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Atreyas – Atreya Rishis

Atreyas, or Atreya Rishis, are sons or descendants of Sage Atri. Rishi Atri, who was one of the saptarishis (seven progenitor sages), and his wife Anasuya, the daughter of Daksha Prajapati, had three sons. Their names were – Dattatreya, Soma, Durvasa. Being sons of Atri, they are also known as Atreyas or Atreya Rishis.

According to a story in Brahmanda Purana and in Bhagavata Purana, Atri pleased Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva by his tapa (penance). They appeared before him and offered to satisfy any of his desires. Atri begged that each of them should take birth as his son. They accepted his prayer.

But some other Puranas have given a different story – Anasuya, the wife of Rishi Atri, was famous for her devotion to the husband, upholding pativrata dharma. Once Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva went to her ashrama (hermitage) on the insistence of their spouses to text her pativratya. Anasuya proved to be a noble pativrata; the three deities were so pleased that they offered to grant her whatever she wanted. She prayed that the three deities be born as her sons. The prayer was accepted, and Dattatreya, Soma and Durvasa were born as amshavatara (partial incarnations) of Vishnu, Brahma and Rudra (Shiva) respectively.

Dattatreya preserved as an avadhuta sadhaka and became a siddha (an enlightened being) endowed with supernatural powers. He is a guru (preceptor) in the tantric tradition and is said to be the tantra guru of Sage Parashurama.

Soma received recognition as a God and became the representative deity of oshadhayah (medicinal herbs). The origin of a clan of the kshatriyas (warriors) known as Chandra Vamsha is traced to him. His son Budha was the father of Pururavas, the first king of Chandra Vamsha (moon – clan).

Durvasa was a rishi (seer) famous for his great penance, supernatural powers and terrible anger. He could remain without eating for years but could eat the food of thousands at a time too. He remained sitting in penance for thousands of years. But he was quick to take offence and curse those who offended him. Many Puranic stories hinge on his curses.

In the guru traditions (vamsha or sampradaya) given at the end of ‘Madhu Vidya’ and ‘Yajnavalkya Khanda’ in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, and also in the Mahabharata, Atreya is mentioned as one of the descendants of Sage Atri.