Innumerable reasons to celebrate Dattatreya Jayanti

Origins of Dattatreya

Dattatreya is a Hindu deity who is an aspect of the Divine Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The name “Dattatreya” comes from two Sanskrit words, Datta (meaning “given”) and Atreya (a reference to Sage Atri, Datta’s father). He has three heads and six arms. Dattatreya is supposedly an avatar of Lord Shiva in the Nath tradition of Hinduism and is worshipped as the Adi-Guru (First Teacher) of the Adinath Sampradaya of the Nath sect. Initially, he emerged as a Yoga teacher with Tantric traits. But later, he was absorbed by other cults and sects, including Vaishnavism. Datta supposedly wrote the Tripura Rahasya, a treatise on Advaita Vedanta. His birthday is celebrated as Datta Jayanti.

Dattatreya is a very ancient deity. Some of the earliest references about him occur in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. In the Dattatreya Upanishad, which is a part of the Atharva Veda, he is described as taking many forms. They include a child, a madman, and also a demon. He took these forms to help his followers get Moksha (liberation).

Dattatreya Jayanti 

Datta Jayanti or his birthday is on the Full Moon Day in Margashirsha (December – January) month. Some believe that he is one of the 24 avatars of Lord Vishnu. He supposedly attained enlightenment without the help of a guru. Another legend says that Dattatreya attained infinite wisdom merely by observing Nature.

Dattatreya worship is common in Goa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Karnataka, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh. One can find many temples dedicated to him.

On Dattatreya Jayanti, devotees observe a day-long fast, do meditation, and pray to him. First, they have a dip in the holy waters of a river or stream. After the bath, they wear clean clothes and do Pooja. They light an oil lamp, offer flowers, fruits, etc., and chant mantras.

In his hands, he holds a Trishul (Trident), a Damaru (Drum) of Shiva, the Sudarshana Chakra (discus), the Shankhu (conch) of Lord Vishnu, the Kamal (lotus) or a Kamandala (water pot), and a Japmala (chanting beads) of Lord Brahma.

Symbolism of Dattatreya

Dattatreya’s three heads represent the three Gunas – Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, and his six hands represent Yamas (control), Niyama (rules), Sama (equality), Dama (strength), Daya (compassion), and Shanti (peace).

Kamadhenu, the divine cow, and four dogs accompany him. One can see the Kalpavriksha also in the background. The Kamadhenu grants wishes, while the four dogs represent human traits like Icchha (desire), Vasana (lust), Asha (hope), and Trishna (thirst), and the Kalpavrisksha signifies the tree of life.

Legend of Lord Dattatreya

Legend says that Dattatreya was the son of Sage Atri and his wife, Anasuya. She performed penance to beget a son who had the qualities of the holy trinity. When they saw Anasuya performing severe austerities, the three goddesses, Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Parvati, became very jealous. They also asked their respective husbands, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, to test Anasuya’s virtue.

The three gods appeared before her as ascetics and told her to give them alms but insisted that she should be naked. Anasuya did not want to offend the holy men. So she chanted a mantra and sprinkled some water on them. At once, they turned into babies. She removed her clothes and then breastfed them. When Sage Atri came back, he changed the three infants into one child with three heads and six arms.

On hearing about the predicament of their husbands, the three goddesses begged Anasuya for forgiveness and asked her to return their husbands. Anasuya agreed, and Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu were restored to their original forms. They also blessed the sage and his chaste wife with a son named Dattatreya. 

Significance of the Things that Dattatreya Holds in His Hands:

The conch or Shankhu symbolizes the divine sound and bestows knowledge and spiritual expansion.

The Chakra represents time and also the fact that life is a mixture of both good and bad times.

The Gada is a symbol of pride, and it signifies that one should live life with love and compassion towards others.

The Trishul signifies the triple energies of materialization, spirituality, and a third energy that balances these two.

The Kamandal is a small pot that contains water, and it represents the fact that Dattatreya is the carrier of life on earth.

The Begging bowl signifies that one should give up one’s pride, ego, negativity, and evil thoughts.

In this manner, these six things represent the important values that we should adhere to so that we can enjoy a happy and peaceful life.

Benefits of Performing Datta Jayanti Pooja 

According to the Dattatreya Upanishad, those who observe the fast and perform Pooja for Datta on the eve of Dattatreya Jayanti can receive many blessings and benefits:

* One’s material and wealth desires will be fulfilled.

* One can attain supreme knowledge and also accomplish one’s aims and goals

* We can get rid of our anxiety and unknown fears

* Relief from malefic planetary afflictions

* Freedom from mental suffering and ancestral curses

* One can follow the righteous path in life

* Freedom from all karmic bonds

* One becomes more spiritual

Dattatreya Jayanthi 2021 or Datta Jayanthi 2021 is on Saturday, December 18.