Sri Datta Jayanthi December 26, 2023

26 Dec 2023 427 Views

Devotees of Lord Dattatreya celebrate Datta Jayanti on the Purnima (Full moon) Day in the month of Margashira. It is a widespread practice to remember the birth of Lord Dattatreya, his divine message, and worship his Padukas. It is a day to read about 24 natural Gurus that Lord Dattatreya learned from and imbibe their qualities to live a fruitful and spiritual life.

Bhagavat Puranam describes Lord Dattatreya

Once King Yadu saw Lord Dattatreya (Avadhoota) wandering in a forest happily, free from worries. The king with humbleness asked the sage, about the secret of his happiness and the name of his Guru. The King prostrated and asked politely,  "Sir, as I see you, I feel great wonder and astonishment. Though we possess the knowledge of the Sastras, we take great pains to gratify our sense. But you do not seem to be making any such effort. How has this extraordinary understanding come to you? Even though you possess so much knowledge and are erudite, why do you sometimes behave like a boy, a mad man, or a dunce? So strange are your ways. It is indeed right for you not to seek gratification of the senses, but you do not seem to be making any effort to obtain Moksha. In spite of this, you appear to be always floating about in bliss. What has made this possible?

To answer the Yadu’s enquired queries, the Lord Dattatreya (Avadhoota, one who have given up all worldly desires) replied:

"My bliss and contentment are the fruits of self-realization. Soul (Atma) alone is my Guru, yet I have gained the necessary wisdom from the whole creation, via 24 individual who were therefore my Gurus. I shall elaborate the same for you".

Further Lord Dattatreya said: … I have taken shelter of twenty-four gurus, who are the following: the earth, air, sky, water, fire, moon, sun, pigeon and python; the sea, moth, honeybee, elephant and honey thief; the deer, the fish, the dancing girl Pingala, the kurari bird and the child; the young girl, arrow maker, serpent, spider and wasp…”   (Srimad Bhagavatam: Canto 11: Chapter 7: Slokas 33~35)

The Appearance of Dattatreya

 Sri Dattatreya is represented with three faces, six hands, and a single body. His icons combine the three great Gods of Hinduism—Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva—as a single form. Each pair of hands carries two of the symbols of the three deities. Commonly, His central body is blue, representing Lord Krishna Vishnu, while His further two faces represent, on the right, Lord Brahma and, on the left, Lord Siva.

Four hunting dogs at his feet are considered the embodiments of the four Vedas, guardians of the absolute Truth. They are also considered as representing

Four Yugas – Satya (Krita), Treta, Dwapara, Kali

Four Vedas – Rig, Sama, Yajur, Atharva

Four states of the mind – Manas (mind), Chitta (storage of impressions), Ahamkara (Ego), Buddhi (intellect)

Four states of consciousness – Waking (Jagrit), Swapna (Dream), Sushupti (dreamless sleep), Turiya (pure consciousness)

Four states of Sound – Para (beyond), Pashyanti (perception), Madhyama (conception), Vaikhari (vocal)

Four types of Shakti (dynamic force pervading creation) – Ichcha Shakti (power of the will), Jnana Shakti (power of knowledge), Kriya Shakti (power of the intellect) and Para Shakti (Pure Consciousness)

A garlanded cow, standing behind the Lord, represents the Earth. Also considered as Kamadhenu or the wish fulfilling cow indicating that the Lord fulfils the desires of all his devotees

His arms hold various objects which have deep spiritual connotation. They are the Sankha or Conch, Chakra or Discus, Gada or Mace, Trishul or trident, Kamandalu or water pot and the Begging bowl.

What is the message of Lord Dattatreya?

“Never judge by surface appearances but always seek a deeper Truth.” Dattatreya’s principal message is make your life austere and refrain from sensuality. Do not go after luxuries, material comforts, and enjoyments. They make your life polluted, and your thoughts contaminated. He cautions his devotees to guard against sensuality and materialism if they think they are strong willed and pure.

An Avadhuta is one who has surpassed all worldly affairs, including the trappings of religion and social convention (Narada Parivrajakopanishad 9.23). “Knowledge ... the true cause of final liberation is the most precious possession of the Avadhutas” (Mahanirvana Tantra 14.140). Despite this knowledge, despite being fully liberated from the material world, from compassion, Sri Dattatreya Avadhuta remains on the material plane to help those still bound by the cords of material existence free themselves. He awards His grace to all, irrespective of their social status. “Desiring only their welfare, I hope that they will agree to become one with the Supersoul” (Srimad Bhagavatam 7.13.42).

Further Lord Dattatreya explains what he has learned from his own body.

“My Body teaches me Gyaan (knowledge) and Vairagya (detachment). Birth and death are along with it. It means that if we hold on to this body then we have to bear sorrows. Although it helps to think about Tattva (elements) still I never consider it mine.”

To please whatever body, the living being is always busy in desiring many things, does Karma (deeds) and collects wealth with great difficulties; the same body is destroyed after its time is completed.

Although Bhagawan created many Yonis (as many as 84 million), but he did not get satisfied with them, then he created (Manushya Yoni) human being. Moksha is the main objective of this Yoni because pleasures can be achieved in many other Yonis, but Moksha can be attained only in this Yoni. Therefore, one should not waste this valuable Yoni in enjoying pleasures. Thinking thus I took Vairagya. Neither I love anything, nor am I proud of anything.

Dattatreya is called Smatrugami

Sri Dattatreya is an ocean of compassion. By merely remembering his name, one earns his grace. Hence, he is called “SMARTHRUGAAMI” – one who immediately appears to the devotee who remembers the Lord. A sage called Dalaadana once wanted to test the truth in this statement and remembered Dattatreya.

The Lord immediately reached Dalaadana and said:
Mama prakrtirId^ishi, smartrugami na sandeho swisaptabhuvaneshwaham|abhakyavA subhaktya va yah smarenmAmananyadhih |tadanimahamagamya dadami tadabhipsitam ||

– “It is my very nature to reach that person who remembers me, instantly. Whether with devotion or not, if a man remembers me sincerely, I will instantly reach him and grant his desires.” This is Dattatreya’s sacred promise to us, his children.

Dattatreya was a Vishwa Guru

Lord Dattatreya is considered to be the Guru of All Gurus and that is why He is revered to be the Adi Guru. Lord Dattatreya is an important Deity in the Indian Spiritual Panorama. His personality integrates the elements of the three Gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara. Sri Dattatreya is Vishwa Guru - the guru to the entire universe. In fact, He taught:
– Srividya to Parasurama
– Datta Vidya to Brahma
– Adhyatmika Vidya to Prahalada
– Yoga Vidya to Vasishta and
– Atma Vidya to Kartaviryarjuna.

Why Padukas are Worshipped?

If you have faith in the Guru’s feet

If you have deep feelings for the Guru’s feet,

If you imbibe the state of the Guru,

Then you do not have to look for God

God will come looking for you     - Bhakta Tukaram

In the Datta sampradaya the Guru's feet assume more importance than the Guru's forum. It is a very old custom to worship the feet of Sri Guru or the Ishta Devata's feet. When Srirama went into exile his younger brother, Bharata kept Sri Rama's sandals on the throne, signifying his divine feet as a mark of love, respect, and worship for his elder brother. One expresses respect and reverence for a great person by touching one's forehead to the person's feet. It is believed that the divine strength of great persons lied centered in their feet. By a mere touch, a disciple or disciples get a measure of that divine strength from the master. Thus, most of the Datta kshetras give importance to the Padukas than the form of Sri Gurudeva Dattatreya. Girinar, Ganagapur, Narsobawadi, Oudumbar and all other Datta kshetras have Sri Datta guru’s Padukas.

Kularnava Tantra says: “Remember the Guru’s sandals … They provide protection against great diseases, great disturbances, great evils, great fears, great calamities, and great sins,”


Lord Datta declares that "All the thirty three crore Gods, all the living beings, and endless crores of worlds are within Me and because of Myself they become dynamic and because of My presence, will have different kinds of powers. The ultimate refuge of all the rivers is the ocean. Whichever God is worshipped, the worship reaches Me. If I am worshipped, one will get the fruit of worshipping all Gods.”

Who are the Avataras of Lord Dattatreya?

According to the Datta Sampradaya, the first Avatar is Sripada Sri Vallabh and the second one is Narasimha Saraswati. They consider the other incarnations of Dattatreya to be Shirdi Sai Baba, Akkalkot Maharaj, Shri Vasudevanand Saraswati, Manik Prabhu, Krishna Saraswati, Gajanan Maharaj, Satya Saibaba, and Shri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji.

The essence of 24 Gurus

1. The Earth: I learned patience and doing good to others from the earth.

2. The Water: From water, I learned the quality of purity.

3. The Air: I learned from air to be without attachment though I move with many people.

4. The Fire: From fire I learned to glow with the splendor of Self-knowledge and austerity.

5. The Sky: I learned from the sky that the Self is all-pervading and yet it has no contact with any object.

6. The Moon: I learned from the moon that the Self is always perfect and changeless, and it is only the limiting adjuncts that cast shadows over it.

7. The Sun: Just as a sun, reflected in various pots of water, appears as many, so also God or Brahman appears different because of the embodiment caused by the reflection of the mind. This is the lesson I have learned from the sun.

8. The Pigeons: I once saw a pair of pigeons with their young ones. A fowler spread a net and caught the young birds. The mother pigeon was so attached to her babies that she fell into the net and was caught. From this I have learned that attachment is the root cause of earthly bondage.

9. The Python: The python does not move about for its food. It remains contented with whatever it gets, lying in one place. From this I learned to be contented with whatever I get to eat.

10. The Ocean: Just as the ocean remains unmoved, even though hundreds of rivers flow into it, so also the wise man should remain unmoved amid all the various temptations and troubles.

11. The Moth: To control the sense of sight and to fix the mind on the Self, is the lesson I learned from the moth.

12. The Black Bee: I take a little food from one house and a little from another house and thus appease my hunger. I am not a burden on the householder. This I learned from the black bee which gathers honey from various flowers.

13. The Bees: Bees collect honey with great trouble, but a hunter comes along and takes the honey away easily. From this I learned that it is useless to hoard things.

14. The Elephant: The male elephant, blinded by lust, falls into a pit covered with grass, even at the sight of a female elephant. Therefore, one should destroy lust.

15. The Deer: The deer is enticed and trapped by the hunter through its love of music. Therefore, one should never listen to lewd songs but only devotional music.

16. The Fish: Just as a fish that is covetous of food, falls an easy victim to the bait, so also the man who is greedy for food loses his independence and gets ruined.

17. The Dancing Girl: There was a dancing girl named Pingala. One night, being tired of looking for a client, she had to be content with a sound sleep. I learned from this fallen woman the lesson that the abandonment of hope leads to contentment.

18. The Raven: A raven picked up a piece of flesh. It was pursued and beaten by other birds. It dropped the piece of flesh and attained peace and rest. From this I learned that people undergo all sorts of troubles and miseries when he runs after sensual pleasures and that become as happy as the bird when they abandon them.

19. The Child: The child that drinks mother's milk is free from all cares, worries and anxieties, and is always cheerful. I learned the virtue of cheerfulness from the child.

20. The Maiden: The maiden was husking paddy. Her bangles made much noise and there were people around. To silence the bangles, she removed them one by one. When she had only one, it did not make any noise, and she was happy. I learned from the maiden that living among many can create discord, disturbance, dispute and quarrel. Even between two people there might be unnecessary words or strife. So, the ascetic should remain alone in solitude.

21. The Serpent: A serpent does not build its own hole. It dwells in the holes dug out by others. Even so, an ascetic should not build a home for himself. He should live in a temple or a cave built by others.

22. The Arrow-maker: I learned from the arrow-maker the quality of intense concentration of mind that is required in making an effective lethal weapon.

23. The Spider: The spider pours out of its mouth long threads and weaves them into cobwebs. Sometimes, it gets itself entangled in the net of its own making. Humans too make nets of their own ideas and get entangled in it. The wise man should, therefore, abandon all worldly thoughts and think only of Brahman.

24. The Beetle: The beetle catches a worm, puts it in its nest and stings it. The poor worm, always fearing the return of the beetle and its sting, thinks constantly of the beetle and becomes a beetle itself. I learned from the beetle and the worm to turn myself into the Self by contemplating constantly on It; thus I gave up all attachment to the body and attained Moksha or liberation. (Subhamoy Das)


Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 11, Chapter 7 Shri Krishna instruction Uddhava (Slokas from 27. onwards).

Sri Dattatreya’s 24 Gurus: Learning from the World in Hindu Tradition – Comprehensive Research Paper, Martin Haigh, Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom

Dattatreya 24 Gurus in Nature short version By Subhamoy Das

Guru Pada Puja on Guru Purnima Day - July 13, 2003, by Prakasarao Velagapud


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