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Read also a book about him -  Dattaatreya Tradition

1. Dattaatreya - His Life
2. Dattaatreya - His Disciples and His Works
3. Dattaatreya - Miscellaneous Information
4. Dattaatreya - Yadu, Alark, Arjun

Rishi Dattaatreya is said to be the 5th incarnation of Vishnu, born to Atri Rishi and his wife Anasooyaa. Datta means "given or donated" and Traya means "three", so Dattaatreya means given or donated by three (Brahmaa, Vishnu and Mahesh). Dattaatreya, Chandramaa and Durvaasaa - these three were give to Atri Jee by three Devtaa - Vishnu, Brahmaa and Shiv respectively.

His name also means - the word "Datta" means "Given", Dattaa is called so because the divine trinities have "given" themselves in the form of a son; and he is the son of Atri, hence the name "Atreya" so his name is Dattaatreya. He is approached more of a benevolent god than as a teacher. He descended on Prithvi on the Full Moon day of Maagh Maas (Maagh Poornimaa). His story is described in short in Bhaagvat Puraan, 11/6 and in detail in Maarkandeya Puraan. It is said that he lives on Sahyaadri Mountain.

Birth of Dattaatreya
Once Atri Muni and Anusooyaa did a severe Tap with the desire of a son. Brahmaa, Vishnu and Mahesh got very pleased with them and all appeared before them together. Atri Rishi got very happy to see all of them but got surprised too. He said I was meditating on Bhagvaan but how come that you all came before me? The trio said - "Whoever you were meditating on that is we three. We are very pleased with your Tapasyaa, so ask what do you want to ask for?" Atri Rishi said - "I have a desire to have a son like you." The trio granted his wish and went away. Later he had three sons - A son was born from Atri's eyes, his name was Chandramaa (Brahmaa Jee's Avataar). Brahmaa Jee appointed him as the King of Braahman, medicines and constellations. Among his other sons are Dattaatreya (Vishnu's Avataar), and Durvaasaa Muni (Mahaadev's Avataar). He is called Trishiraa also because of having three heads.

Another Story of the Birth of Dattaatreya
A similar story is given in Padm Puraan, 1/29; with different names, and there is no mention of Anasooyaa there, so no question arises of Dattaatreya in that reference. Brahmaa Jee brought the man alive in that story, not Anasooyaa.

There is another story about the birth of Dattaatreya. It comes in Maarkandeya Puraan. Once there was a Braahman who was cursed to die at sunrise, and his devoted wife by the power of her austerity, restrained the Sun from rising so that her husband does not die. When the Sun did nor rise in the morning all activities of Tri-Lok ceased. The gods, alarmed by this, went to Brahmaa Jee for counsel. Brahmaa Jee said - "Majesty is subdued by majesty indeed, and austerities can also be subdued by austerities only, so O Devtaa, You listen to me carefully. As through the might of the faithful wife the Sun did not rise, and from his not rising loss befalls on Tri-Lok, in the same way through your desire the same Sun should rise. Go and propitiate Atri's faithful wife Anasooyaa who is also rich in austerities."

Having been so instructed, they sought the help of the wife of the sage Atri. When they expressed their desire, she replied - "The might of a faithful wife may not be lost in any case. Hence while honoring that good lady, I will liberate the day. O Devtaa, that day and night may again exist, and that that Satee woman's own husband may not perish." At Anasooyaa's exhortation the Braahman's wife relented, the Sun rose, and the Braahman died. But he was restored to life by the virtuous Anasooyaa. There fell a shower of flowers, accompanied with the strains of heavenly instruments and other musical instruments. And Devtaa got very happy to see this. They said to Anasooyaa - "Choose a boon, O blessed woman. Since you have accomplished a great matter for Devtaa, we Devtaa wish to grant you a boon. Ask what do you wish for?"

Anasooyaa said: "If you gods are pleased with me, then grant me a boon, that Brahmaa, Vishnu, and Shiv become sons to me, and let me in company with my husband attain religious devotion, to the end that I may be delivered from affliction." "Be it so!" exclaimed Brahmaa, Vishnu, and Shiv and the other gods to her; and they departed. (Read its full version)

Yet Another Story
There is another story about Dattaatreya's birth. Once Naarad Jee infected the minds of the three Devee - Lakshmee, Saraswatee and Paarvatee that Anasooyaa's Paativrat was higher than their own. Hearing this they got suspicious and told it to their consorts. So the three Devtaa intended to test Anasooyaa's Paativrat (faithfulness towards her husband) to prove their consorts wrong. So they came to Muni's Aashram in the absence of Muni, assuming Braahman's guise. They asked her for Bhikshaa (alms) - "Bhavati Bhikshaam Dehi" (Mother, give us Bhikshaa). When Anasooyaa wanted to give them Bhikshaa they said - "We do not accept Bhikshaa like this. You take off your clothes then we will accept your Bhikshaa."

Now Anasooyaa was in a great flux, how to do this? It was a strange request. She could not refuse Bhikshaa also as they all were Braahman, nor she could give them Bhikshaa with such condition. Then she thought if they have already called her "mother", it means she will give them alms like mother. She said to them - "Wait, I come back after taking off my clothe." and went inside. The three Devtaa stood their in surprise just to see what will happen next. Inside the Aashram Anasooyaa prayed her husband - "If I have always observed my Paativrat Dharm, then these three Braahman should be transformed into babies." and started taking off her clothes.

As she came out she heard the cry of three newborn babies. She took them in her lap and breastfed them one by one. After they were satisfied, she laid them down and went inside to wear her clothes on. When she came outside again she saw those three Braahman still waiting for their Bhikshaa. Seeing her they appeared before her in their real form, blessed her and went away.

Another Version
When Anasooyaa had turned the three gods into new-born babies, they could not return to their places. When Devee's husbands did not return for long time, they became anxious and went directly to Muni Atri's Aashram. They were shocked to see the condition of their husbands. Their jealousy had gone, they understood the greatness of Anasooyaa. They begged Anasooyaa to forgive them and gave their husbands back as they were. Anasooyaa got pity on them, changed them into their original form and gave them back to their wives. The three Devtaa, when they were departing, had tasted the warmth of maternal love of Anasooyaa so they decided to be with her. So they were born to her as her three sons - Brahmaa Jee as Chandramaa, Vishnu as Dattaatreya, and Shiv as Durvaasaa on Maargsheersh Shukla 14th. Thus this is the birthday of Dattaatreya Jee.

According to Brahm Puraan, after an order from his father, sage Atri, Dattaatreya sat on the banks of river Gautamee and prayed to Shiv and finally earned the Brahm Gyaan (Spiritual Knowledge).

Full Version of the Story of the Birth of Dattaatreya
Long time ago there lived a couple in Pratishthaan Nagar (modern Paitaan) in Mahaaraastra state of India. The husband's name was Kaushik and the wife's name was Sumati. Sumati was very devoted to her husband and extremely virtuous. However, Kaushik led an immoral life and eventually deserted his wife. He became a victim to many deadly diseases, and thus was left alone with none to care for him, he finally came back to his wife who received him with great love and devotion. She forgave his faults,  treated him with compassion and began to attend to his wounds - physical as well as mental.

One night, carrying her ailing husband on her shoulders, Sumati was walking along the highway and came to a innocent sage called Maandavya. He had been unjustly hanged on the gallows. By using his Yaugik powers, the sage had retained his life in his body which was still swinging to and fro. Because it was almost dark, Sumati did not see the swaying body of the sage and when she was walking, her husband's leg brushed against the sage's body unwittingly and caused the sage excruciating pain. The sage, already hard pressed, lost his temper and cursed that the person who had caused him such severe agony, would die as soon as the Sun rose next morning.

The virtuous and devout Sumati, on hearing this, could not bear even the thought of her husband's coming death. So she pronounced a counter-curse. She said - "O Sun god, do not rise at all tomorrow. If you disregard my words, you will be burnt and fall from the sky." No power on earth can render ineffective the curse pronounced by a devoted wife.

The Shaastra declares - "That power which men attain by practicing Yog, will be obtained by women of respectable family merely by their chastity and moral excellence." The Sun god did not rise and there was widespread sorrow in the world. No ritual could be conducted; no duty could be performed. Scared, the Devtaa approached Brahmaa (the Creator) for assistance. He said that he was helpless. Taking all the gods with him, Brahmaa went to Atri's Aashram and entreated Anasooyaa to save the world, as in his opinion, she alone possessed the power to do so. Atri and Anasooyaa, accompanied by Brahmaa Jee and Devtaa, went to Sumati's house and implored her to withdraw her curse. But Sumati refused because she knew that her husband would die the moment the Sun rose. Anasooyaa assured Sumati that she would bring her husband back to life by her power. So, Sumati revoked her curse and the Sun rose immediately. But as the Sun rose Kaushik died. Anasooyaa, then by virtue of her Yaugik powers, brought him back to life. All were very happy to see the Sun rising.

Devtaa were so pleased that they were eager to bestow on Anasooya a boon out of gratitude. She said that she desired the "Trinity" to become her children. Her wish was instantly fulfilled. Brahmaa Jee was born as Chandramaa (the Moon), Vishnu as Dattaatreya and Shiv as Durvaasaa. After some time, with the consent of Anasooyaa, Chandramaa left to take his position in the sky, Durvaasaa departed to do penance, only Dattaatreya remained with his parents. However, before leaving, Chandramaa and Durvaasaa endowed Dattaatreya with their powers. Therefore, Dattaatreya is conceived as "three in one" and depicted as having three faces and six hands.

Marriage and Children
According to  Bhavishya Puraan, 4/19,  Dattaatreya, the incarnation of Vishnu, was married to Nadee, the incarnation of Lakshmee, and both had 8 sons.



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Created by Sushma Gupta On 5/27/04
Modified on 04/23/13