Everybody praises and worships the legends and divinity of the Trinity. The three divines, Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva, who look after the creation, maintenance, and transitions of the world, thus, are believed to be the greatest. However, Lord Dattatreya is believed to be the incarnation of all of the three great gods in one.
The story of an incarnation of the Trinity itself is fascinating. Born to Rishi Atri and Anausya, Dattatreya can be divided into two words, Datta (means Giver) and Atri (Sage Atri).
Amazingly, Lord Dattatreya, also considered a guru of environmental education, gained enlightenment by observing his surroundings. However, there are many different versions of the story of the birth of Lord Dattatreya. Many legends portray different versions concerning the manifestation of the Divine, among which these are three worthy we must know.
The mentions from Srimad Bhagavata
According to the Srimad Bhagavata, Atri Rishi wished for the good of the world and wanted to have a son. Hence, Bhagavata mentions that the sage Atri performed severe penance to have a son. Furthermore, he wished for his son to achieve and maintain world order. As a result, legends say that the Lord himself, who had promised to grant his wish, took birth as Atri’s son.
This is the story of Lord Dattatreya, which was passed down from generation to generation. Once upon a time lived a couple where the husband’s name was Kausika, and the wife’s name was Sumati.
The couple lived in Pratishthanagar (modem Paithana) in Maharashtra State. Although Sumati was very devoted to her husband and extremely virtuous, Kausika, immoral, eventually deserted his wife. Perhaps it was karma; Kausika became a victim of many deadly diseases and finally had to come back to his wife as there was none to help him. Being a good wife, she received him with love and devotion, forgiving him and treating him compassionately. Thus she began to attend to his wounds which were both physical and mental.
One night, Sumati was walking along the highway while carrying her ailing husband on her shoulders; she came across a sage called Maandavya. The safe had been unjustly hanged on the gallows by using his yogic power. Also, the sage had retained life in his body, which was still swinging to and fro. Having less visibility of sight, Sumati could not see the swaying body of the sage. As she was walking by, her husband’s leg brushed against the sage’s body unknowingly and caused the sage excruciating pain.
The sage lost his temper and cursed that the person who had caused him such severe agony would die as soon as sunrise. The virtuous wife, upon hearing this, could not even bear the thought of her husband’s coming death and pronounced a counter-curse. Sumati said, “O Sun-god, do not rise tomorrow, and you will be burnt yourself and fall from the sky if you disregard my words.” No power on Earth could have rewind the curse pronounced by a virtuous and devoted wife.
As the Saastra declares itself, “The power attained by men through Yoga will be obtained by women, respectable of family and merely by their chastity and moral excellence.” Hence, the Sun did not rise, and it was havoc everywhere in the world. As nothing worthwhile could be done, even the gods were scared and approached Lord Brahma for help, but he said he was helpless.
Nevertheless, along with the gods, Brahma went too went to Atri’s Ashram and requested Anasooya to save the world, as she alone possessed the power to do so in the options of Lord Bramha. Atri and Anasooya, accompanied by Brahma and the gods, went to Sumati and requested her to withdraw her curse, which she refused as she couldn’t let her husband die when the Sun rose. Anasooya assured Sumati to bring her husband back to life through her yogic power. Doing so, Sumati revoked her curse. Ensuring, with the rising Sun, Kausika died, but Anasooya, by her powers, brought him back to life.
As a result, everyone became happy, and the Gods, out of gratitude, were eager to bestow on Anasooya a boon. Thus, she desired the ‘Trinity’ to be born like her children and instantly fulfilled her wish. Lord Brahma took birth as Chandra (The Moon), Vishnu as Datta, and Shiva as Durvaasa. Later, after a long time, Chandra left to take his position in the sky, and Durvaasa departed to do penance, all with the consent of Anasooya. However, before leaving, Chandra and Durvaasa endowed Datta with their powers; as a result, Dattatreya is conceived as “Three in one” and depicted as having three faces and six hands, the Trinity in one.
Although there may be different versions of the manifestations of Lord Dattatreya, it is absolute that he was someone like none other. It is believed that absolute knowledge of the self will be set in by worshiping Lord Dattatreya. Even the worldly difficulties will be removed, and eventually, Atma Jnana will set in. Therefore, it is highly beneficial for seekers to adopt this path in their spiritual pursuit.