Lord Dattatreya is considered one of the 24 Vishnu incarnations. Lord Dattatreya was born of Rishi Atri and Anasuya. Dattatreya comprises Datta (Giver) and Atri (Sage Atri). He is considered the guru of environmental education. He gained enlightenment by observing his surroundings, which provided him with 24 gurus. These gurus explain the problems of mundane attachments and teach the path toward the spiritual self-realization of the Supreme.

Dattatreya left home at an early age to wander in search of the Absolute. He spent most of his life wandering between and including North Karnataka, through Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat up to the Narmada River. He attained realization at a town now known as Ganagapura in Karnataka. The original footprints of Dattatreya are believed to be located on the lonely peak at Girnar. The Tripura-Rahasya refers to the disciple Parasurama finding Dattatreya while meditating on Gandhamadana mountain. Lord Dattatreya made tapas for 12,000 years in Mount Girnar. Werness (2004: p.138) ventures the semiology of the four dogs, each of a different color, oft depicted in Dattatreya iconography as holding the valence of the four Vedas.

Pre-Vedic Indian dogs were regarded as auspicious symbols, and later deities assumed dog forms, became associated with dogs, and were linked with the glory and fidelity of warriors. Four different-colored dogs accompanied the Dattatreya, who represented the four Vedas.


 Sri Pāda Sri Vallabha

Sri Pāda Sri Vallabha is considered the first of the Avatar (incarnation) of the deity Sri Dattatreya in Kaliyuga. Some experts said he was supposed to have lived from 1320 AD to 1350 AD. He was born in Pithapuram.

Sri Pāda Sri Vallabha was born to Sri Appalaraja Sharma (of Aapastambha Shakha Brahmin) and Sumathi on Bhadrapada Sudha Chavithi (Ganesh Chaturthi) as the third son of Appalaraja Sarma and Sumati. One day, Appalaraja Sharma's family was preparing for the Shraaddha (a yearly ceremony to pay homage to the departed souls); around noon, some Lord Dattatreya came to their home as bhikshuk (beggar seeking alms?). Considering the Bhikshuk, an Avatar of Vishnu himself, the couple fed him through Vedas instead of elsewhere before the Brahmins took their food. In the form of Bhikshuk, Dattatreya was happy, showed His true self, and offered her a boon. She asked for a son "knowledgeable like you," to which Dattatreya said, "Yes." Before this, she had many children, and none survived, albeit two sons, one blind and the other lame. Dattatreya blessed her, saying that she would have a son who would be a Guru to all. The couple became joyous, and within a year, they had a son named ' Sri Pāda.'

Without formal education, 'Sri Pāda' was omniscient and omnipotent from birth. As he finished his studies of Vedas, Shastras, and his "Upanayana" (Munja) ceremony by age seven, he started preaching on these. By 16, he claimed he was married to "Vairagya-sthree" (Vairagya means Dispassion, sthree means Woman) and left home for Kashi. To satisfy his crying mother, he made his two elder brothers (blind and lame) scholars and asked them to care for their parents. He left Pithapuram for Badrikedar and headed towards the North. After the pilgrimage, he went to Gokarna Mahabaleshwar in the South. After spending three years at Mahabaleshwar, he went to Sri Saila Mountain (Sri Sailam). He spent most of his later life staying in Kuravpur (Kuravapuram).


 Sri Narasimha Saraswati

Sri Narasimha Saraswati (AD 1378 to 1459) was the next Avatar of Shri Dattatreya in Kaliyuga. Born to a Sri Madhav Ji and Amba Bhavani Ji, a Deshastha Brahmin family in Karanjapur, he amazed everyone from the time of his birth by uttering clearly the "Pranava-Nadam" (the sound of OM) instead of crying.

He was a quiet child and did not speak much during his childhood. When their parents were worried about his speech ability, he showed through hand gestures that he would speak after his Upanayana (munja). After his Munja, not only did he start speaking but also lectures on Vedas and Brahmins. Giving their parents twin brothers, he left home on a pilgrimage to Kashi to take Sannyasa from Shri Krishna Saraswati. The second part of his name came from this guru, who eventually named him Shri Narasimha Saraswati.

After becoming a guru, Saraswati visited several holy places around the country before returning to Karanja at 30 to meet his parents. He, thereafter, visited several holy places, blessed many devotees, caused many divine miracles, and resurrected many forgotten holy places like Karaveerapuram, Bhillavati, Ganagapura, etc. He finally settled in Ganagapura, Karnataka, for the last 20 years. Saraswati taught that the life of Brahmins was fully covered by the rules given in the old scriptures, and the rules were to be strictly followed by the Brahmins in their daily lives to achieve happiness and, ultimately, moksha. He insisted that his disciples follow these routines. Saraswati comes from the tradition of Sringeri Math's Jagatguru Shri Adi Shankaracharya.

Towards the end of his life, Saraswati met with the Sultan of Bedar, possibly Allauddin-II of the Bahamani Sultanate, who was the area ruler then to be revived again. As his karma for that Avatar had completed, he decided to take Samadhi. He left for the jungle of Kardali. Shri Swami Samarth of Akkalkot, considered his Avatar, is supposed to have come from Kardali-van (the Jungle of Kardali) to meet with him. However, the time difference between them was a few centuries.

With his yogic powers and penance, Narasimha Saraswathi represented himself as one who had come for mankind to save it from the clutches of narrow-mindedness and ignorance, who wrongly considered "body" as God and "eating" as prayer. Many parts of Saraswati's life are told in the Shri Guru Charitra, written by Saraswati Gangadhar. The book was written as a conversation between Siddha (a disciple of Shri Narasimha Saraswati) and Namdharak, who is listening to Siddha. To date, this book serves as a holy book for Datta Sampradaya devotees.


 Sri Manikya Prabhu Maharaj

Sri Manikya Prabhu Maharaj was born to a pious couple, Shri Manohar Naik and Smt. Bayadevi, in a village called Ladwanti, near Kalyan, Maharashtra. Of the three sons and a daughter, Manik was in the middle and closer to the trees, the breeze, the birds, and the flowers than in regular child life. His “Leela’s” began appearing.

Once one of his playmates, Govinda had passed away after suffering from fever for a few days. Manik assured Govinda’s mother to stop grieving he will bring her son alive. Sure enough, when Govinda’s mother called out to him to go out and play with Manik, he arose as if out of a deep slumber.

Once, one of his playmates, Govinda, had passed away after suffering from fever for a few days. Manik assured Govinda’s mother to stop grieving because he would bring her son back alive. Sure enough, when Govinda’s mother called out to him to go out and play with Manik, he arose as if out of a deep slumber.

On another occasion, Bheemabai, wife of Apparao Arab, a General in the army of the Nizam of Hyderabad, was traveling to visit Manik to seek his blessings for progeny. On her way, she noticed some boys beating up one boy for eight cowries (shells) that he owed the other boys. Bheemabai gave him the eight cowries. Thus released, the boy said, you are given eight sons. You may go!

When Bheemabai reached Manik’s home, she learned that the boy she had rescued was Manik. Manik said, “I have already given you what you seek. Go in peace!” Satisfied, Bheemabai left for Hyderabad, and in the years to come, she was blessed with eight sons. She remained eternally grateful to Manik to the end of her life. Manik’s divine insight was that Bheemabai sought children and promised eight sons for eight cowries before she pleaded with him.

Similarly, the formal education needed to make one fit for everyday worldly life was not required for Manik. It appeared that he would instead wander through the woods gathering wisdom right from Nature rather than information from the classroom. When reprimanded by his uncle, he left his house and wandered in different forests, caves, and sacred places. As his “Leela’s” spread, many devotees approached him for his benediction. As the fame of Shri Manik Prabhu spread far and wide, people flocked to have his Darshan and seek succor from worldly troubles. Invariably, people needed quick results. They have neither the patience to pray nor the willingness to wait for the results. For some, the very sight of a holy person brings solace, but there are others who desire to have assured remedies.

In ecstatic meditation, Shri Prabhu sat under the Audumbara tree (important to Sri Datta Sampradaya). It is Sri Dattatreya's favorite tree, and he is believed to always dwell thereunder. It is the symbol of deliverance. Since then, with the grace of Sri Narasimha, the Audumbara tree has become the Kalpvrisksha, shedding illumination and wisdom. Therefore, it came to pass that one who does penance sitting thereunder is freed from the agony of Samsara.

Lord Dattatreya's incarnation, Sri Prabhu, had a particular affinity for the Audumbara tree. The incident of the Bilva trees and the ecstatic meditation he experienced under the Audumbara tree both must have had a special symbolism for him that led him to choose that site as his permanent abode for the remaining years of his temporal life. Thus, what is today known as the village of MANIKNAGAR was established. Prabhu prophesied that his form would again incarnate in Akkalkot. Sadguru Manikya Prabhu, on an appointed day in December 1865, decided to enter a sub-terrain place and sat therein in meditation along with a copy of "Sree Guru Charitra" and attained Maha Samadhi.


 Swami Samarth Maharaj

Swami Samarth Maharaj, also known as Akkalkot Swami Maharaj, is the fourth incarnation of Lord Dattatreya in this Kaliyuga. His physical form dates to the nineteenth century AD.

The holy book of Shri Guru Charitra mentions that the second Datta incarnation, Sri Narasimha Saraswati, entered Maha Samadhi in Kardalivana in 1458. After over 300 years, he emerged from the samadhi when a woodcutter accidentally cut through a tree and hit Shri Narasimha Saraswati. That divine personality awakened came to be known as Shri Swami Samarth. Shri Swami Samarth traveled all over the country and eventually set his abode at Akkalkot village in Maharashtra, India.

Maharaj first appeared at Akkalkot on a Wednesday around September–October 1856 AD near Khandoba Mandir. He stayed in Akkalkot for close to 22 years. Like all other Datta Avatars, his parentage, name, native place, etc., remain obscure today. When a devotee asked him about his life, Sri Swami Samarth indicated that he originated the Banyan tree (Vata-Vriksha), whose prop roots represent other saints, his disciples, and other Datta incarnations. On another occasion, Swami said that his name was Narasimha Bhan and that he was from Kardalivan near Sri Sailam, confirming that he was Narasimha Saraswati.

Numerous people were miraculously cured by the grace of Swami. The medicines he prescribed varied with the patient's faith, from lemon juice to a remedy of inserting a hand bitten by a scorpion inside a shoe for relief. Many devotees connected with places sacred to Dattatreya, such as Ganagapur and Narsoba Wadi, got mysterious calls from their deity to go to the Swami at Akkalkot for his blessings. By his grace, he brought about a fundamental change in the lives of many (Hridaya Parivartan) by influencing their minds and hearts to overcome their weaknesses and blemishes. In short, Swami emphasized the importance of purity of mind. He had love and compassion for all creatures without any differentiation.

On the evening of Tuesday, April 1878, Swami requested his disciples to take him to the Banyan Tree. Amidst the singing of Bhajans (Songs in praise of the Lord), Swami, sitting in Padmasana (yogic posture), attained Samadhi.


 Sri Sai Baba of Shirdi

Sri Sai Baba, one of the foremost saints of modern India, is the Fifth Avatar (incarnation) of Lord Dattatreya in this age of Kali.

He was a spiritual master and is regarded by his devotees as a saint, fakir, Avatar (an incarnation of God), or Sadguru, according to their individual proclivities and beliefs. He was revered by both his Muslim and Hindu devotees. During and after his life on earth, it remained uncertain whether he was a Muslim or Hindu. Sai Baba stressed the importance of surrendering to the guidance of the true Sadguru or Murshad, who, having gone through the path to divine consciousness himself, will lead the disciple through the jungle of spiritual training.

No verifiable information is given regarding Sai Baba's real name, place, or time of birth. When asked about his past, he often gave elusive responses. The name "Sai" was given to him upon his arrival at Shirdi by Mahalsapati, a local temple priest. Sai Baba arrived at the village of Shirdi in the Ahmednagar District of Maharashtra when he was 16 years old. He led an ascetic life, sitting motionless under a neem tree and meditating while sitting in an asana. The village people were wonder struck to see such a young lad practicing hard penance, not minding heat or cold. Sai Baba initially stayed in Shirdi for three years, disappeared for a year, and returned for good around 1858.

The Ahimsa aspect of Jainism, the renunciation aspect of Buddhism, the Dharmic aspect of Lord Rama, the Nishkama-Karma aspect of Lord Krishna, the universal-love aspect of Jesus, the universal brotherhood aspect of Islam are found harmoniously blended in Sainath’s way of life. Sai Baba's millions of disciples and devotees believe that he performed many miracles such as bilocation, levitation, mindreading, materialization, exorcisms, making the river Yamuna, entering a state of Samadhi at will, lighting lamps with water, removing his limbs or intestines and sticking them back to his body (khanda yoga), curing the incurably sick, appearing beaten when another was beaten, after death rising on third day, preventing a mosque from falling down on people, and helping his devotees in a miraculous way. He also gave Darshan (vision) to people in the form of Rama, Krishna, Vithoba, and many other gods, depending on the faith of devotees.

According to his followers, he appeared to them in dreams even after he left his body and gave them advice. His devotees have documented many stories. Sai Baba converted an old, dilapidated Mosque as his residence and named it 'Dwarakamayi' and in this unique place, the essence of all the principal creeds was united, and the common worship of the universal god brought home to each and all in a unique and loving manner. The presence of Dhuni (sacred fire) was a temple to the Hindus and the Parsees; the numbers (niche) on the western wall made it look like a mosque, and to the Christians, it was a church where the bells announced prayers. Shri Shirdi Sai Baba attained his "Maha Samadhi" on the auspicious "Vijayadashami" day 1918.


 Sai Datta Peetham

Take a step closer to Baba, and he will take ten steps closer to you to erase your pain and sorrow. The mere thought of Shirdi Sainadh brings the utmost joy and peace to our lives.

To cater to the growing Indian population in and around New Jersey and to serve the community, “Sri Sai Datta Peetham” opened at 902 Oak Tree Road, #100 South Plainfield, NJ 07080, on the auspicious day of Sivarathri on February 27, 2014. Sri Shiridi Sai and Sri Dattatreya Prana Prathista Mahotsav happened on March 21- 23, 2014. Starting on Friday, March 21st, we saw Vigraha Jalaadhivaasam and Mandapa Aaradhana. On Saturday, March 22nd, there was Yantra Pooja and Yanthra Sthapanam. And on Sunday, March 23rd, we saw Pranapratishta (Sumamuhurtam 9:51 AM). Sri Dhira Chaitanya ji, also known as Sundar Ramaswamy, visited the Sai Datta Peetham to conduct this auspicious event.

Sai Datta Peetham has many innovative things, many of which are firsts of their kind. All the Aarthis and Sevas to Baba are set to happen precisely as per schedules in Shirdi, starting with Kakad Aarti at 5:15 AM and ending with Sej Aarti at 9:00 PM. Imagine what an experience it would be watching Baba in the early hours and how good the day is.

Following the “Athidhi devo bhava" tradition, Nithya Annadanam continues to be conducted in Sai Datta Peetham. Several charity events were planned, and the volunteers of SDP distributed food and clothes to the needy. Sai Bhajans and Satsangs to be conducted every Thursday. As part of Pallaki Seva, Sai Pallaki was taken to devotees’ houses to bring peace and cure their ailments. The best part is that Archana, Abhishekam, and Samoohika Vratams will be conducted FREE at Sai Datta Peetham. Sai Datta Peetham planned several Vedic classes and provided courses on Indian culture to benefit kids and the young generation.

Along with the statue of Baba from Shirdi and the Sri Dattatreya Statue from Jaipur, Pancha Mukha Siva Lingam (which is only seen in Nepal in Pashupatinath temple) was planned for in Sai Datta Peetham Sri Shiva Vishnu Temple NJ. Pancha Mukha Ganapati (to bless us for Kaarya Siddhi), Anjaneya Swami, and Saneeswara Swami shrines were planned to be accommodated in the new location. All Navagraha Devathas with their respective Dharmapatni’s and Vahanas (very rare) were installed. Utsava Vigrahas of Ram Parivaar and Ramaa sametha Satyanarayana swami and Lord Ayyappa were worshipped during festivals.