Dattātreya: The Immortal Guru, Yogin, and Avatāra

A Study of the Transformative and Inclusive Character of a Multi-faceted Hindu Deity

By Antonio Rigopoulos

Subjects: India And South Asian Studies
Series: SUNY series in Religious Studies
Paperback : 9780791436967, 342 pages, April 1998
Hardcover : 9780791436950, 342 pages, April 1998

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Table of contents



1. The Genealogy of Dattatreya

2. Puranic Mythology of Dattatreya

3. Dattatreya in Minor UpaniSads

4. Dattatreya in the Literature of the Mahanubhavas

5. The Guru-caritra and the Rise of the Dattatreya Cult

6. Eknath, Dasopant, and the Unfolding of the Dattatreya Movement

7. The Tripura-rahasya

8. The Avadhuta-gita

9. The Development of Dattatreya's Iconography


General Bibliography

Selected Bibliography on Dattatreya and His Movement


Presents the multi-faceted Hindu deity Dattatreya from his Puranic emergence to modern times.


This book presents the multi-faceted Hindu deity Dattatreya from his Puranic emergence up to modern times. Dattatreya's Brahmanical portrayal, as well as his even more archaic characterization as a Tantric antinomian figure, combines both Vaisnava Saiva motifs. Over the course of time, Dattatreya has come to embody the roles of the immortal guru, yogin and avatara in a paradigmatic manner. From the sixteenth century Dattatreya's glorious characterization emerged as the incarnation of the trimurti of Brahma, Visnu, and Siva. Although Maharastra is the heartland of Dattatreya devotion, his presence is attested to throughout India and extends beyond the boundaries of Hinduism, being met with in Sufi circles and even in Buddhism and Jainism via Nathism.

The scarce attention which most Western scholars of Indian religions have paid to this deity contrasts with its ubiquitousness and social permeability. Devotion to Dattatreya cuts through all social and religious strata of Indian society: among his adepts we find yogis, Brahmans, faqirs, Devi worshippers, untouchables, thieves, and prostitutes. This book explores all primary religious dimensions: myth, doctrine, ritual, philosophy, mysticism, and iconography. The comprehensive result offers a rich fresco of Hindu religion as well as an understanding of Marathi integrative spirituality: precisely this complexity of themes constitutes Dattatreya's uniqueness.

Antonio Rigopoulos is the author of The Life and Teachings of Sai Baba of Shirdi, also published by SUNY Press.


"I learned a great deal from this book. Although I had known about Dattatreya as an important figure in Hinduism, I had never realized the richness and complexity of this truly Protean deity. As Rigopoulos notes, Dattatreya has been largely neglected by scholars, and this book makes you wonder why, since he is so intriguing. I suspect that this will become a classic in its area, since there really is no comparable work which does so much relating to Dattatreya. In a way, to read the history of Dattatreya as presented by Rigopoulos is to engage the history of Hinduism! Virtually all of the major historical phases and issues are there, from the Vedic period up to the last decade. " -- Glen Hayes, Bloomfield College