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Hindu God Dattatreya, Synthesis of Shiva, Vishnu & Brahma

HIndu God Dattatreya statue
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Dattatreya or Datta is considered by Hindus to be god who is an incarnation of the Divine Trinity, the three main Hindu Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The word Datta means “Given”, Datta is called so because the divine trinity has “given” themselves in the form of a son to the sage couple Atri and Anasuya. He is the son of Atri, hence the name “Atreya.”

Dattatreya is recognized as an Avatar or incarnation of the Lord Shiva and as the Adi-Guru (First Teacher) of the Adinath Sampradaya of the Nathas. Although Dattatreya was at first a “Lord of Yoga” exhibiting distinctly Tantric traits, he was adapted and assimilated into the more devotional Vaishnavite cults; while still worshiped by millions of Hindus, he is approached as a benevolent god and a teacher of the highest essence of Indian thought.

In sculpture Dattatreya statues have some distinct characteristics. He always has three faces, one for Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. Vishnu faces forward with Shiva on the left of Vishnu and Brahma on the right. He has six hands where he holds a drum (damru), discus (chakra), conch shell (sank), japa mala, water vessel (kamandala) and a trident (trishul). All these attributes of the Lord have their esoteric meanings. The trident is used for killing the ego, and the drum is used to awaken those souls who are still sleeping in the slumber of ignorance. Lord Datta’s conch shell is used to make the sacred sound OM. Lord Dattatreya is also holding a rotating discus -chakra. It is a round circle with no beginning and no end. Like the universe, it too is constantly moving, always in a flux. He uses this chakra to destroy all kinds of karmic bonds of His devotees. His right hand holds a rosary -japa mala. With this the Lord counts His devotees, liberating them by merely thinking of their name. In another hand the Lord is carrying the water pot -kamandala. This holds the nectar of pure wisdom. With this He revives the souls thirsty for knowledge, liberating them from the endless cycle of life and death.

Bronze Hindu God Dattatreya statue
View this Bronze Hindu God Dattatreya statue with 4 dogs and Kamadhenu the gift giving cow

Accompanying Dattatreya are 4 dogs and a cow. The four dogs surrounding Datta represent the four Vedas. The dogs are both wild and tame and symbols of fidelity and devotion. The cow is Kamadhenu the gift giving cow. She grants all wishes and desires. She is the cow of plenty, which emerged from SAMUDRAMANTHAN (the churning of the ocean) and and was claimed by Indra as his property. She is the mother of all cows.

Lord Krishna & Kaliya the Serpent

Brass Krishna statue
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The 8th Avatar of Lord Vishnu, Krishna came to know that a very large and poisonous serpent had made its home in a lagoon on the Yamuna River.  The serpents’ name was Kaliya.  Because the serpent was so poisonous that it killed all the fish in the river and even the trees and grass surrounding the lake were wilting from the effects of the poison.  When birds flew over the area, they immediately dropped dead and fell into the lake, due to the highly poisonous vapors emanating from the water. In that time, there were many frightful demons who had all kinds of mystic powers.  The Hindu God Krishna had specifically appeared to rid the world of all these disturbing elements.  Krishna came to this place with His cowherd boyfriends and decided to confront Kaliya, the king of the snakes.  He climbed the large Kadamba tree and from there, jumped into the poisonous waters of the Yamuna.

Brass  Krishna statue dancing on Kaliya the serpent
View our Brass Krishna statue dancing on Kaliya the serpent

Lord Krishna then began splashing about and making very loud noises just to disturb Kaliya serpent. Sure enough, Kaliya came up to the surface to see who was disturbing his domain. The huge black serpent; Kaliya (Kaliya means black) possessed over one hundred hoods, each decorated with a precious gem.  When he breathed, fire emanated from his nostrils.  He suddenly seized Krishna in his powerful coils, and bound the Lord as tightly as possible.  Unfortunately this serpent did not realize that within its coils was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, playing as a child and enjoying His earthly pastimes in the transcendental land of Vrindavana.  Without warning, Krishna, the Supreme Mystic, started to expand His body, and Kaliya, who began to feel the incredible pressure, was forced to release the Lord from his deadly coils. Krishna then jumped on to the hoods of the great serpent and started to dance, stamping His foot down on the heads of the snake demon, Kaliya.  This is the representation often seen in the Kaliya Krishna statues found in Hindu homes and temples. This stamping of Krishna, felt to Kaliya serpent like Indra’s thunderbolt striking a mountain. The Lord jumped from one hood to another, and Kaliya felt helpless and bewildered; in anger he spat fire from his many mouths but the Lord was so dexterous that His dancing movements caused the-snake to become dizzy.  After so many kicks from the Lord, Kaliya started to vomit blood before becoming almost unconscious. At that time, the many wives of the Kaliya serpent appeared and begged the Lord with folded hands to spare their husband.  Krishna decided to banish Kaliya to the great ocean never to return again.  Thereafter, the giant snake along with his wives, departed forever, and the transcendental Lord re-joined His cowherd boyfriends on the bank of the Yamuna, to continue their wonderful pastimes in the land of Vrindavana.

Why are there no Temples Dedicated to the Hindu God Brahma

Brass Hindu God Brahma Statue
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In the Shiva Purana, at the beginning of time in the Cosmos, Vishnu and Brahmā approached a huge Shiva Lingam and set out to find where Shiva began and where he ended. Vishnu was appointed to seek the end and Brahma the beginning. Taking the form of Vishnu’s 3rd avatar; the boar Varaha, Vishnu began digging downwards into the earth, while Brahma took the form of a swan and began flying upwards. However, neither could find the end or begining to Shiva. He was infinite. The Hindu God Vishnu, satisfied, came up to Shiva and bowed down to him as a swarupa of Brahman. Brahmā did not give up so easily. As He was going up, he saw a ketaki (Sanskrit – Kaetakee) flower, dear to Shiva. His ego forced him to ask the flower to bear false witness about Brahmā’s discovery of Shiva’s beginning. When Brahmā told his tale, Shiva, the all-knowing, was angered by the Brahma’s ego. Shiva cursed Brahma that no being in the three worlds will worship him.

Another story in connection with Brahma’s lack of worship is when Brahma was creating the universe, he made a female deity known as Shatarupa (one with a hundred beautiful forms). Brahma became immediately infatuated with his creation.  Shatarupa moved in various directions to avoid the gaze of Brahma. But wherever she went, Brahma developed a head.  Thus, Brahma developed five heads, one on each side and one above the others.

In order to control Brahma, Shiva cut off the top head. Also, Shiva felt that Shatarupa was Brahma’s daughter, being created by him. Therefore, Shiva determined, it was wrong for Brahma to become obsessed with her.  He directed that there be no proper worship in India for the “unholy” Brahma.  Thus, only Vishnu and Shiva continue to be worshiped with temples all over the world while Brahma only has two temples dedicated to him. Ever since the incident, Brahma has been reciting the four Vedas in his attempt at repentance.

The Hindu God Nandi, Sacred Bull of Shiva

Nandi, Shiva's white bull
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Within Hinduism, Nandi, or sometimes called Nandin, takes on many different roles.  In his most prevalent form he is the sacred steed of Shiva the Hindu god of Destruction, depicted as a powerful white bull.  His white color is marked as a symbol of purity and devotion.  Nandi is said to be Shiva’s main form of transportation and most ardent devotee.  As his most astute follower, Nandi is in charge of leading all of Shiva’s followers.  Along the same lines, Nandi is regarded as the gatekeeper and protector of Shiva as well as Shiva’s consort the Hindu Goddess Parvati.  He can be found in many temples dedicated to Shiva throughout Asia seated and facing the main temple as protector.  His name, Nandi, is even used as metaphor meaning “to stand in the way of”.  It is said that one must first gain the approval of Nandi before being allowed worship of Lord Shiva himself.

Nandi in human form as Nandikeshwara
Click here to view Nandi in human form as Nandikeshwara

As a primary Hindu God, Nandi is traced in lineage back to ancient dairy farmers that depended on cows for their main livelihood.  As their foremost source of sustenance, Nandi was worshiped as keeper of the herds.  In this form he was said to be bull-faced with a body much like his hallowed Shiva, but with 4 hands.  Two hands holding axe and antelope, and the other two joined in homage.  In this human form he is known as Nandikeshwara.

It is said that many women visit these large Nandi statues outside temples throughout the world and decorate him with flowers and touch his stone in order gain fertility.  Many worshipers who flock to his side also often whisper to in him in order to announce their hopes and dreams hoping Nandi relays their message on to Shiva.

Click here to read more about Shiva the Destroyer

Agni: Hindu God of Fire

“Agni I laud, the high priest, god, minister of sacrifice, the invoker, lavishest of wealth.” Rigveda

Agni: Hindu God of Fire

Agni, Hindu God of Fire, is one of the most renowned Hindu deities within the Rigveda. Fire is a central component of all Vedic rituals.  According to Vedic myth he is second in importance to only his twin brother Indra, Lord of the Heavens, and is distinguished as the supreme director of religious ceremonies serving as a middleman delivering Gods word to man.  Agni is said to be a divine model for all priests, mediating between the Gods and humans.  Priests should aspire to mirror his image in practice and devotion as he projects a patient and dignified reflection.  No Vedic sacrificial ritual is complete without his presence.  Angi is often depicted as having either two or seven hands, two heads, three legs, and seven fiery tongues as he rides atop a ram or fiery chariot.

As oldest son of Brahma, Agni joins with Indra and Surya, the Lord of the Skies, in the first Hindu holy trinity.  He is said to embody ten forms, the first five of which are physical forms, and the last five ritual forms: ordinary fire, lightening, the sun, digestive fire, destructive fire, fire lit by sticks for ceremony, fire for home worship, fire given to initiate students, funeral fire, and fire of the ancestors.  Although mostly seen as religious teacher, Agni is also sometimes feared for his destructive capacities.  He is priest of Hindu Gods and God of priests.  Among certain Vedic hymns, Agni can even be portrayed as that as a Supreme God:

‘Commingling, restless, he ascends the sky, unveiling nights and all that stands or moves, as he the sole God is preeminent in greatness among all these other Gods.’

Agni is one of the only Vedic deities to be so highly regarded still into present day.  All life’s journeys are presided over by Agni and end with Agni as funeral fire marks our eventual end.

Shiva as Nataraja holds the Hindu God Agni in his left hand
Shiva as Nataraja holds the Hindu God Agni in his left hand

Agni is rarely depicted in sculpture as a stand alone figure.  However, he is included in one of the most recognizable poses in all of Hinduism; Shiva as the Lord of Dance Nataraja.  Shiva holds the a burning flame in the palm of his left hand.  The flame represents the Hindu god Agni.

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