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Origin and Development of Dattatreya Worship in India - (Ph.D. Thesis)

Origin and Development of Dattatreya Worship in India - (Ph.D. Thesis)

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Published by Soham Hamsah
Source - http://rangruhdyam.com/
Source - http://rangruhdyam.com/

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Published by: Soham Hamsah on Jul 20, 2012
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Zr#datta Mah!r!ja of A;qe

(1894 A.D. – 1925 A.D.)

In the galaxy of stars that shine today through the grace of V!sudev!nanda-
sarasvat#633 the name of Zr#datta Mah!r!ja of @;qe is notable both for his young age as
well as for his achievement. The severe penance and the strict discipline of
V!sudev!nanda are clearly reflected in him. In fact his life is much more influenced by
V!sudev!nanda than by anybody else and we see many points of similarity between
them for example the habit of travelling on foot with minimum requirements, that of
giving sermons through one's own actions and his disciplined life and the usual reading
of Paur![ic books in the evening.
His original name was Narahar#634 and he was the third son of V!sudevar!v, a
/*gvedi Dazastha Brahmin of Z!kal branch that belonged to Gautama family (Gotra). He
was born in 1816 (Zaka era) on @zvin Zukla 1 at Vaqh!r village in Kolhapur district. He
was eighth from Ekan!tha in his lineage. His mother Mukt!b!i had a daughter named
K!zi and three sons Sakh!r!ma (eldest), V!man and Narahar#. K!zi was married at
Shiral where later on the whole family shifted owing to the death of V!sudevar!v in
1827 (Zaka era).

He could not study further, left home at the age of thirteen and first went to Wadi
and then proceeded to G![ag!pur. Here he suffered from Cholera and during illness,
he got a vision of Datt!treya who gave him T#rtha (purified water) and directed him to
return home. After returning home he never stayed there but put up at the Datta
Mandir situated in the outskirts of the village and then proceeded on a pilgrimage on
foot. During his journey he used to read GC besides muttering God's name and reciting

Here he met Harihara Mah!r!ja so famous in Varad and who was the spiritual
brother (Guru-Bandhu) of V!sudev!nanda. Harihara Mah!r!ja was also called
V!sudev!nandasarasvat# later on after he turned a Sany!si. He gave him a Mantra and
took him along with him on a pilgrimage where, besides all India travel, Datta
Mah!r!ja happened to visit Girnar and got the vision of Datt!treya in visible form. Af-
ter this his Guru directed him to go to V!sudev!nanda (Qembe) to learn practice of
Yoga. Qembesw!m# gave him necessary directions and asked him to stay at Paiqha[ for
practice (Abhy!sa) and to approach him whenever he found any difficulty. Thus at the
age of 18 he experienced the rapture of Sam!dh# and got guidance when necessary from

633 His connection with Qembesw!m# of Garufezvar is due to a direction from his Guru, whose name was
also V!sudev!nandasarasvat#. His spiritual lineage is as under: Zr#p!dasw!m# – Sac-
cid!nandasarasvat# – Vizvam%rtisarasvat# – Anantasarasvat# – Trivikramasarasvat# – V!sudev!nanda-
sarasvat# (not Qembe Sw!m#) – Zr#datta Mah!r!ja.
634 His name Datta was due to his short sign written in letters and in other usage, after his arrival from
G![ag!pur. He was known as Datt!treyabuv!, Brahamac!r# from the very early time, when he stayed
in the temple of Datt!treya at Vaqh!r.

– 135 –

Before he finally settled at A;qe in the Satara District he travelled on foot to many
places during which K&;[! Pradak;i[! (to go round the river K&;[!)635 pilgrimage to
R!mezvar and his long stay at Ta]j!var were notable incidents of his life. At Ta]j!var
he studied many unpublished books in the library there and the reading of the book
R!masoha_! of Merusw!m#636 gave him pleasure through its descriptions of
@tmas!k;!tk!r. Here he started celebrating the day of the departure (Pu[yatithi) of
V!sudev!nanda (Qembe) besides giving daily discourses in the evening on Zr#datta
Pur![a and Zr#datta M!h!tmya written by the latter. Here he performed
G!yatripurazcara[a and many other ceremonies on the spiritual line in which the instal-
lation of Datta-Yantra specially prepared for him under his supervision is worth noting.
At A;qe the place of his final settlement and Sam!dh# he had a continuous and
crowded programme from four in the morning till twelve at night. It included his rou-
tine rites including Sam!dh# for three hours, discourses about Datta M!h!tmya, read-
ings of Guru G#t!, Avadh%ta G#t! and question hours both in the afternoon as well as at
night. He took his Bhik;! once through begging and did not take in his personal use
anything that was offered to him as a mark of respect. He did not allow anyone to touch
his body637 nor did he touch money. In short, he lived a life which gave lessons in strict
discipline regarding plain living638 and high thinking and of hard penance without de-
pendence on external things.

635 Here he experienced many things, which added to his faith and knowledge and after their completion,
it is said, he got a vision of Datt!treya, with three heads and six hands having the usual emblems at-
tached to them.
636 About this book Pangarkar says that it is rather an encyclopedia than a book on the topic. Merusw!m#

has written much in addition to this book. For detail please cf. म. वा. इ. ३, P. 762 ff.
637 People had to bow down from a distance and were never allowed to touch his body.

638 He used only two clothes during all seasons and slept on the skin of a black antelope (K&;[!jina).

– 136 –

His meetings with D#k;itasw!m#639, Za'kar!c!rya640 of Karav#r P#qha and many such
others who desired the company of saints like himself are important events in his life at
A;qe in addition to his great performance, attended by thousands namely, the installa-
tion of Datt!treya's idol, that he kept with him.641 He even attracted the king of Pha-
laqa[a named N!n!s!heb and stressed with him the point that Karma M!rga was the
foundation of Up!san!. Thus it seems his emphasis is on Karma though it implies that
Karma should be such as would lead to Up!san!. Moreover, the whole of life was spent
in carrying out Up!san! in various ways and in trying to follow the same strictly ac-
cording to rules laid down by his predecessors, especially by V!sudev!nand (Qembe ).
It is said that he had written a book containing impressions what he formed while
reading books in the library at Ta]j!var. But that is not available at present. His
thoughts on studentship (Zi;yatva) are such as would depend on the man and his ca-
pacity to follow his Guru. He once told that the stream of knowledge was open to all.
Nothing was kept secret from anybody. Whoever wanted to quench his thurst for
knowledge might do so according to his capacity. He took Sam!dhi on Ph!lgun Zukla 6
of 1847 (Zaka Era) i.e. in 1925 A.D. at the age of 31. His Sam!dhi is seen at A;qe where
his 'Day' is still observed. His birth-day is still celebrated at Isalampur, by his followers
who are found there in large numbers.

639 He showed many things used by Qembesw!m#. The most important of all the things was his short
notes on the Upani;ads.
640 He was known as Pizav#karsw!m#. Datta Mah!r!ja has mentioned some books in his library at Kol-


641 The idol is 3 headed and 6 handed. The peculiarity is that it has the god Ziva in the middle. For photo

cf. द महाराज याच चिरऽ

ं े

, opp, page 158.

– 137 –

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