Namaskar, my dear Adbhut friends, and warm Greetings on the auspicious occasion of Sree Dutta Jayanti.
Datta Jayanti, also known as Dattatreya Jayanti, is celebrated on the full moon of Margashirsha to mark the birth of Bhagawan Sree Dattatreya. Datta Maharaj is revered and loved across Bharat, especially in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh. Here, I am sharing the often narrated famous story about the advent of Sree Dattatreya. Let’s now know this beautiful story.
In the dense forest of Chitrakuta, there lived a divine and loving couple, Maharishi Atri, and his wife, Anasuya. Maharishi Atri was one of the great saptarishis who are manasputras (Born out of mind/will) of Bhagwan Bhramha. Anasuya was the daughter of Maharshi Kardama.
Anasuya was known across the universe as the greatest pativrata (Chaste and loyal towards her husband). Her chastity endowed her with so much power that Indra and other deities felt threatened. Even Saraswathi, Lakshmi, and Parvathi (Consotrs of Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara) were jealous of Anasuya and decided to test her loyalty towards her husband, Maharishi Atri. One day, they approached Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara and beseeched the holy trinity to test Anasuya’s chastity.
So, once when Sage Atri had gone into the forest to do tapas ( Penance), the trinity of deities disguised as sadhus and descended to Sage Atri’s ashram. They asked Anasuya for alms. They said they were hungry. Being a pious woman and a stickler of traditions, she welcomed and ushered the sadhus into the ashram and made arrangements to serve them a wholesome meal.
When Anasuya started serving food to the three sadhus she had just prepared so lovingly, they refused to accept it. They demanded that Anasuya serve them food without wearing any clothes.
A shocked Anasuya didn’t know what to do. This demand of the sadhus had put her in a great dilemma. If she fulfills their wish by serving them food without wearing cloth, she will be losing her chastity. And if she refuses to offer food, she will be acting against the dharma of “Atithi Devo Bhava.” As we all know, the tenents of Hindu dharma encourages us to treat our guest as God.
After hesitating and wondering for some time, Anasuya remembered the lotus feet of her husband and sprinkled water on the three Sadhus and turned them into infants. She then nursed them without any clothes as per their wishes. When sage Atri returned home, Anasuya narrated the whole incident as it had taken place and showed the three infants sleeping in the cradle. Being a Sidha yogi, sage Atri immediately recognized that the three infants in the cradle were none other than Brahma, Vishnu & Maheshwara. He bowed to the holy trinity and offered his prayers.
Meanwhile, in Devloka, Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Parvati were worried about their husbands. It had taken much longer than expected for their return. So they descend to Maharishi’s ashram. And are shocked to see their husbands as babies sleeping in the cradle. Three Devis plead to Atri and Anasuya to return their husbands.
Then, Sage Atri and Anasuya pray to the holy trinity to appear in their original form. The three infants revert back to their original states. Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara are happy and appeased. They bless the pious couple with a boon.
The divine couple wishes for a child with the qualities and powers of the three Devas of the holy trinity. Maharishi Atri and Ma Anasuya were blessed with three sons, namely Chandra, Durvasa, and Datta. Chandra was born with the attributes of Brahma, Durvasa, with the power of Shiva. Datta with the power of Vishnu. Chandra and Durvasa gave Datta their amsha (potion) and returned to their respective abodes. Bhagawan Datta has remained on this earth since then for the sake of devotees. Thus Bhagawan Dattatreya was born due to Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara’s blessings.
Now that we have enjoyed the story of Advent of Sree Datta on the earth let us ruminate on the form of this most powerful, and revered Bhagawan.
Traditionally Lord Dattatreya is depicted with three heads representing the trinity of the Hindu pantheon – Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheswara. He has six hands, two of each of the holy trinity. The divine props held in six of Sree Dattatrya’s hands are of great symbolic significance. The Japa mala(rosary) represents Guru and knowledge, and the Kamaldala ( water-holding vessel) represents the power behind all creation and are the attributes of Brahma Deva. The other two hands representing the Vishnu Bhagawan’s attributes are Chakra (Weapon), known to bestow Moksha (liberation from birth and death cycles), and the other is Shankh (Conch Shell that produces the OM mantra. And the third pair of hands hold Dharamu (drum that awakens the humans from sleep/ignorance), and Trishula (Trident that kills the evil and ego) represent the Shiva Tatva. This form of Bhagawan Dattatreya with three heads symbolizes; past, present, and future, creation, preservation, and destruction, and the three states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep.
Sree Datta Bhagwan is shown to be sitting or standing under an Audumbar tree, surrounded by a beautiful Kamadhenu (Cow) and four faithful dogs. So when deciphered, this can be symbolically represented with these qualities. The Audumbar tree (Ficus Racemosa (Botanical name), Gular (Hindi name), or Cluster Fig (English title), Udumbura (Sanskrit)) is considered a Kalpawriksha: wish-fulfilling tree, blessing the sadhaka materialistically as well as spiritually. It is also used extensively in Ayurveda for its curative properties. The Beautiful and serene Kamadhenu represents creation and kindness- a metaphor for mother earth silently supporting the creation and nourishing.
The four Dogs accompanying Datta Maharaj represent the four Vedas- Rig, Yajur, Atharvana, and Sama Veda. They are figurative symbols. The four dogs are considered hounds of heaven, watchdogs of the Ultimate Truth. The digit Four has many symbolic interpretations. These 4 represent the 4 Vedas, the 4 Yugas (Krita, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali), and the 4 states of the Word. They also refer to the 4 states of existence(awake, dream-filled sleep, deep sleep, and beyond deep sleep).
The ochre-colored garb of Dattatreya symbolizes Sansyasa, the spirit of renunciation or detachment. He has matted hair on his head. His body is smeared with holy ashes, and he wears tiger skin for his garment. His faces and form are ever radiant with peace and divine charm.
Dattatreya has a (Jhola) bag hung on his shoulder. He has all the powers of God viz., creation, preservation, and destruction. But he lives as a Bhikshuka. A Bhikshuka sustains his life by bhiksha, that is, by begging. He owns nothing except for a jhola. Spiritually speaking, Bhiksha, sought by Bhagawan Dattatreya, is for the betterment of the Bhaktas. Because, by doing so, Datta Maharaj seems to be saying, “Give me all your sins.” He collects all our past and present sins in the jhola, swallowing and digesting them. In a way, he is emancipating/liberating the Bhaktas of their sins and Karmas.
This form of Dattatreya, which is worshipped by the devotees, is described in Vishnu Dharmottara Purana. This form helps the worshipper to understand the immense powers of the Guru and to appreciate the unity of Godhead. Dattatreya is Brahman, Paramatman, Isvara, Narayana, the source of all existence, knowledge, and bliss. He is Brahman because he is whole, complete, and completes everything. Sree Dattatreya, the Brahman, is the friend, philosopher, and guide to help us mere mortals cross this river of life and attain Moksha.
I am too little a being to even think about the greatness, the vastness, and the depth of Bhagawan Sree Datta Maharaj leave alone write something new. Whatever I shared is whatever little I have read and heard. And I have shared only a tiny snippet here. I will definitely add a few more posts as and when possible.
I end today’s post with my humble Satkoti Pranams at the lotus feet of this Satchidananda Guru Sree Dattatrya Maharaj. May Datta Maharaj guide us all to be responsible and righteous as we march towards our liberation.
“ANANTHAKOTI BRAHMANDA NAAYAKA, RAAJAADHI RAAJA, YOGIRAJA, PARABRAHMA SREE PAADA SREE VALLABHA, SREEMAN NRUSIMHA SARASWATH, SREE GURU DATTATREYA SWAMI MAHARAAJ KI JAI”
Kalyani Sreedhar Kakade
29, Margashirsha Shukla Paksha, Chaturdashi 2078 Aananda, Vikrama Samvata Singapore,18 December 2021