|Shri Dattatreya, his Avataras and Famous Datta Kshetras
Shri Dattatreya is a very ancient incarnation, highly venerated through the ages. Dattatreya – a Universal Guru manifested in the recess of time of 'Kaliyug', when humanity had gone far from its pristine state and steeped into threshold of a timewhen all kinds of vices had already taken root, and the pious souls made fervent appealed for the salvage of the mankind surging forward in manifold way.
Atri Rishi was one of such Seers who had ‘seen’ and experienced the Brahman, the eternal Wisdom. To him was born a son, the product of the Grace or the Divine Will, which was the manifestation of all three Primal Energies of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. He was ordained with the three energies; He came to have the concentrated wisdom of the three God-heads or symbolically three heads. The three heads signified as Brahma:‘Tejas’ personified, Vishnu:‘Ojas' personified, Shiva: ‘Tapas’ personified. Under these heads, illumination of knowledge, vigorosity of action and stringency of penance were represented as three aspects or state of being of the same.
Birth of Lord Dattatreya: Dattatreya had descended into the realm of world as progeny of Atri Maharshi and Anusuya, a sage couple of the Vedic age.
Mata Anasuya was very famous for her devotion to her husband (Pativrutya). She was the embodiment of chastity. Such was her spiritual power that hard, uneven earth turned soft and smooth for her as she walked about. This Pious Woman induced jealousy and envy in others, however, and the three Gods decided to prove these doubting elements how wrong they were.
They transformed themselves into mendicants, approached the hermitage of sage Atri and begged for alms. At that time Sage Atri was away at the river offering his daily oblations. Anusuya came out and offered food to them. They made a strange request; the food be prepared and served to them by Anusuya, in the nude. In the Indian tradition any 'athithi' (guest) cannot be turned away, as they are considered to be an aspect of God. Hence she was placed in a dilemma. She smiled to herself and reflected thus: ‘I am totally purified by the long association with the holy sage Atri. What harm can the god of lust ever do to me? So I do fear nothing. As they have sought food from my hands, I look upon them as my own children and not as strangers and grown up men!’ Her thoughts – the thoughts of a pious and chaste person – instantly became reality; the elderly guests became babies!
Sage Atri on his return to the hermitage saw his wife Anusuya fondling three babies. Anusuya said "These children are the gift of God to us who have been childless so far". Sage Atri was overjoyed and named them Datta, which means 'given'. At this the three Gods reverted to their real forms and disclosed the truth. They extolled the power of Chastity and Purity of Anusuya which vanquished the combined and colossal powers of all three of them. Sage Atri and Anusuya prayed that they should remain as their sons. They consented and the three Gods merged into one body.
This is how Shri Dattatreya incarnated and is known as Gurudeva Datta – the Guru of all Gurus.
Sri Dattatreya is always depicted as holding Kamandalu and Japamala (representing Lord Brahma), Conch and Discuss (Shanka Chakra represents Lord Vishnu), Trident and Damaru (Trishula represents Lord Shiva). The Cow behind represents earth , 4 Dogs represents 4 Vedas and Audumbar in itself represents Datta Principle.
Shri Dattatreya had 24 Gurus from Nature "many are my preceptors," he told King Yadu, "selected by my keen sense, from whom acquiring wisdom freely, I wander in the world…. The earth, air/breeze, sky, fire, the sun, pigeon, python, sea, moth, elephant, ant, fish, Pingala the courtesan, arrow-maker, infant/playful boy, the moon, honeybee, deer, bird of prey, maiden, serpent, spider, caterpillar and water are my twenty four preceptors.
Guru Dattatreya gave Ashtanga Yoga (eight fold path of Yoga) to the world thousands of years ago. Patanjali codified this knowledge in sootra forms. It comprises of 8 steps viz., Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
Shri Dattatreya is glorified by Chanting of “Sri Gurudeva Datta” or “Sri Guru Datta, Jai Guru Datta”. Sri Dattatreya is often worshipped in the form of Padukas as can be seen in all the Famous Datta Kshetras like Ganagapur, Girnar, Mahur, Narsobawadi, Kurwapur etc. The Holy Audumbar Tree also signifies the Presence of Lord Dattatreya. Sri Dattatreya can also be worshipped by way of Satya Datta Puja (Ritualistic Worship similar to that of Satyanarayan), Chanting of Datta Mala Mantra or by way of Datta Yaga, Datta Homa etc
Disciples and Followers of Shri Dattatreya
The Disciples of Sri Dattatreya as mentioned in the Puranas are Kartavirya Sahasrarjuna, Bhagvan Sri Parashuram, King Yadu (Son of Yayaati and Devayaani) of Yadavas (Krishna’s Dynasty), Alarka (Madalasa-garbharatna), King Ayu from Somavansha and Prahlad. There is one more by name Sankruti mentioned in Avadhutopanishad and Jabaldarshanopanishad.
The Followers of Sri Dattatreya include Many Sects like Natha Tradition of Navanatha headed by Avadhutas like Sri Gorakshanath,Sri Matsyendra Nath etc, Mahanubhava Sect of Sri Chakradhar Swami, Niranjan Raghunath Tradition, Chaitanya Sect of Raghav Chaitanya, Ananda sect, Sakalmat Sampradaya of Sri Manik Prabhu, Avadhuta Panth of Sri Panth Maharaj Balekundri of Belgaum, Sects of Devotees in Gujrat and Andhrapradesh. Warkari Sampradaya of Maharashtra also rever Shri Dattareya as Adi Guru. Sant Eknath, Janardan Swami and Sant Tukaram have composed many Abhangas and Aartis on Sri Dattatreya. “Trigunatmaka Trimurti” Aarti Pada of Sri Eknath Maharaj and “Teen Shire Saha Hath” Abhang of Sant Tukaram are quite Famous.
Incarnations or Avataras of Lord Dattatreya
Numerous are the incarnations
Which undergo dissolution with the passage of time
Lord Dattatreya (that is the Guru principle) however is unlike this,
He never undergoes dissolution.
(Ref : Ramavijay 13:21 by Bhagavan Sri Shridhar Swami Maharaj)
In all, Shri Datta assumed 16 Main Incarnations. The book ‘Shri Dattatreya Shodashavataraha’ by H.H. Sri Vasudevanand Saraswati Tembe Swami Maharaj narrates the stories of these incarnations.
Incarnations / Avataras of Lord Dattatreya in Kaliyuga are :
Click here to read Shri Guru Charitra in detail
Shripada Shri Vallabha Swami Maharaj (1320A.D-1350A.D): He was born on Bhadrapada Shuddha Chavathi (Ganesh Chaturthi) to the Brahmin Couple Apalaraja and Sumati at Sri Kshetra Peethapuram (now in East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh). After his Upanayana at the age of 7yrs he stared Teachings Vedas to the Residents. At the age of 17yrs he started on a Pilgrimage to Kashi, Badri and Gokarna, where he stayed for a period of 3yrs. He then stayed at Sri Giri for 4 months and after visiting Nivrutti Sangam he finally settled down at Kurwapur. On the Day of Ashwina Vadya Dwadashi he disappeared in the Krishna River and concluded his Avatara.
Sri Narasimha Saraswati Swami Maharaj (1378A.D-1458A.D): He was born on Poushya Shuddha Dwitiya to the Brahmin Couple Madhava and Amba Bhavani at Sri Kshetra Karanja (Lad Karanja in Washim District of Maharashtra). The Child didn’t utter a word except “Om” till his Upanayana was performed at the age of 7yrs, when he suddenly started reciting the Holy Vedas. As assured by Sri Narahari 2 sons were born to his mother within a year and then he started on a Pilgrimage to Kashi and Badri. He accepted Sanyasa from Sri Krishna Saraswati at Kashi. He then travelled the length and breadth of the Country making various Kshetras more holy with the Touch of his Feet. After Staying at Narsobwadi for 12 years he finally came to Sri Kshetra Ganagapur. Shri Guru stayed at Ganagapur for a Period of 24 Years after which he Proceeded to Kardali Van at Srisailam where he Concluded his Avatara.
Prominent Saints of Datta Sampradaya who are revered as Avataras of Sri Dattatreya :
Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj of Humnabad (1817A.D-1865A.D)
Shri Swami Samarth Maharaj of Akkalkot (First appeared in 1838A.D-1878A.D)
Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi (around 1838A.D-1918A.D)
Sri Vasudevananda Saraswati Tembe Swami Maharaj of Maangaon (1854A.D-1914A.D)
Shri Gajanan Maharaj of Shegaon (First appeared in 1878A.D-1910A.D)
Important Datta Kshetras and their Details
Sri Kshetra Mahur is located in the Kinvat taluka of Nanded district in Maharashtra. Located here are the Temples of Mata Anasuya, Bhagvan Dattatreya and Mata Renuka Devi.
Sri Kshetra Girnar (Girinagar or Revatak Pravata) is a collection of mountains in the Junagadh District of Gujarat, situated near Junagadh at a distance of 327 km from Ahmedabad. Located here are the Jain Temples and Temples of Ambaji and Guru Dattatreya. One should climb around 10,000 Steps to reach the Dattatreya Temple
Sri Kshetra Panchaleshvar is located in the Bid District of Maharashtra near the Famous Rakshasbhuvan Shani Mandir. It is famous as the Place of Lunch of Lord Dattatreya.
Sri Kshetra Peethapuram is located in the East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh. This is the Birth Place of Shripada Shri Vallabha Swami Maharaj. It was Sri Tembe Swami Maharaj who brought this place in limelight. Click here to read in detail
Sri Kshetra Gokarna is located in the Uttara Kannada district of the Karnataka. Lord Shivas Atma Lingam was established by Lord Ganesh at this Punya Kshetra. Shripada Shri Vallabha Swami Maharaj stayed here for a period of 3 yrs. Click here to read in detail
Sri Kshetra Kurwapur is located in the Raichur Disitrict of Karnataka. Located at a distance of 25kms from Raichur, it was this place where Shripada Shri Vallabha Swami Concluded his Avatara. Click here to read in detail
Sri Kshetra Karanja (Lad Karanja) is located in the Washim District of Maharashtra. It is the Birth Place of Sri Narasimha Saraswati Swami Maharaj. Sri Tembe Swami Maharaj pointed out the exact place of Birth and then with the efforts of Sri Brahmananda Saraswati of Kashi the Guru Mandir was built. Click here to read in detail
Sri Kshera Audumbar is located in the Kolhapur District of Maharashtra at a distance of 10kms from Bhillavadi Railway Station. The Temple of Goddess Bhuvaneshwari mentioned in 17th Adhyay of Sri Guru Charitra is located on the other bank of Krishna River. Sri Narasimha Saraswati had Performed the Holy Chaturmasya Vrata here. Click here to read in detail
Sri Kshetra Narsobawadi is located in the Kolhapur District of Maharashtra at a distance of 23kms from Sangali and 15kms from Jaisingpur. The Datta Temple here is located near the Confluence of Krishna and Panchaganga rivers. Shri Guru stayed here for a Period of 12 yrs. Click here to read in detail
Sri Kshetra Ganagapur is located in the Afzalpur Taluk of Gulbarga District in Karnataka. Shri Guru Stayed here for a Period of 24 yrs. Click here for details about Important Temples and Places to Visit at Sri Kshetra Ganaagapur
Sri Kshetra Shrishailam is situated in the Nallamala Hills of Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. Located here are the Famous Temples of Sri Mallikarjuna and Bhramaramba. It is also the Gupta Sthaan of Sri Guru Narasimha Saraswati as he concluded his Avatara in the Kardali Vanam located nearby. Click here to read in detail
Sri Kshetra Manik Nagar is located in the Bidar District of Karnataka near Humnabad. This Place was Sactified by the Stay of Sri Manik Prabhu Maharaj who established the Sakalmata Sampradaya.
Sri Kshetra Akkalkot is located in the Solapur District of Maharashtra. Sri Swami Samarth Maharaj stayed here for 22yrs and made the place holy.
Sri Kshetra Shirdi is located in the Ahmednagar District of Maharashtra. Sri Sai Baba stayed at Shirdi almost all through his Life and made the Place a Punya Kshetra.
Sri Kshetra Maangaon is located in the Kudal Taluka of Sindhudurg District of Maharashtra. It is the Birth Place of the Rejuvenator of Datta Sampradaya Paramapujya Paramahamsa Parivrajakacharya Shrimat Vasudevananda Saraswati Tembe Swami Maharaj.
Sri Kshera Garudeshwar is located in the Narmada District of Gujrat. Located here are the Dattatreya Temple and Samadhi Place of Sri Vasudevananda Saraswati Tembe Swami Maharaj.
Sri Kshetra Shegaon is located in the Buldana district of Maharashtra. Shri Sant Gajanan Maharaj stayed here and attained Samadhi at this very place. A large temple is now built for his Samadhi.
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