattatreya (Kaartik Kru.2)
4. Kaalaagnishaman (Maargashirsha Shu.14)
5. Yogijanvallabh (Maargashirsha Shu.15)
6. Lilaavishambhar (Paush Shu.15)
7. Siddharaaj (Maagh Shu.15)
8. Dnyaasaagar (Faalgun Shu.10)
9. Vishambhar (Chaitra Shu.15)
10. Maayaamukta (Vaishaakh Shu.15)
11. Maayaamukta (Jyeshtha Shu.13)
12. Aadiguru (Aashaadh Shu.15)
13. Shivarup (Shraavan Shu.8)
14. Devdev (Bhaadrapad Shu.14)
15. Digambar (Aashwin Shu.15)
16. Krishnashyaamkamalnayan (Kaartik Shu.12)

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