What are names and function of Lord Datta?

Lord Dattatreya



1. Lord Dattatreya – One who provides frequencies of Divine consciousness!
2. Other Names of Lord Dattatreya
3. Function of Lord Dattatreya
4. Worship of Lord Datta (who has one head)
5. Benefit of chanting Lord Dattatreya’s Name

In the era gone by, the demonic energies grew enormously in the gross and subtle forms. Gods’ efforts to vanquish them were unsuccessful. Then, under orders from Lord Brahma, Lord Datta had to incarnate at various places in various forms and destroy the demons. The day of His incarnation is celebrated as ‘Datta Jayanti’. – Lord Ganesh.

1. Lord Dattatreya – One who provides frequencies of Divine consciousness!

The principle that makes available to an embo-died soul both gross and subtle (i.e. manifest and unmanifest) frequencies of higher or lower Gods and Deities in a shorter time is called Datta or Lord Dattatreya). The very meaning of Datta is the ‘One who provides frequencies of Divine consciousness’. – A Scholar.

2. Other Names of Lord Dattatreya

2.1 Avadhut

The One who controls the eight faculties in the body of an embodied soul and shows it the path to the unmanifest dimension through the manifest dimension. Avadhut is a medium that connects both the manifest form of Lord Datta and His unmanifest form. He is a manifest form (the gross manifestation) of the three principles – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiv. He is also related to the unmanifest dimension (manifestation of these three principles in the form of light). ‘Avadhut’ comes alive with the radiance of Lord Dattatreya.

2.2 Digambar

Is the principle which gives company to an embodied soul till it gets Final Liberation in the radiance of the sky, i.e. beyond all the directions.

2.3 Sripad

‘Sri’ is the never-ending principle of God. The principle that takes an embodied soul to that principle of God or to the Holy Feet of ‘Sri’ principle is the Datta principle in Sripad.

2.4 Vallabh

The Datta princ-iple in the form of Vallabh protects the Universe from the circular-shaped distressing frequencies that create a fear psychosis, and thus protects the embodied souls. – A Scholar.

3. Function of Lord Dattatreya

Lord Dattatreya bestows His grace on man by giving speed to the journey of his ancestors to the next region and reducing his distress from ancestors. God gives man a chance to get liberated from the debt of ancestors through the ritual that gives speed to ancestors onward journey and through chanting the Name of Dattatreya.
One cannot get rid of the ancestors’ debt merely by remembering them off and on, displaying their photos in the house or publishing their photos in newspapers on their death anniversaries. It is only by chanting the Name of Dattatreya that the ancestors get speed to go on their onward journey in true sense. From this we can realise that it is imperative to worship the Deity to get liberated from the ancestors’ debt. This also reduces the debt of God on us. – A Devotee of Datta.

4. Worship of Lord Datta (who has one head)

Till the Satya Yuga, the spiritual level of all embodied souls was high and they acquired knowledge on the strength of their own spiritual practice. They possessed the state of Soham’ (I am He). So Lord Dattatreya was required for the functions of dissolution and imparting knowledge to a very limited extent. Only the Vishnu principle in Him was active that time. As a symbol of this, the idol of Datta had only one head. Thereafter, during the Treta Yuga, the spiritual level of the embodied souls started to come down and they found it difficult to protect themselves and acquire knowledge on their own. To impart more knowledge to them through the subtle dimension, Lord Dattatreya had to bring out the dormant Brahma and Shiv principle in Him. To symbolise this, the three-headed idol of Dattatreya became prevalent.

4.1 The Japamala (rosary) in Lord Datta’s hand represents perennial spiritual practice

Brahma of the three-headed Datta has a rosary in His hand. Datta’s chanting goes on continuously, without a break. Perennial spiritual practice is the quality of Lord Shiv too. This feature of ‘perennial spiritual practice’ of both the Deities is found in Lord Dattatreya. Perennial spiritual practice in the present Era means functioning either in a saviour or a destroyer form, as is required.’ – A Devotee of Datta.

4.2 Kamandalu (water-pot with a specific shape carried by ascetics)

Contains water which has the potential to absorb the unmanifest waves emanating from the Lord and to draw a protective sheath in a moment around the three celestial regions for protecting them from the distress of negative energies in the Universe.’ – A Scholar.

5. Benefit of chanting Lord Dattatreya’s Name

A. The ancestors get speed in their journey to the next region and this makes the atmosphere in the house pleasant.

B. An embodied soul gets energy from Lord Shiv also.

– Lord Ganesh.


Why did Lord Datta acquire knowledge from twenty-four Gurus?

Lord Datta
Lord Datta


1. Meaning

Datta means the one who has been given [the spiritual experience of the unmanifest (nirgun)] away. In other words the one who has been endowed with the spiritual experience that He is Brahman, is already liberated or is the soul itself, is Datta.

2. Some other Names

2.1 Avadhut

Some of the origins and meanings of the word Avadhut (अवधूत) are given below

  • A (अ)        = One who is perpetually engrossed in Bliss (आनंदे वर्तते नित्‍यम्‌ ।).
    Va (व)      = One who lives every moment in the present (वर्तमानेन वर्तते ।).
    Dhu (धू) = One whose entire ignorance has been cleansed with spiritual knowledge and hence is benevolent (ज्ञाननिर्धूत कल्‍याण: ।).
    T (त)        = One who has destroyed His ignorance by contemplation on the principle (Brahman) (तत्‍त्वचिंतनधूत येन ।)
  • In the Avadhutopanishad the meaning of the word Avadhut is as under –

    A (अ): The meaning of this letter is infinite. Avadhut has realised Brahman in the form of letters (Aksharbrahman). Aksharbrahman also refers to the state of action.

    Va (व): This letter symbolises ‘varenyatva (वरेण्‍यत्‍व)’ which means supremacy.

    Dhu (धू): The letter dhu means the one free from all kinds of bondages, liberated, the one who cannot be described with any title or cannot function with any restriction.

    T (त): This letter symbolises the great quote ‘तत्‍त्वमसि’ meaning ‘You are that Principle (Brahman)’.

    In short, a great saint who constantly remains engrossed in Self-realisation is described as Avadhut.

  • ‘सर्वान्‌ प्रकृतिविकारान्‌ अवधुनोतीत्‍यवधूत: ।’ (Avadhut is the one who cleanses and destroys all defects arising from Prakruti.) This is the definition according to the Siddhasiddhantapaddhati (6.1).
  • ‘Avadhut chintan Shri Gurudev Datta (अवधूत चिंतन श्री गुरुदेव दत्‍त ।)’. This is the way devotees of Lord Datta sing His glory. Avadhut refers to the devotee. Thus it means that Shri Gurudev Datta is the one who always thinks about and takes care of His devotees.
  • One who is without a doubt or a resolve and is pure in all aspects is known as Avadhut, He is a famous Brahman.

    The one who cleanses the entire world with Self-realisation is called Avadhut, He is a famous Brahman.

    Avadhut is the one who destroys ego, He is a yogi and is pure too. The one who is overwhelmed with ego lives a degraded life.

    Shri Eknathi Bhagvat 7: 270 – 272

2.2 Digambar (दिगंबर)

In ‘दिक्‌  एव अंबर: ।’ dik (दिक्‌) refers to the direction and ambar (अंबर) to the garment. Digambar means one whose apparel is the directions themselves.

3. History of His birth

3.1 According to the spiritual texts (Purans)

Anasuya the wife of Sage Atri was very chaste (pativrata). Her chastity endowed her with so much power that Indra and other deities felt threatened. They approached Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and told Them, “If someone is blessed by her he will be able to substitute the deities or slay any of them. So please find a solution to this or at least let us serve her.” This enraged the trinity of deities and They said, “Let us see how great her chastity is.”

Once when Sage Atri had gone out to undertake austerities the trinity of deities disguised as guests approached Anasuya and asked for alms. She requested Them to wait till Sage Atri returned. They replied saying, “It will be long before the sage returns. We are very hungry. Please serve us fast otherwise we will go elsewhere. We have heard that you serve guests food as per their wishes in your hermitage, that is why we had come.” Then she welcomed Them and requested Them to sit down for a meal. They complied. When she came to serve Them They said, “Seeing your beauty we wish that you serve us without any garments on.” She thought to herself, “It is wrong to send a hungry guest away. My mind is pure, then what can the deity of sex, Kamadev do? The prowess of my husband’s penance will save me.” She then told the guests “I will undress and serve You. Eat to Your heart’s content.” In the kitchen she contemplated upon her husband and thought ‘these guests are my children’. Then she removed her garments and came to serve Them. To her surprise, the guests had turned into three wailing babies ! She then held Them to her breast and fed Them thus stopping Their cry.

Just then, Sage Atri returned. She narrated everything to Him. He being Omniscient recognised the babies and offered obeisance to Them. The babies remained in the cradle and Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh appeared before the couple. Appeased, the deities told the couple to ask for a boon. Atri and Anasuya asked for the babies to remain with them. Blessing them accordingly, the deities returned to Their abodes. From the three deities, Chandra was created from Brahma, Datta from Vishnu and Durvas from Shankar. Chandra and Durvas took permission and left for the chandra region (chandralok) and to places of pilgrimage respectively, to undertake penance. The third, that is Datta remained on the earth to accomplish the mission of Lord Vishnu. This itself is the origin of the Guru lineage (pitha).

3.2 According to the science of Spirituality

A (अ) means absent (a is the vowel signifying negation) and tri (त्रि) to the triad. Hence ‘Atri (अत्रि)’ means the one in whom the triads of the waking – dream – deep sleep states, sattvarajatama components and the meditator – object of meditation – act of meditation are absent. Atri’s intellect was pure, devoid of asuya, that is desire and anger and the six actions (shatkarmas). That pure intellect itself is referred to as Anasuya. It is the resolve of this pure intellect itself which gave birth to Datta.

4. Gurus and subordinate Gurus of Datta

4.1 Guru

The eleventh skandha (volume) of the Shrimadbhagvat narrates a conversation between Yadu and Avadhut. Here Avadhut names His Gurus and narrates what He learnt from them. [The word Guru used in this context means the teacher. The features of a true Guru are given in ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 6 – Path of Guru’s Grace (Gurukrupayoga)’.]

Everything in the universe is a Guru because one can learn something or the other from it. From bad things one learns what defects to reject and from good things what good qualities to acquire. For example I accumulated knowledge from the twenty-four Gurus enlisted below and converted it into an ocean. Then bathing in it, I cleansed all my sins.

1. The earth: One should acquire the virtues of endurance and tolerance of duality from the earth.

2. The wind: One should be detached like the wind. Just as the wind blows both in the hot and cold regions without being influenced by their qualities or defects so also those desirous of Liberation (mumukshus) should wholeheartedly tread along the path prescribed by the Vedas (Shrutis) in the hot and cold regions without paying attention to virtues or defects of others.

3. The sky: Just like the sky the soul pervades all animate and inanimate objects yet it remains unaltered, single and steady.

4. The water

  • Just like water one should behave with affection towards all. One should never be partial to anyone.
  • Just as water retains its impurity at its bed and cleanses others of their impurities so also should man renounce the impurities arising from attachment to the physical body, acquire the treasure of spiritual knowledge and cleanse people with vices, of their sins.
  • Just as water flows from a higher altitude uprooting impudent trees, nurturing humble vegetation on its way to the low lying land so also liberated souls should destroy the vain and wealthy, punish the hypocrite evildoers and redeem those who surrender to them, of their sins.
  • Man is akin to water which becomes impure by stagnation and gets purified as it flows. Hence men with a spiritual attitude should visit various places of pilgrimages (tirthakshetras) instead of living in one place.

5. The fire

  • Like fire, man should undertake austerities and get illumined with knowledge. He should partake of whatever is available, refrain from bad deeds and utilise his virtues only at the opportune moment for a worthwhile cause.
  • When on a pilgrimage, etc. one should eat whatever is available without accumulating it.
  • Always remaining pure like the fire one should behave with equality towards all.
  • Fire delivers the oblations to the deities made in it amidst chanting of their respective Names.
  • In order to realise the transient nature of the body the flame of fire is considered as a Guru. Just as hardly any time is required to kindle and extinguish a flame so also creation and dissolution of a body from the five cosmic elements does not take long.

6. The moon: There are in all sixteen phases of the moon including the subtle phase of the new moon and the fifteen of the fortnight. Though there is waxing and waning of the moon, it remains unaffected by them. Similarly, the soul is not affected by changes in the body.

7. The sun: The sun stores water taking the future into account and benevolently showers it on the earth at the appropriate moment. In the same way man should store useful things and make them available to all living organisms impartially, considering the time, place and the prevalent conditions.

8. The pigeon: A man who lives with intense attachment for his wife and children feeling that worldly life is pleasurable is destroyed with time just like a pigeon along with its family is devoured by a falcon. Thus a seeker desirous of Liberation (mumukshu) should be mentally detached from all this.

9. The python: The python lies in one place fearlessly having faith in its destiny. It is content with whatever food it gets and has no preferences about the quantity, taste, etc. It does not feel threatened if no food is available for sometime and inspite of having the strength does not make use of it. Similarly those desirous of the Final Liberation should partake of whatever little is available reposing faith in destiny and at times if nothing is available then they should become introverted and remain engrossed in meditating on the soul.

10. The sea

  • During monsoons just as the sea is neither pleased if the rivers bring in plenty of water nor is displeased if they do not, and consequently does not swell or shrink, so also man should remain steadfast to his duties and should neither feel elated if he experiences worldly pleasures nor unhappy if he is faced with tragedy. He should always remain immersed in Bliss.
  • One should not let anyone perceive one’s virtues just as the sea keeps its length, breadth, depth and the treasures in its bed hidden from everyone. However one should always utilise them favourably, for the sake of others.

11. The moth: The moth enchanted by the alluring radiance of the lit lamp, dives at it and is soon charred to death. A man who is similarly fascinated by a woman’s beauty and youth for the sake of sexual pleasure finally perishes in it just like the moth.

12. The queen bee and the honey collector

  • The queen bee: The queen bee builds a hive encountering several difficulties in a cumbersome location high up on a tree and collects honey in it. It neither eats it itself nor lets others feast upon it. Finally all of a sudden the honey collector kills it and takes away the hive along with the honey. In the same way the miser who accumulates wealth with relentless efforts finally either becomes unhappy when it is suddenly lost in the fire, stolen by thieves or taken away by the king or when unrighteous progeny is born to him which misuses it or if he dies issueless. Thus after his death the wealth either remains where it is or is acquired by someone unrelated to him. If at the time of death he still has attachment for that wealth then he harasses the one who enjoys it in the form of a spirit or a serpent. Thus learning that accumulation of wealth leads to sudden death like the honey bee, one should stop amassing wealth.
  • The honey collector: Just as the one who collects the honey acquires it effortlessly so also a male seeker should partake of food cooked in the home of a householder instead of spending time in making a fire, collecting utensils, firewood, etc. and should devote that time to realise God. Such seekers desirous of Liberation partake of food from householders and ultimately uplift them.

13. The elephant (Gajendra)

  • Although the elephant is so powerful, man tries to capture it by digging a pit in the ground, covering it with grass and placing a wooden cow elephant covered with elephant skin on that pit. Infatuated by the cow elephant the elephant craves for sexual pleasure and runs towards that wooden cow elephant with speed and falls in the pit. Thus it is easily made a captive by man. Similarly man lured by sensuous pleasure is instantly entrapped in bondage.
  • Men allured by adulterous women are destroyed in the same way as elephants overcome with lust die fighting amongst themselves.

14. The bumble-bee

  • The sunflower which blooms with sunrise closes with the sunset. At that time if a bumble-bee is seated on it, then it gets trapped in the flower. Thus realising that attachment to object pleasure gives rise to bondage, one should refrain from such attachment.
  • Just as the bumble-bee savours the fragrance of several sunflowers instead of one so also seekers desirous of Liberation should realise that every science will not be easy to grasp and hence should try to understand their implied meaning.

15. The Musk deer: The musk deer which is as swift as the wind and can be captured by none, gets enchanted with melodious music and loses its life to others. Keeping this in mind one should not get entrapped in any kind of attachment.

16. The Fish: When a fish-hook fastened with bait is thrown into the water, the fish lured by the bait swallows the hook and gets caught. Thus it loses its life. Man too is trapped in satisfying his taste buds and thus continues to suffer in the whirlpool of births and deaths.

17. The prostitute – Pingala: One night despite a long wait not a single client approached her. As she restlessly waited pacing up and down, hoping for a client she was finally bored and suddenly developed detachment. As long as man has desire he cannot sleep peacefully. The one who sacrifices desire is unaffected by unhappiness.

18. The lapwing: Seeing the lapwing fly with a fish in its beak hundreds of crows and eagles began chasing it, pecking at it and tried to snatch the fish, thus harassing it. This flock began following it wherever it went. Finally exhausted it dropped the fish. Just then an eagle caught the fish. No sooner had the eagle caught the fish than all the crows and eagles began chasing it. The lapwing however calmly perched itself on the branch of a tree. In this world there is peace only if sense objects are rejected, otherwise it leads to great distress.

19. The child: Forsaking respect and disrespect, believing that the universe is governed by destiny one should live carefree like a child and enjoy the Bliss.

20. The bangles: When two bangles strike each other a jingling sound is generated. The more the bangles the greater is the sound. Similarly when two persons live together it leads to conversation and when many persons live together there is strife. In both circumstances there is no peace of mind. Hence those doing meditation, yoga, etc. should search for an isolated place and live there in seclusion.

21. The artisan: One day an artisan was chiselling the blade of an arrow with great concentration. A king’s procession to the accompaniment of music passed by that way. A man arriving later approached the artisan and enquired, “Have you seen the king’s procession passing by this way, just now?” The artisan replied, “I was so engrossesd in my work that I was not aware of anything”. Just like this artisan a seeker desirous of Liberation (mumukshu) should meditate surrendering all his sense organs to The Lord.

22. The snake: Two snakes never live or wander about together. They move around cautiously never making any sound. Instead of making a home for themselves they occupy someone else’s habitat. They neither move around freely, criticise without reason nor get angry unless injured by someone. Thus two intellectuals should not move around together, should speak limitedly, should not quarrel with one another or ridicule anyone, should act thoughtfully, should not address a gathering and should spend their lives living anywhere instead of building a house for themselves. By building a house one develops vanity and consequently attachment develops.

23. The spider: The spider spins a web secreting a fluid from its belly and plays in it day and night. When it feels like it, it swallows the entire web and becomes free again. Similarly God creates the world when He wishes and indulges in various kinds of play in it. When He feels like it, with a resolve He destroys it and becomes single again. Just as a spider can weave a web with its fluid repeatedly so also can God create the universe by a mere resolve, dissolve it within Himself and recreate it at His will. Hence one should not attach importance to worldly events.

24. The wasp: The one who regularly meditates on an object finally merges into it. The wasp builds a house from mud and keeps a worm in it. It lightly blows air over the worm time and again. Consequently the worm meditates on the wasp and finally also becomes a wasp. A seeker desirous of Liberation should in the same manner meditate on God as advised by the Guru so that he merges into God.

4.2 Subordinate Gurus

A. The tree: The man who does unrighteous acts under the predominance of the tama component becomes a tree in the next birth and because of his vanity is compelled to remain standing as a tree all his life. These trees remain dependent on others and cleanse themselves of the sins committed in their previous births by pleasantly serving others till they die. That is why they happily offer shelter to birds and other creatures. They also protect their refugees by bearing the brunt of the cold, wind, heat, etc. onto their bodies and offer them their leaves, flowers and fruits for survival. Men break, cut, saw, peel, uproot them, rob them of their flowers, fruits, leaves and even their gum. They are debarked, cut, scraped and used as timber, firewood, etc. Suffering is inflicted upon them according to one’s wish and any possible task is undertaken making use of them. Just as the species of trees endures the suffering inflicted by people on them and continues to serve them till they live so also seekers desirous of Liberation should endure all suffering and continue to serve others till they die.

Just as trees offer shelter to travellers, householders should offer meals to guests coming to their doorstep and give them shelter. If by chance one acquires wealth then one should not become insolent. Just as trees blossoming with flowers and fruits bow down and serve others more so also if one becomes wealthy one should humbly render more service to others.

B. The mountains: The mountains and the earth store precious stones, etc. in their mines. As a result man is benefitted tremendously. Every man should acquire knowledge likewise and use it favourably. Just as in summer mountains quench the thirst of man with their springs so also one should develop the habit of talking melodiously so as to make others happy.

Datta had several such subordinate Gurus.

[Based on ‘Brahmibhut Shrimat P.P. Vasudevanand Sarasvati (Tembe) Swaminche Charitra’. Author : Shrimant Rajmanya Rajbandhu Gandabuva Brahmachari.]

4.3 Is it necessary to have a number of Gurus?

Datta: O King Yadu ! You will wonder why it is necessary to have so many Gurus when only one Guru is sufficient for Self-realisation. Is this not akin to the behaviour of an adulterous woman?

The answer to this is that to attain Self-realisation only one Guru is sufficient. If any doubts regarding His preaching are generated then they should be clarified. To be able to perceive unity of the soul principle in all animate and inanimate creation I imbibed the qualities from these objects in the form of a Guru. Thus the spiritual knowledge that My Guru imparted Me with was strengthened by My choosing these attributes as Gurus.


What is the significance of chanting Sri Gurudev Datta?

Incarnations of Lord Datta



1. Mission and special features

A. The one maintaining the honour of the code of the four classes (varnas) and stages (ashrams).

B. The model of the Guru principle and preacher for Yoga (Shandilyopanishad). Sahasrarjun, Parshuram, etc. are the renowned disciples of Datta.

C. The teacher of the science of Tantra (Tripurasundarirahasya).

D. The one who wanders as per His own will, the one (like Krushna) beyond restrictions (Markandeya Puran).

E. The one behaving according to His wish and always being there for someone who remembers Him.

F. Bestower of detachment (other deities bestow everything else).

G. Avadhut (Refer point ‘2.1’.)

H. A symbol of equanimity.

  • Shaivites and Vaishnavites: Both these sects are drawn to Datta due to His form as a Guru.
  • Hindus and Muslims: In the ritualistic worship (puja) of Datta by Hindus both music and incense (dhup) are important as in the Muslim religion.

I. The one resolving the problem of ancestors’ subtle souls (Refer point ‘The problem of ancestors’ souls’.)

J. Constant wandering

  • 1. Bath: Varanasi
  • 2. Application of sandalwood paste: Prayag.
  • 3. Collection of the afternoon alms: Kolhapur
  • 4. The afternoon meal: Panchaleshvar (Bid district) in the stream of river Godavari.
  • 5. Chewing a roll of betel leaves together with betelnut, lime, catechu, etc. (tambul): Rakshasbhuvan in Bid district, Marathvada.
  • 6. Listening to spiritual discourses (pravachans and kirtans): Naimisharanya (Bihar)
  • 7. Sleep: Mahurgad
  • 8. Yoga: GirnarThe places at points 1, 3 and 7 are famous.

K. Principle, ability and manifest energy

  • Principle: 100% (Isham = 100%)
  • Ability: Creation 10%, sustenance 80% and dissolution 10%Since the ability for sustenance is 80% according to various holy texts Datta is generally considered the sixth among the 24 incarnations of Lord Vishnu and rarely the fourth or the seventh.
  • Manifest energy: 10%

2. Science behind the idol

Around 1000 A. D. the idol of Lord Datta became three-faced (trimukhi). Before that it had only one face.

Object in the hand Representing whom?
1. Kamandalu (water pot) and japamala
2. Conch and discus Vishnu
3. Trident and small hourglass shaped
drum (damaru)

3. Implied meaning of the family

  • The cow (behind the idol): The earth
  • The four dogs: The four Vedas
  • The holy fig tree (oudumbar): A symbol of Datta, worthy of worship as the Datta principle exists in it in a greater amount.

4. Incarnations

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.

Ramavijay 13:21 by Sridharswami

Implied meaning: Since Datta performs the function of the Guru principle His mission continues till all attain the Final Liberation (Moksha).

In all, Sri Datta assumed sixteen main incarnations. The book ‘Sri Dattatreya Shodashavataraha’ by H.H. Vasudevanand Sarasvati narrates the stories of these incarnations.

5. Spiritual practice

A. Meticulous observance of the code of conduct according to the four classes (varnas) and stages of life (ashrams)

B. According to the Path of Yoga and initiation by transfer of energy (shaktipat diksha)

C. Datta is the Guru deity. He has to be worshipped in that form itself. He is glorified as ‘Sri Gurudev Datta’ or ‘Sri Gurudatta’. Since Dattatreya is the Supreme Guru the tradition of the human Guru-disciple lineage has not been maintained in the Datta sect.

D. Discipline plays a very important role in the sect.

E. Extremely harsh observances and physical hardships are undertaken.

F. Paduka (wooden footwear) and the holy fig tree (oudumbar) instead of an idol was used for worship. Formerly a single faced idol was used. Presently however three-faced idols are becoming more common.

G. Strict observance of cleanliness and purity (with respect to clothing, utensils)

H. Ritualistic worship of Satyadatta (Satyadattapuja) [ritualistic worship similar to that of Satyanarayan]

I. Mantras of Dattatreya: The following seven mantras of Dattatreya are related to spiritual practice of Tantra.

  • The one letter mantra (ekakshari mantra): ‘Dam (दां)’ is the bija of Datta and also His one letter mantra. The chanda (rhythm) of this mantra is Gayatri, the sage Sadashiv and the deity Dattatreya. This is a saviour mantra and the entire universe is incorporated in it.
  • The six letter mantra (shadakshari mantra): ‘Dam om rhim clim gloum dram (दां ॐ ह्रीं क्‍लीं ग्‍लौं द्रां)’ is the six letter mantra. Chanting of this mantra bestows the supernatural power of yoga.
  • The eight letter mantra (ashtakshari mantra): It goes thus ‘Dam (dra or dram) Dattatreyay namaha [दं (द्रा किंवा द्रां) दत्‍तात्रेयाय नम: ।]’ In this mantra Dattatreyay is the kilak (clue to a mystical puzzle) and the bija and namaha, the energy.
  • The thirteen letter mantra (trayodashakshari mantra): ‘Om am rhim krom ehi Dattatreyay svaha (ॐ आं ह्रीं क्रों एहि दत्‍तात्रेयाय स्‍वाहा ।)’ The chanda (rhythm) of this mantra is Gayatri, the sage Sadashiv, the deity Dattatreya, Om the bijakshar, svaha the energy and Dattatreya the kilak.
  • The sixteen letter mantra (shodashakshari mantra)Om aim krom klim klum rham rhim rhum souhou Dattatreyay svaha (ॐ ऐं क्रों क्‍लीं क्‍लूं ह्रां ह्रीं ह्रूं सौ: दत्‍तात्रेयाय स्‍वाहा ।)’
  • The anushtubh mantra: Dattatreya Hare Krushna unmattananddayak
    Digambar mune bal pishach dnyansagar 

    दत्‍तात्रेय हरे कृष्‍ण उन्‍मत्‍तानन्‍ददायक ।
    दिगंबर मुने बाल पिशाच ज्ञानसागर ।

  • Datta Gayatri: The Gayatri of Dattatreya is akin to that of other deities as:दत्‍तात्रेयाय विद्महे । अवधूताय धीमहि ।
    तन्‍नो दत्‍त: प्रचोदयात्‌ ।। 

    Meaning: We are quite familiar with Dattatreya. We meditate on Avadhut. May that Datta inspire our intellect benevolently. The chanda of this mantra is Gayatri, the sage Shabar and the deity Dattatreya.

  • The problem of ancestors’ souls: Nowadays since most people do not perform rites for the departed (shraddhas), etc. as in the olden days nor undertake spiritual practice, most suffer due to the subtle bodies of ancestors. Only saints can tell whether one is suffering or will suffer due to ancestors. If one is not fortunate enough to meet such a saint then considering that certain suffering is inflicted due to ancestors’ subtle souls one can do spiritual practice as given below. Inability to get married, marital disharmony, difficulty in conceiving a child, miscarriages, mentally retarded or handicapped child or all female progeny, death during childhood, etc. are some of the indications of suffering due to ancestors’ subtle bodies. Poverty, physical illness, etc. can be some other indicators.A. If one has no problems at all, to avoid suffering in the future or if one has a minor problem, one should chant three malas (rosaries) of ‘Sri Gurudev Datta’ everyday. Apart from this to avoid suffering due to destiny as well as to make spiritual progress one should do maximum amount of chanting of the Name of the family deity.B. If the problem is moderate, then along with chanting of the Name of the family deity one should chant atleast six malas of ‘Sri Gurudev Datta’. In addition every Thursday one should visit Sri Datta’s temple and perform five circumambulations and chant one or two malas of ‘Sri Gurudev Datta’ in the temple, for atleast a year. Thereafter one should continue to chant three malas.C. If the problem is severe, a minimum of nine should be chanted everyday. Rituals like Narayanbali, Nagbali, Tripindi shraddha, Kalasarpashanti, etc. should be performed at places where jyotirlingas (the divine phallus as a symbol of Lord Shiva) are situated. In addition to this one should undertake spiritual practice at the seat of worship of Lord Datta or render service unto a saint and acquire His blessings.D. Sri Datta Jayanti (Birthday of Sri Datta): Devotees of Lord Datta celebrate His birthday on the full moon day (pournima) of the Hindu lunar month of Margashirsha.

6. Sects

Nowhere else is worship of Lord Datta as common as in Maharashtra.

6.1 The Nath sect

The Avadhut state as described in the Avadhutgita compiled by Datta, is similar to that in Siddhasiddhant-paddhati compiled by Gorakshanath.

Yogis belonging to the Nath sect are also referred to as Avadhuts. They are beyond restrictions and accept food from all classes of society with the exception of the Shudras (labourers). These yogis emulate pythons and spend all their time in contemplation of the soul. In the Brahmanirvantantra four types of Avadhuts have been described.

  • Brahmavdhut: These worshippers of Brahman are from any stage (ashram) of life.
  • Shaivavdhut: They are the ones who have ritualistically taken the vow of celibacy. They matt their hair, observe silence (moun), and sit beside a fire place. They also smear mud onto their bodies.
  • Viravdhut: Their hair is long and unruly. They wear a necklace of bones or rudrakshas and carry a staff, an axe and a small hourglass shaped drum (damaru). These yogis smear their bodies with holy ash (bhasma) and wear a loin cloth (langoti).
  • Kulavdhut: These yogis are initiated into the Koul sect and are householders.Avadhut ascetics consider Sage Gorakshanath as their Guru. (Refer point ‘Avadhut’.)

6.2 The Mahanubhav sect

In this sect the lineage is of Dattatreya – Changdev Raul – Gundam Raul – Chakradhar. Literature of this sect states that Datta is Brahman.

6.3 The Chaitanya sect

Raghav Chaitanya, the founder of this sect undertook the spiritual practice of Dattatreya at Girnar.

6.4 The Anand sect

Here Datta is considered as the foremost (adi) Guru.

6.5 The Sripad Srivallabh and the Sri Nrusinha Sarasvati sects

Sripad Sri Vallabh
Sri Nursinha Saraswati

Sripad Srivallabh was the first incarnation of Lord Datta. He began worship of Datta in Maharashtra in the 15th century. Sri Nrusinha Sarasvati was His second incarnation. The Sri Gurucharitra gives information on both these incarnations.

  • Prominent saints from the Datta sect : They are Eknath, Manikprabhu, Swami Samarth of Akkalkot, Vasudevanand Sarasvati, Pantamaharaj Balekundrikar (Balekundri is a village near Belgaum in India.)
  • Incarnations: ‘In the historical age the three incarnations assumed were Sripad Srivallabh, Sri Nrusinha Sarasvati and Manikprabhu. The fourth incarnation was Sri Swami Samarth. These four are absolute incarnations but there are several partial incarnations. Sri Vasudevanand Sarasvati (Tembeswami) is included in Them.’To avoid disturbance from people Sri Nrusinha Sarasvati retired to the Kardali (the plantain tree) forest after informing His disciples. When performing austerities there, ants covered His entire body with anthills. Several years later when a woodcutter was cutting wood in the forest his axe lightly struck the anthill. Seeing the blade of the axe stained with blood frightened him and he dug up the anthill. Nrusinha Sarasvati emerged from it as Akkalkot Swami. The Swami used to live at the present hermitage (math) below the holy fig (oudumbar) tree at Akkalkot.Information on some of the main incarnations of this sect is given in 9.0
  • Incantation of the Name: ‘Digambara Digambara Sripad Vallabh Digambara. Come quickly O Lord Sri Nrusinha Sarasvati Digambara (दिगंबरा  दिगंबरा श्रीपादवल्‍लभ दिगंबरा । धावा पावा त्‍वरा करा श्री नृसिंह सरस्‍वती दिगंबरा ।।)’ is one of the incantations of this sect.

6.6 Others

Jains worship Dattatreya in the form of Neminath while Muslims remain in the attire of a mendicant. A mendicant is always a devotee of Lord Datta.

7. Main places of pilgrimage (tirthakshetras)

  • 1. Mahur: Kinvat taluka, Nanded district, Maharashtra.
  • 2. Girnar: Near Junagad, Sourashtra. This has 10,000 steps.
  • 3. Karanja: The birthplace of Sri Nrusinha Sarasvati. It is known as Lad – Karanje. Brahmanand Sarasvati of Kashi first built a temple of Lord Datta here.
  • 4. Oudumbar: In the four months of chaturmas of the Hindu lunar calendar Sri Nrusinha Sarasvati lived here. This place is situated at a distance of 10 kilometres from Bhilvadi railway station in Maharashtra, on the banks of the river Krushna.
  • 5. Narsobavadi: This is located in Maharashtra. Sri Nrusinha Sarasvati lived here for twelve years. The confluence of the two rivers Krushna and Panchaganga occurs here. This is the place which inspired Tembeswami.
  • 6. Gangapur: This is situated in Karnataka on the Pune – Raychur highway. The confluence of the rivers Bhima and Amaraja occurs here. It is here that Sri Nrusinha Sarasvati spent twenty-three years and carried out His entire mission. Later He proceeded to Sri Shailya from here.
  • 7. Kuravpur: This is an island in the waters of the Krushna river in Karnataka. One can reach this destination by road from Raychur till Palladini (Kurguddi). This is where Sripad Srivallabh undertook His mission.
  • 8. Pithapur: The birthplace of Sripad Srivallabh, in Andhra Pradesh. It was Tembeswami who brought this place into the limelight.
  • 9. Varanasi : Here, the Dattatreya hermitage (math) is situated on the Narad ghat. The family members of Sri Nrusinha Sarasvati who still live here have the surname, Kale. Later, the name Kale was changed to Kaliya. Even today a garden and a lane named Kaliya exist here.
  • 10. Sri Shailya: Located close to Hyderabad, Sri Nrusinha Sarasvati travelled to this place.
  • 11. Bhattagaon (Bhadgaon): This is at a distance of 35 kilometres from Kathmandu.
  • 12. Panchaleshvar: District Bid, Maharashtra.

8. Main holy texts

1. Datta Puran: This Puran has the following three parts.

  • A. Part of ritualistic worship (karmakand)
  • B. Part of mental worship (upasanakand) : H.H. Vasudevanand Sarasvati (Tembeswami) has translated this into Marathi. It is called ‘Dattamahatmya’.
  • C. Part of spiritual knowledge (dnyankand) : This is referred to as ‘Tripurasundarirahasya’.

2. Avadhutgita: This is one of the main holy texts of the Nath sect. This Gita was preached by Dattatreya to Kartikeya.

3. ‘Sri Dattaprabodh’ by Viththal Anantsut Kavadibova

4. Sri Gurucharitra: This describes the glory of the Guru and the code of conduct of this sect. The pattern is as follows – chapters 1 to 24 : Part of spiritual knowledge (dnyankand), 25-37 : Part of ritualistic worship (karmakand) and 38-53 : Part of devotion (after Self-realisation)[bhaktikand].

9. Some prominent incarnations

Name of the
Name of
the father
Name of
the mother
Period of
Site of
the mission
1. Sripad
Apalraj Sumatibai Shake
At 7
2. Sri
Madhavrao Ambasati Shake
At 12
3. Sri
Bayamma Shake
Maniknagar In child-
4. Sri
Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Akkalkot
5. Sri
Unknown Unknown Unknown Pathari Shirdi Unknown
6. Sri
Parshuram Anandibai Shake
Mhapan Kankavli
At 22
|| Sri Gurudev Datta ||