Dattatreya painting by Raja Ravi Verma
|Affiliation||Avatar of Trimurti|
Hari om tatsat jai GurudattDigambara Digambara Shree Paad Vallabha Digambara
Dattatreya (Sanskrit: दत्तात्रेय, Dattātreya) or Sri Datta (Tamil: ஸ்ரீ தத்தாத்ரேயர், Malayalam: ശ്രീ ദത്താത്രേയന്, Kannada: ಶ್ರೀ ದತ್ತಾತ್ರೇಯ ಸ್ವಾಮಿ , Telugu: శ్రీ దత్తాత్రేయ స్వామి, Marathi: श्री दत्तात्रेय, Gujarati: શ્રી દત્તાત્રેય, Hindi: श्री दत्तात्रेय, Sinhala: ශ්රී දත්තාත්රේය ) 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" (meaning given) and "Atreya" referring to the sage Atri, his physical father.
Various Hindu sects worship him differently. 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 traits, he was adapted and assimilated into the more devotional (Sanskrit: bhakti) 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. However, spiritual seekers pray to this Supreme Teacher for knowledge of the Absolute Truth. Dattatreya is credited as the author of the Tripura Rahasya given to Parasurama, a treatise on Advaita Vedanta. He is specially worshipped on his birthday, Datta Jayanti.
- 1 Life
- 2 The nectar of the honey-bee
- 3 Origins
- 4 Avatars
- 5 Avadhuta Gita
- 6 Dattatreya traditions
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Dattatreya was born to the sage Atri, who had been promised by Parameshvara (the Almighty), that He, Parameshvara, would be incarnated as his son. Some Hindu sects familiar with the trinity also attribute Dattatreya's incarnation as of all the three- Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma, indirectly meaning to be all powerful and above all. This is just one of the many legends related to the birth of Lord Dattatreya. Others suggest a more mystical origin of Dattatreya. Some of the sources claim that he was born in Kashmir jungles near the sacred Amarnath.
The same concept is echoed in an episode in the Dattatreya Purana. When Lord Dattatreya, the combined incarnation of the Trinity, was a child of five years, many old sages spotted His greatness and started insisting Him to show them the path of Yoga. The child Datta wanted to test them. He disappeared into a pond and remained there for one hundred years. Some of the sages waited for Him on the banks of the pond while the infant Datta was in a state of complete Samadhi for hundred years. Even after coming out of the pond he continued to test the sages. Dattatreya, who was 105 years old then, brought out His Yogic energy through His Brahma Randhra (an astral orifice found in the center of the skull, through which Yogis can leave the body), and gave it the form of a woman. Because the energy came out from Him, He was its natural owner. He declared her to be His consort. In order to test the sages, she drank wine and started dancing.
She was born as a youthful woman. Seeing her drink wine, some of the sages called her Madhumati. Others called her 'Nadee' because looking at her dance which resembled the dancing movements of a flooded river. Still others realized that she was none other than the Yogic Energy of Lord and prayed to Him. Some others went away.
Then Lord Dattatreya came out of Samadhi. She now appeared as an ascetic. Lord Dattatreya named her as Anagha. Those who called her as Madhumati and Nadee had identified her as one who possessed sin. But in reality she was sinless. Therefore Dattatreya had named her as Anagha (Sinless, Pure). Those who had recognized her to be the energy of Dattatreya, obtained the true vision of the Lord and could transcend all sorrows. In other words, because of her their sorrows (Agha or sin and sorrow) disappeared. This was another reason why Dattatreya named her as Anagha (one who removes sorrows).
Etymologically, the word Agha means that which comes to the experience of the doer (kartaaram anghaati iti agham. Aghi gatow). He who thinks that he is the doer, will experience pain and pleasure. According to vedantic view, even the worldly pleasure, is in fact pain. Thus, one who thinks oneself to be the doer is always suffering. That energy which removes the feeling of doership is Anagha.
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 area between and including North Karnataka, through Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, and into Gujarat as far as the Narmada River. He attained realization at a town, now known as Ganagapura in Karnataka. The original footprints of Datta are believed to be located on the lonely peak at Girnar. The Tripura-rahasya refers to the disciple Parasurama finding Dattatreya meditating on Gandhamadana mountain. Lord Dattatreya did tapas for 12,000 years in mount girnar.
As an avatar
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.
The appearance of Shri Dattatreya in pictures varies according to traditional beliefs. The most commonly trusted form is the one described as below
मालाकमंडलुरधः करपद्मयुग्मे, मध्यस्थ पाणियुगुले डमरूत्रिशूले
यस्यस्त उर्ध्वकरयोः शुभशंखचक्रे वंदे तमत्रिवरदं भुजषटकयुक्तम
(I bow to the son of Atri, who has six hands and whose lowest two hands have maalaa and kamandalu, middle pair of hands hold damaru and trishool and top two hands have holy Shankh and Chakra) Other depictions, however, show other weapons like 'Gada' in the hands of Dattatreya sometimes. http://www.dallashanuman.org/emailimages/dec10/dattaAnagha.jpg
The nectar of the honey-bee
Rigopoulos (1998: p.xii) conveys the motif of the '"honey bee" Yogin' (as an aside, the literary point of origin of this motif may be the Nad-Bindu Upanishad of the Rig Veda) common to nondual Dharmic Traditions and champions Dattatreya as the archetypal model of inclusionism and syncretism by implication:
Furthermore, the unfolding of the Dattātreya icon illustrates the development of Yoga as a synthetic and inclusive body of ideologies and practices. Although fundamentally a jñāna-mūrti, Dattātreya is a "honey bee" Yogin: one whose character and teachings are developed by gathering varieties of Yoga's flowers. For all religious groups whose propensity it is to include ideas, practices, and teaching from the ocean of traditions, Dattātreya is truly a paradigm.
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 (Sanskrit: bhakti).
Dattatreya is one of the oldest deities. The first reference of this deity is found in epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana. In Mahanubhav panth Dattatreya is worshipped as the Supreme Lord who wanders on the earth taking different forms. Even today He is believed to appear before yogya purush(men who have cleansed themselves and are worthy of moksha).
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.
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.
- Yogiraaj (Kaartik Shu.15)
- Atrivarad (Kaartik Kru.1)
- Dattatreya (Kaartik Kru.2)
- Kaalaagnishaman (Maargashirsha Shu.14)
- Yogijanvallabh (Maargashirsha Shu.15)
- Lilaavishambhar (Paush Shu.15)
- Siddharaaj (Maagh Shu.15)
- Dnyaasaagar (Faalgun Shu.10)
- Vishambhar (Chaitra Shu.15)
- Maayaamukta (Vaishaakh Shu.15)
- Maayaamukta (Jyeshtha Shu.13)
- Aadiguru (Aashaadh Shu.15)
- Shivarup (Shraavan Shu.8)
- Devdev (Bhaadrapad Shu.14)
- Digambar (Aashwin Shu.15)
- Krishnashyaamkamalnayan (Kaartik Shu.12)
In the Dasopanta tradition, all 16 are worshiped and Dasopanta is considered as the 17th avatara.
In the Datta Sampradaya the first avatar is Shripad Shri Vallabh and the second is Narasimha Saraswati. Akkalkot Swami Samarth, Shri Vasudevanand Saraswati (Tembe Swami, Sawantwadi) Manik Prabhu, Krishna Saraswati, Shirdi Sai Baba (Shirdi, Maharashtra), Gajanan Maharaj (Shegaon) and Pujya Sri Ganapathi Sachchidananda Swamiji are also considered as avatars of Dattatreya.
The Upanishads Avadhutopanishad and Jaabaaldarshanopanishad mention that this philosophy was put forward by Dattatreya.
According to the International Nath Order of the Nath Sampradaya, the "Avadhuta Gita is a distillation of the sublime realization sung by Dattatreya and transcribed by two of his disciples, Swami and Kartika." Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902) held it in high esteem. Originally a work of seven chapters, some of the ideas in this Gita are however common to both Shaivite and Buddhist Tantras, and Vaishnava Agamas.
Following are the various traditions of Dattatreya described in brief. The traditions are mainly from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and were first written in Gujarati, Marathi, Kannada and Telugu. Guru Gita by BAPU (prabhakar Motiwale, Indore)
The ancient disciples of Dattatreya have been described above. Among these, Karatavirya Sahasrajun is often seen as his favourite. The other ones are, traditionally, Alarka (alias Madalasa-garbharatna), King Aayu from Somavansha, King Yadu (son of Yayaati and Devayaani) of Yadavs (Krishna's dynasty) and Shri Parashurama alias Bhargava. There is one more by the name of Saankruti, who is mentioned in the Avadhutopanishad and Jabalopanishad.
Mahanubhav Panth, propagated by Sri Chakradhar Swami, considers Dattatreya to be their Adi Guru (the original Guru). Sri Chakradhar Swami disclosed to His disciples that Dattatreya, like Him, was an incarnation of Supreme Lord, Parmeshwar. They worship Dattatreya as single headed with two arms. According to their belief, his avatar is chaturyugi i.e. it remains in all four yugas, viz. Satyug, Tretayug, Dwaparyug, Kaliyug. He still wanders in different bodies, like those of an avadhut, baagh (tiger), hunter, or sage. Srimad Bhagwatam's tenth volume mentions Dattatreya's discourse as given to king Yadu in the tretayug. On seeing Dattatreya disguised in avadhut form, king Yadu got instantly attracted towards Him and begged to bestow him with secrets to attain Moksha. Dattatreya Prabhu gave him Brahmjnaan and went away into the wilderness. The same was shared by Krishna with prince Uddhav in dwaparyug and is scripted in Eleventh Canto of the Srimad Bhagwatam. This story is associated with the origin of the nam, Uddhav Geeta, given by the Mahanubhav followers. Even today, many followers visit places in Maharashtra where Sri Dattatreya is believed to have gone. Sri Datt jayanti usually falls in December and that is time of the year Maharashtra attracts many disciples.
Shri Gurucharitra tradition
This tradition follows from Shripad Shrivallabha and Shri Narasimha Saraswati. Several very famous Datta-avatars are from this tradition. Such traditionally include Shri Janardanswami, Eknath, Dasopant, Niranjan Raghunath, Narayan Maharaj Jalwankar, Manik Prabhu, Swami Samarth, Sai Baba of Shirdi, Gajanan Maharaj of Shegoan, Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati et al. The disciples of Shri Narasimha Saraswati were Trivikrambharati from Kumasi, Sayamdev, Nagnath, Devrao Gangadhar and Saraswati Gangadhar from Kadaganchi. There are two major traditions started by Shri Swami Samarth of Akkalkot and Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati alias Tembe Swami, and they are described in their respective articles.
Sakalmat Sampradaya tradition
The meaning of sakalmat is that all faiths are accepted (Sakala means All and mata means opinion, but here we have to take the meaning as faith). This is a form of Datta-sampradaya which is called Rajyogi or Royal type. Shri Chaitanya Dev is the main worshipped god here and this sampradaya views gold, pearls, diamonds, expensive clothes and music, art, etc. as part of tradition. Here poor and rich are considered as the same. Thus all the materialistic items are viewed at par with nothing. The philosophy of this tradition is that there is no resistance to any kind of religious faiths in the world. All faiths are believed to give the ultimate godliness to its followers. This tradition was started by Shri Manik Prabhu of Humanabad. Hindus, Muslims and people of all castes are allowed here. Some disciples of this tradition are Bapacharya, Narayan Dikshit, Chimnya Bramhachari and Gopalbua.
Avadhut Panth tradition
The Avadhut panth or sect was started by Shri Pantmaharaj Balekundrikar of Balekundri near Belgaum. More information on the Avadhut philosophy and tradition is described in the article on Avadhut. The main disciples of this tradition are Govindaraoji, Gopalraoji, Shankarraoji, Vamanrao and Narasimharao. These are all called "Panta-bandhu"s ('Panta-brothers'). This sampradaya is spread across Balekundri, Daddi, Belgaum, Akol, Kochari, Nerali, Dharwad, Gokak and Hubali. Param pujya BAPU ji maharaj in Chaitanya Ashram, shri Datta shakti pithh, Indore, Madhya Pradesh gives teaching of the awadhoot sect.
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Ek Mukhi Dattatreya Temple at Vengurla is a very old Lord Dattatreya Temple, almost 800 years old. This Temple is located near Vengurla Town. The Idol of this Temple was brought from Narsimavadi from the relatives of Gavaskar (Sunil Gavaskar). This Idol is very beautiful.
A one headed with four hands Dattatreya is in another ancient temple situated at Kolhapur City. This Temple is in the premises of Lord Vithhala Temple near Mirajkar Tikatti. In Nashik at Talegaon (Anjeneri) Pujya Bhaumaharaj Swarge did his Gurumaharajs Rangavdhoot (Nareshwer) holy task of spreading message of paraspro dev bhavo & swase swase dattanamsmaratman all over Maharashtra.
Ek Mukhi Datta of Narayanpur pune is also a famous temple in the Pune region. Narayanpur is situated at the bottom of the famous Purandar fort. Narayanpur is the village of Sant Changdev. It is also famous for Lord Datta's Temple. This temple is popular amongst the pilgrims and many people visit and pray during the season. A tree of "Audumbar" here is very old and is worshiped by pilgrims. There is also an old temple of Narayaneshwar. This temple and 3 sculptures in the temple are very pretty. These sculptures are said to be of 'Yadav' era. Narayanpur must be seen by both - the pilgrims as well as the nature lovers - because of 2 temples, "Lord Datta" and "Narayaneshwar", and the beauty of the Purandar valley.
There is a beautiful temple of Lord Dattatreya in Devgad (deogad)  of Ahmednagar district. Many people visit this temple to take blessings of Lord Dattatreya and Kisangiri Maharaj. For more information, you can visit Deogad.com
There is an old temple of Shree Datta in Vakola, Mumbai which was built in the year 1924 at the behest of a North Indian Sadhu, who declared that the place is a gupt-sthana of Lord Datta. For more information please visit http://www.shreegurudevdattamandirvakola.com/history.html.
Shri Vamanbua Vaidya from Baroda is from the tradition of Shri Kalavit Swami. His philosophical tradition has been furthered by Saswadkar, and Pattankar. The temple of Narasimha Saraswati in Baroda continues this tradition of Dattatreya devotion. The main Dattatreya devotees who spread the Datta-panth in Gujarat were Pandurang Maharaj of Naareshwar or Shri Rang Avadhut. Shri Rang Avadhut's Disciple was Shri Bal Avadhut Of Gamakshetra, Matar, Dist. Kheda, GUJARAT
Maharshi Punitachariji Maharaj is a devotee of Bhagvan Dattatreya who resides in Gujarat at the Girnar Sadhana Ashram, Junadadh. He claims to have experienced a divine vision of Bhagvan Dattatreya on 15 November 1975. He recommends spontaneous meditation (sahaj dhyan) and the mantra 'Hari om tatsat jai gurudatta' to his followers, the latter purportedly given by Bhagvan Dattatreya.
Gujarati bhajans like Dattabavani and the book Gurulilamrut written by Rang Avadhoot maharaaj at Nareshwar on Narmada are quite famous. Dr. H. S. Joshi has written the book Origin and Development of Dattatreya Worship in India.
In M.P and all western India PP Nana Maharaj Taranekar ji Indore, who was a grihastha, a house holder and Enlightened soul, spread the message of Dutta, useful to common man and family needs in these parts of India and abroad. The 'Karuna Tripadee' mandals all around reinforce the need for daily prayers of Dutta's message to all.
Shri Dattpith Sansthan Pathri
There is a beautiful temple of lord Dattatreya, amidst the serene and quiet natural surroundings of Vanki river, at the village Pathari, 7 km from Valsad city (dist valsad) Gujarat, and 3 km from the Dharampur road highway.
Param pujya ansuyamataji hailing from maharastrian Brahmin family, along with her son and disciple gurudas swamiji walked the whole of India twice. They did “shri datt upasana” in the jungles for many years. Lord Dattatreya gave them darshan on being pleased with their “bhakti” and showed them this place and told them to build datt pith and to settle there.
This datt pith lies on a 7 acre land near Vanki river. It is called the “vishram sthala” as it is 700 km from Siddhkshetra Gangapur and 700 km from Pathri to Girnar (datt prabhu’s paduka). The inauguration and pran prathistha of the temple was done by the shankracharya of Larvir Peeth and the yagna was performed by the vidvan Brahmins of Gangapur. Website - http://shridattpithsansthanpathri.wordpress.com
In Andhra Pradesh
The first avatara of Dattatreya, Shri Shripad Shrivallabha, was from Pithapuram in Andhra Pradesh. According to an article by Prof. N. Venkatarao there are several connections of the Dattatreya tradition with others in Maharashtra. For example, Maatapur, or Mahur, which is now located in Maharashtra, was once part of the Telangana region. The head of Mahur temple is called Dattatreya Yogi.
Around 1550 CE, Dattatreya Yogi taught the Dattatreya philosophy to his disciple Das Gosavi in Marathi. Das Gosavi then taught this philosophy to his two Telugu disciples Gopalbhatt and Sarvaved who studied and translated Das Gosavi's book of Vedantavyavaharsangraha into Telugu language. According to Prof. R. C. Dhere, Dattatreya Yogi and Das Gosavi are the original gurus in the Telugu Dattatreya tradition. Prof. Rao states that Dattatreya Shatakamu was written by Paramanandateertha who is equally important in his contributions to the Telugu tradition of Dattatreya. He was a proponent of Advaita philosophy and dedicated his two epics, Anubhavadarpanamu and Shivadnyanamanjari to Shri Dattatreya. His famous Vivekachintamani book was translated into Kannada by Nijashivagunayogi and Lingayat saint Shanatalingaswami translated this into Marathi.
- Rigopoulos (1998), p. 77.
- Harper & Brown (2002), p. 155.
- Lilacharitra by Dr. V.B. Kolte
- Datta Sampradayacha Itihas by R. C. Dhere
- Mahendranath, Shri Gurudev. "The Pathless Path to Immortality: The Wisdom of Bhagavan Dattatreya" in The Scrolls of Mahendranath, International Nath Order, 2002. Retrieved December 17, 2010.
- Rigopoulos, Antonio (1998). Dattātreya: the immortal guru, yogin, and avatāra : a study of the transformative and inclusive character of a multi-faceted Hindu deity. SUNY Press. ISBN 0-7914-3695-0, ISBN 978-0-7914-3695-0. Source:  (accessed: Saturday February 6, 2010)
- Werness, Hope B. (2004). The Continuum encyclopedia of animal symbolism in art. Illustrated edition. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8264-1525-3, ISBN 978-0-8264-1525-7. Source:  (accessed: Thursday February 11, 2010), p.138
- Vanaparva 115.12, Shantiparva 49.36-37, Anushasanparva 152.5 and 153.12
- Dattatreya Upanishad
- Dr. R. C. Dhere, Datta Sampradayacha Itihas
- "Shridattareya Shodashavatar Charitanee" by Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati. Vasudevniwas publications
- Shri Datta Swami. Shri Datta Swami: Divinity on the Earth
- International Nath Order [Wiki] (April 2008). 'Avadhuta Gita'. Source:  (accessed: Tuesday February 9, 2010)
- Joshi, Dr. P. N. (2000) Shri Dattatreya Dnyankosh. Pune: Shri Dattatreya Dnyankosh Prakashan.
- Anandashraya Sanskrit Granthmala.
- Shri GuruCharitra Ed. R. K. Kamat, Keshav Bhikaji Dhawale Prakashan, Girgaum, Mumbai.
- ShriSansthan ManikPrabhu Padyamala, Upasanamartand -Shri ManikPrabhu Granthavali, ShriManikPrabhu Charitra by G. R. Kulkarni.
- Rangabavani by J.N.Adhvaryu, Shri Vadhutprashasti, Pravasi Avadhut and Guruvarni Varta by Paropakari, Shri Datta Upasana by Jethalal Narayan Trivedi. These books are written in Gujarati
- Works relating to the Dattatreya Cult in Telugu Literature: N. Venkata Rao (Essays in Philosophy presented to Dr. T. M. P. Mahadevan, Madras, 1962. pp464-475).
- Abhayananda, S., Dattatreya's Song of the Avadhut. ATMA Books (Olympia, Wash), 2000. ISBN 81-7030-675-2.
- Hariprasad Shivprasad Joshi (1965). Origin and Development of Dattātreya Worship in India. The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.
- Harper, Katherine Anne; Brown, Robert L. (2002). The Roots of Tantra. New York: State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-5305-6.
- Kambhampati, Parvathi Kumar (2000). Sri Dattatreya (1st ed.). Visakhapatnam: Dhanishta.
- Rigopoulos, Antonio (1998). Dattatreya: The Immortal Guru, Yogin, and Avatara. New York: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-3696-9.
- Subramanian K. N., Wisdom of Sri Dattatreya. Sura Books, 2006. ISBN 81-7478-390-3.
- Guru Gita, BAPU (Prabhakar Motiwale, Indore), chaitanya ashram, Datta Shakti Pith
- Articles about Lord Datta
- Information on Shri Dattatreya - Datta Guru
- Dattatreya and his teachings
- Devad Devasthan temple from Nevasa, Ahmednagar, Maharashtra
- Lord Dattatreya the Universal Guru