sastham atrer apatyatvam
vrtah prapto ‘nasuyaya
sastham — the sixth one; atreh — of Atri; apatyatvam — sonship; vrtah — being prayed for; praptah — obtained; anasuyaya — by Anasuya; anviksikim — on the subject of transcendence; alarkaya — unto Alarka; prahlada-adibhyah — unto Prahlada and others; ucivan — spoke.
The sixth incarnation of the purusa was the son of the sage Atri. He was born from the womb of Anasuya, who prayed for an incarnation. He spoke on the subject of transcendence to Alarka, Prahlada and others [Yadu, Haihaya, etc.].
The Lord incarnated Himself as Dattatreya, the son of Rsi Atri and Anasuya. The history of the birth of Dattatreya as an incarnation of the Lord is mentioned in the Brahmanda Purana in connection with the story of the devoted wife. It is said there that Anasuya, the wife of Rsi Atri, prayed before the Lords Brahma, Visnu and Siva as follows: “My lords, if you are pleased with me, and if you desire me to ask from you some sort of blessings, then I pray that you combine together to become my son.” This was accepted by the lords, and as Dattatreya the Lord expounded the philosophy of the spirit soul and especially instructed Alarka, Prahlada, Yadu, Haihaya, etc.
* Srimad-Bhagavatam 1
A hermit famous in the Puranas.
Anasuya, the wife of hermit Atri, gave birth to Dattatreya, the incarnation of Mahavisnu.
There is, a story in Brahmanda Purana how Mahavisnu came to incarnate as Dattatreya.
Once there was a hermit called Animandavya (Mandavya). While the hermit was engaged in silent meditation, some robbers passed by that way. The King’s men who were chasing the robbers, came to the hermit and asked him about the robbers. The hermit did not break the silence. The King’s men, thinking the hermit to be the thief bound his hands and legs and took him to the palace. The King ordered Mandavya to be killed by piercing his body with a trident. Accordingly a trident was posted on a hill far away and Mandavya was seated.
It was at this time that Silavati, famous for her conjugal fidelity, went to the house of a harlot, carrying her husband Ugrasravas on her shoulder. When they passed by that way Ugrasravas scolded Animandavya; getting angry at this Animandavya cursed Ugrasravas that he would get his head broken and die before the sun-rise. Silavati became very sorry when she heard the curse and she also cursed.
“Let the sun not rise tomorrow”. The sun did not rise next day. Everything in the world was in chaos. The devas were flurried. They went to Brahma. Brahma took them to Siva. They could not find a solution. So all of them approached Mahavisnu. The Trimurtis (three gods) told the devas that the problem would be solved, and the devas returned. Brahma, Vi snu and Mahewara went to Silavati. Before seeing Silavati, they went to Anasuya the wife of Atri and sought her help to persuade Silavati to recall her curse.
Thus Anastiya and the Trimurtis approached Silavati and spoke compassionate and consolatory words. At last Silavati recalled the curse. The Trimurtis convinced Silavati, that Ugrasravas would not die. The pleased Trimurtis asked Anasuya to ask for any boon. She replied that she did not want any boon except that the Trimurtis should take birth as her sons. Accordingly Mahavisnu took birth as Dattatreya, Siva as Durvasas and Brahma as Candra, in the womb of Anasuya. This is how Dattatreya was born.’
Dattatreya did penance from his childhood and became a hermit.
(Brahmanda Purana, Chapters 39 to 44).
2 ) Kartaviryarjuna and Dattatreya.
When Kartaviryarjuna became King Dattatreya had become very famous. Kartaviryarjuna wanted to obtain supernatural powers. So he called the hermit Garga and asked for his advice. Garga advised him that Dattatreya was the incarnation of Visnu and that he would grant his wishes. So Kartaviryarjuna and his wife came to the river Narmada, and taking bath in the river, began to worship Dattatreya, who was doing penance closeby. Dattatreya was pleased and went to Kartaviryarjuna and asked him what his desire was. He requested for thousand hands and to be a youth for ever, and such other things. Dattatreya granted his wishes. After that Kartaviryarjuna would very often go to the hermit Dattatreya for his advice.
(Brahma Purana, Chapter 44).
3) Cursing Ravana.
Once Ravana went to the hermitage of Dattatreya. The hermit had placed a waterpot purified by reciting spells and incantations.
Ravana stole that waterpot.
When the hermit knew this, he cursed Ravana saying,
“Since the water, which was evoked by spells and incantations, has fallen on your head, monkeys will pollute your head by treading on it.”
(Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kanda).
4) Exhortation to the Sadhyas.
Mention is made in Mahabharata, Udyoga Parva, Chapter 36, Stanza 4, that the hermit Dattatreya gave exhortations to the Sadhyas (the sons of Dharmadeva by his wife Sadhya).
5) A boon for the birth of Nahusa. See Nahusa.
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