Hinduism has many gods, both major and minor. The Trinity of Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu form the major gods. Interestingly, there is a deity who is an amalgam of all these three gods. He is none other than Lord Dattatreya, and his birthday is celebrated as Dattatreya Jayanti or Datta Jayanti. It is observed on the full moon day (Purnima) in Margashirsha (Dec – Jan) month. Dattatreya has the power to guide his devotees to lead a prosperous and ideal life as he is also a Guru. Worshipping him brings many blessings. It is said that he helps our ancestors’ souls to make good progress in their journey after they die. Supposedly, his three heads represent peace, serenity, and prosperity.
In the Nath tradition of Hinduism, Dattatreya is regarded as an avatar of Lord Shiva and is worshipped as the Adi-Guru or First Teacher of the Adinath Sampradaya of this sect. In the beginning, he was seen as a Yoga teacher with Tantric traits. But later, other sects like Vaishnavism also absorbed him. In fact, some believe that he is an incarnation of Vishnu. Devotees believe that Datta authored the Tripura Rahasya, a treatise on Advaita Vedanta.
Dattatreya has the powers of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. He is a powerful deity who brings us relief from all kinds of problems and removes obstacles on our path to success. In his six hands, he holds a Shankh (conch), Chakra (discus), Gada, Trishul (trident), Kamandal, and a begging bowl. The Shankh signifies the divine sound ‘Om,’ and the Chakra stands for time. Gada signifies pride, and the Trishul represents three energies. The Kamandal indicates that Dattatreya is the one who carries life on earth and the begging bowl is a reminder that we should renounce our ego, pride, negativity, and all evil thoughts.
Legend of Dattatreya
Dattatreya was born to sage Atri and his wife, Anasuya. Anasuya was a very chaste and virtuous woman. She did severe penance to have a son who would have all the merits of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Sage Narada, who has the reputation of a trouble monger and gossip in Hindu mythology, once boasted about Anasuya’s penance to the wives of the Trimurtis – the goddesses, Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Parvati. On hearing this, they became jealous and plotted to challenge Anasuya’s Sati Dharma. As part of the plan, they sent their husbands to test her chastity.
The three gods assumed the garb of mendicants and knocked on Anasuya’s door. They asked her for food, but there was a catch. They wanted her to serve them naked. Anasuya was taken aback. But she could not refuse the holy men. Luckily, she had certain powers on account of her chastity. So she chanted a mantra and sprinkled a little water on the three mendicants. At once, they turned into infants. She gave them her breastmilk after removing her clothes as they wanted. When Sage Atri returned, she told him what had happened. He hugged the three infants, and they turned into a single baby, which had three heads and six arms.
In the meantime, the wives of the Trinity felt worried when they realized their husbands’ plight. Duly chastened, they sought her forgiveness and requested her to turn them into their original forms. She agreed and did as they wished. The Trinity appeared in their divine forms and blessed Atri and Anasuya with a son named Dattatreya. Some also believe that Dattatreya is an incarnation of Vishnu, and his siblings Chandra (Moon) and the hot-tempered Sage Durvasa are incarnations of Brahma and Shiva, respectively.
Dattatreya Jayanthi Rituals
A week before Datta Jayanti, devotees recite the Shri Gurucharitra. They wake up early, bathe, and observe a fast for the entire day. During the Pooja, flowers, fruits, incense sticks, lamps, and sweets are offered. They sing bhajans and read holy books like the Avadhuta Gita and Jivanmukta Gita. During the ceremony, devotees apply Chandan (sandalwood paste), Kumkum or vermilion, and turmeric to the idol. After the Pooja, devotees perform seven circumambulations around the idol.
Benefits of Dattatreya Pooja
The Dattatreya Upanishad says that devotees who observe a vrat or fast and perform Pooja for Datta on Dattatreya Jayanti can get many blessings:
* Material comforts and wealth
* Knowledge, wisdom, and achievement of goals
* Relief from fears and anxiety
* Relief from planetary afflictions or Doshas
* Freedom from ancestral curses
* A righteous attitude
* Freedom from karmic bonds
* Develop a spiritual mindset
Dattatreya Jayanthi 2021 or Datta Jayanthi 2021 is on Saturday, December 18.