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Dattatreya is a unified form of the supreme Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, and hence, is the repository of their combined divinity. He was born as the son of the great Sage Atri and his devout consort, Anusuya. Datta means ‘to give’ or ‘given’ and ‘Atreya’ stands for, ‘Atri’s son.’ As the three supreme Gods merged and gave themselves to Atri in the form of his son, he is called Dattatreya. He is a simple monk, who looks unique, with three heads and six arms. He is seen holding a rosary and water pot, a conch and discus, and a trident and drum in his hands, thus representing all the three Gods. He is usually seen in the company of four dogs and a cow.
Dattatreya is portrayed with three heads, six hands, and four dogs, standing in front of the divine cow and wish-fulfilling tree. He holds a trident for killing the ego, his drum is used to awaken those living in ignorance, and his conch shell reverberates the sound OM. He holds a rotating discus-chakra, which is a circle representing the universe and destruction of karmic bonds. Dattatreya holds a japa mala, with which he counts his devotees and liberates them by merely thinking about them. He carries a pot filled with the nectar of pure wisdom to renew those souls who have a thirst for knowledge and thus delivers them from the endless cycles of life and death.
Dattatreya is an embodiment of wisdom. Even though he is essentially a wandering monk, the sacred Audumbar (fig) tree is considered as his special abode. His form itself is profound in its meaning. His body is smeared with ashes, indicating purity, detachment, and dispassion. The trident he holds is a symbol of him transcending the illusory world; Chakra, the discus, denotes salvation; the conch, the eternal sound AUM and the rosary he has, signifies meditation. Also, the accompanying dogs symbolize the four Vedas and also the four Yugas, the epochs, while the holy cow denotes mother Earth and also abundance.
Dattatreya, also known as Datta, is an incarnation of the almighty and is believed to have descended on Earth on the Purnima day or Full Moon day in the Hindu calendar month of Margashirsha (December–January).
There are many legends associated with Dattatreya. As per one of them, once, the trinity of Goddesses Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati wanted to test the chastity of the highly virtuous Anusuya, and on their request, their consorts, the three supreme Gods appeared before Sage Anusuya disguising themselves as ascetics. They asked her to give alms to them, by remaining naked. The noblewoman was shocked at first. Soon, realizing their real identities and understanding their intentions, she used her great spiritual powers and simply transformed the supreme Gods into innocent babies. Then, she fed the babies naked as per their demand, without any sense of shame or guilt. Realizing the power of her impeccable chastity, the three Goddesses appeared before her and eulogized her. Gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva too reverted to their true forms, and blessed her and Sage Atri, with a divine child. Thus, Dattatreya was born to them, as an incarnation of the combined godliness of the three great Gods. This realized soul, who is believed to be a historical entity, lived a virtuous life as a wandering monk, inspiring and guiding people towards a spiritual experience.
Though Dattatreya is an amalgamation of all the three supreme deities, he is specially considered an Avatar of Lord Vishnu .
People in large numbers offer prayers to Dattatreya and recite some sacred hymns from Avadhuta Gita, Jivanmuktha Gita, Datta Prabodh and Datta Mahatmya, which contain stories of his life and teachings. There are also many Dattatreya temples all over the country, especially in Maharashtra, which people visit and worship. They also sing Bhajans (hymns) in his praise. Further, saints like Narasimha Saraswati and Shirdi Saibaba are considered his incarnations and prayers are offered to them too. Dattatreya Jayanti, his day of advent is also observed with great piety by the devout throughout the country. Guests are also treated as embodiments of Dattatreya and are duly honored on this day. Datta is regarded as Adi Guru, a very ancient teacher and it is believed that his worship can bless you with supreme knowledge, sound intelligence, and divine wisdom. It shall also help to diffuse Karma.
Dattatreya is believed to have descended on Earth on the Purnima or Full Moon day in the Hindu calendar month of Margashirsha (December–January). The sacred day of his advent is celebrated as Dattatreya Jayanti or Datta Jayanti and is observed with great piety and enthusiasm by the devout throughout the country.
The sacred scriptures prescribe fire ceremony, Abishekam (hydration ceremony), Pooja/Archana (Light and Sound ceremony), Yantra and Mantra (special sounds) as the ways to offer your prayer to the divine. Out of these, fire ceremony is the most evolved spiritual technology on earth to connect with the divine beings. Participate in the remedial services to clear your karma and receive the blessings.