Lord Dattatrey – An Introduction

’Aryavarta’, the holy land of the Hindus, is called Bharat[1]! This Land has witnessed a number of Divine miracles and God’s creations. This is a land of the sages and saints! A sacred home for penance of the accomplished ascetics!

 

The Hindu ethical philosophy believes the Brahma-tatva[2] that is free from all worldly desires lies at the origin of this Universe. According to the basic principle of Brahma-tatva, the attribute-less Supreme Spirit desired to be many. It created Maya[3], with three qualities i.e.

 

“Satva[4]”.

 

“Rajas[5]

 

“Tamas[6]’’

 

And the Supreme Spirit also created this Universe.

 

Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Mahesh[7] are the presiding deities representing goodness, passion and ignorance. The true knowledge of Supreme spirit at the source is formless. This Supreme Spirit always remains formless and views the Maya3 with the sentiments of an eyewitness. Even though originally the deities, Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Mahesh are Nirgun-Nirakar[8], for the sake of their devotees they manifest themselves as Sagun-Sakar[9]. Whenever there is ‘Dharmaglani[10]’ in this Universe, the form-less Supreme Spirit descends on this earth in the form of a Saguna-Sakar Supreme Being manifested with all the three qualities. The Supreme Being then establishes religion by protecting righteousness and annihilating the evil; eradicates the sufferings of their devotees and restores their happiness. He shows his devotees the path to their welfare as well as liberation from this worldly existence.

 

Of the several incarnations of the Supreme Spirit, the incarnation of ‘Lord Dattatrey’ is considered as the most eminent. It is the combination of three deities, Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Mahesh.  The triad represents the combination of three qualities: Goodness, Passion and Ignorance. A cow behind Lord Dattarey represents the Mother Earth and the four Dogs at his feet represent the four Vedas[11]. Lord Dattatrey is the presiding Deity of this holy Earth and the holy Vedas.

 

 Since Lord Dattatrey is the manifestation of the triad, Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Mahesh, he typically appears in the form of an ascetic with three heads and six arms. He has an aura of a rising sun around him and has lustrous Jatta[12] tied in a knot over his head. He is dressed in a deerskin and is a radiant assuring figure for the devotees. His arms are seen to be holding various objects such as Mala[13], Kamandalu[14], Damaru[15], Trishul (Trident), Shankh (Conch), and Chakra (Holy Weapon), each of them with a peculiar spiritual connotation.

 

Mala and Kamandalu symbolize the mode of goodness (Sattva Guna); Shankh and Chakra symbolize the mode of passion (Rajas Guna); Trishul and Damaru symbolize the mode of ignorance (Tamas Guna). Sometimes he wears a tiger skin. His whole body is covered with ‘Vibhuti’[16](Holy ash). Lord Dattatrey is also known as an Avadhoot[17], a Digamber[18], an ascetic of highest order, beyond praise, selfless, free from the consciousness of the ego, roaming free like a child over the face of the earth. He is also known to manifest in any form at his own free will. He is known to be pure consciousness in human form enjoying emancipation during his lifetime. He also asks for alms and is easily satisfied with any little devotional service of his devotees. He always protects his devotees and easily comes to their rescue, whenever they need him.

 

The Srimad Bhagavatam[19], mentions twenty-four incarnations of the Supreme Being, out of which the incarnation of Lord Dattatrey is the sixteenth.  The Bhagwat[20]  mentions sixteen incarnations of Lord Dattatreya himself. They are:

 

“Yogiraj, Atrivarad, Dattreya, Kalagnishaman. Yogijanvallabh, Leela Vishwambhar, Siddharaj, Dnyanasagar, Vishwambhar, Mayamukta, Mayayukta, Adiguru, Shivaroop, Devadev, Digambar, Krishnashyamkamalnayan”.

 

These incarnations have been described in the Hindu Mythology. The only one, who has fully dedicated Himself to the devotees is Lord Dattatrey.

 



[1] Bharat: India

[2] Brahma-tatva: The true knowledge of Supreme Spirit

[3] Maya: Illusion.

[4] Satva: Mode of Goodness

[5] Rajas: The mode of passion

[6] Tamas: The mode of ignorance

[7] Lord Mahesh: Another name of Lord Shiva

[8] Nirgun-Nirakar: Attributeless – Formless. Virtueless and formless God

[9] Sagun-Sakar: With attributes and form. All-virtuous personified form of God

[10] Dharmaglani: Decline in religious practice

[11] Vedas: The Vedas are the most ancient books in the World, and they are the Foundation of Hinduism. Veda means knowledge. Vedas have no beginning or end. While it might surprise people how a book can have no beginning or end, the ancient Rishis who wrote these accepted that the complete knowledge of the Universe could never fit in any book, so there would always be new things to discover. This philosophy makes Hinduism a very tolerant religon, always ready to accept new ideas from other cultures.

[12] JattaA: Long Matted Hair

[13] Mala: Rossary

[14] Kamandalu: Holy Pot

[15] Damaru: A damaru is a small two-headed drum used by Lord Shiva

[16] Vibhuti: Vibhuti, a word of Sanskrit and several other languages of India. Literally, it has several meaning including all pervading; superhuman power; and wealth. Vibhuti is also the name for sacred ash used in religious worship in Hinduism, especially connected with Lord Shiva. The ash has several symbolic meanings. Placed on the forehead of devotees, it covers the mark of the spiritual third eye of Hindu belief that sees development of mystic insight as the primary path to Self-realization. It is a reminder of one's mortality since bodies are cremated being only temporary vessels of the soul. It calls to the good of ridding oneself of selfish and base worldly desires that wrap the self in Maya (illusion) just as Shiva burned the god of desire, Kama, to ashes when he attempted to break Shiva's focus on the Divine Truth.

[17] Avadhoot:  An avadhoot (also spelled Avadhut) is a mystic who has risen above body-consciousness, duality, and worldly concerns. The term is described in one text as one who is free from the consciousness of the ego, roaming free like a child over the face of the earth. An avadhut does not identify with the body, mind or emotions. Such a person is said to be pure consciousness in human form. The nature of the avadhut is the subject of the Avadhut Gita, the authorship of which is traditionally ascribed to Dattatreya.

[18] Digambar: A naked ascetic

[19] Srimad Bhagavatam: One of the most important classics of India describing the life and times of Lord Krishna. It is verily the Hindu Bible. Also called Bhagvat Purana. The writer of this book is named Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasadeva, also called Badarayana. He is the Lord, the bhagavan, amongst the philosophers, who in India assembled all the holy texts. He arranged the Vedas, the basic books (s'ruti) with the mantras for the rituals, the wisdom and the hymns and wrote the Mahabharata, the greatest epic poem in the world describing the history (itihâsa) of the great fall that the Vedic culture once made. The Bhagavad Gita is a part of it. Vyâsa also wrote the rest of the eighteen great Bibles (the puranas) of India as well as the Brahma-sutra, his masterpiece on the Absolute Truth.

[20] Bhagwat: A Purana depicting the glory of Lord Vishnu