Dattatreya or Datta is regarded by Hindus to be the god who is an incarnation of the Divine Trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The word Datta means “Given”, Datta is called so because the holy 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.”
In the Nath tradition, Dattatreya is recognized as an Avatar or incarnation of 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 adopted and assimilated into the more ‘devotional’ Vaishnavite cults, while still worshipped by millions of Hindus.
Dattatreya has left home at an early age to wander naked in search of the Absolute. He seems to have spent most of his life wandering in the area between and including North Karnataka, through Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, and into Gujarat as far as the Narmada River. He accomplished realization at a place not far from the town now known as Gangapura in North Karnataka. The 24 Gurus of Dattatreya come from the 24 gurus of Avadhut defined in the Purana.