Two Marathi Proverbs on Lord Dattatreya (Post No.11,937)


Post No. 11,937

Date uploaded in London – –  25 APRIL 2023                  

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There are two interesting proverbs in Marathi on Lord Dattatreya; to understand the proverbs one must know the story of Dattatreya and the belief of his devotees about his wanderings.

This story illustrates the power of chastity. Greatest of the Tamil poets ,Tiru Valluvar, said in his Tirukkural that chaste women can even control Nature. If a chaste woman who worships only her husband says ‘Let it rain’ and the rain will pour down according to Valluvar. And another great Tamil poet Kamban in his Tamil version of Ramayana also says it through the mouth of Sita Devi. When Hanuman met her in Asoka vana of Sri Lanka, Hanuman requested her to sit on his shoulder so that she can straight away fly to Rama’s place. She frowned at Hanuman said, ‘Hey, What do you think of me? I can burn even the 14 worlds with the power of my chastity. The reason I am not doing it is to show the world the power of my husband. Rama has to rescue me’. Then Hanuman saluted her and went back to Rama.


Narada, the inter galactic traveller, who can beat Einstein’s theory on the speed of light and fly from one galaxy to another galaxy with his thought power, wanted to show the power of Chastity to the world. He went to wives of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and teased them saying that there is one lady on earth who is more chaste and more powerful. As soon as they heard it, they became jealous and asked their husbands to test her.

They went to that powerful chaste woman as mendicants. Her name was Anasuya, wife of great Rishi Atri. He is one of the Sapta Rishis (Seven saints in the constellation of Ursa Major in the Northern Sky). His name is recited by Brahmins three times every day in their Sandhyavandana. More over, he is the highest contributor to Rig Veda. And he is also mentioned by Panini 2700 years ago in the world’s first grammar book Ashtadyayi.

When Atri was away for his morning worship Brahma, Vishnu Siva- Tri Murtis, came and begged for alms at her door. Then Anasuya told them to go to near by river and bathe and come. She prepared the food by the time they returned. Just before she spread the leaves to serve food they said to her that there is a condition for them to eat there.

Anasuya felt uneasy but yet the Vedic command is Athithi Devo Bhavah– Treat your guest as God. So she agreed to  follow their condition. They put an impossible condition – that is, she must give them food without her clothes on.

The poor woman felt that the laws of hospitality compelled her to comply, but the power of her virtues was such that at the moment of her appearance before them they were changed into three little babies. She threw her sari and took them one by one to suckle.And she put them in the cradles and lulled to sleep.

When their wives were searching for their husbands, Narada showed them the cradles. They were surprised to see their husbands as three little babies and begged Anasuya to bring them to their original form.  In the mean time Atri came and requested them to leave the children with them. They told Atri that they will be born as three children to Anasuya.

The Brahma baby was named after moon/ Chandra and it soon left them and went to moon. The Siva baby was named Durvasa and it soon left them to lead a wandering pilgrim’s life. The third baby Vishnu, was named Dattatreya and became the representative of the three. Another version is that Atri made the three children as one with three heads.

Women fast on Datta Purnima on the Margasirsha full moon day to honour the birth of Datta and it is called Datta Jayanti. He is drawn with three heads accompanied by four dogs, representing Four Vedas.

Worshippers may belong to any sect or caste. He is worshipped in Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Various tales about him are current, e.g. he became a mendicant and, travelling daily to Benares (Kasi) for his morning ablutions, for Kolhapur for his lunch and to Sahyadri range (the Western Ghats) for his ret at night. Hence two Marathi proverbs have arisen:

1.Dattatreyaachi Ferii (Dattareya’s pilgrimage)

2.Datta Karoon Yenen (To come, having played Dattatreya), meaning to appear in time to profit by the fruits of others’ labours.

His teachings are in Avadhuta Gita. He learnt from 24 animals,Insects and flowers. His famous lessons from Nature are part of Bhagavata Purana. He is said to meditate under Audumbara tree. His shrines are in many places in Maharashtra.


Tags- Marathi proverbs, Dattatreya, Anasuya, Atri, Sapta Rishi, three babies, power of Chastity, Narada

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