About this object

History of use

Indian popular religious prints have been published for nearly a century, first by German presses, later by Indian ones. The prints may take the form of calendars, posters, or simply images. The style of the representations is European. In the beginning they were Hindu images, but are now acquiring elements both of folk art and a romantic secularism. It is a living art currently influenced by the movie industry and non-Hindu religions. The images are a vehicle for advertising and are also used for religious purposes.


Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, on the request of their jealous wives, went to visit the reputed Anasuya to solve the problem. Appearing as mendicants begging for alms, they stated they would not accept alms from one who was clad. Chaste Anasuya solved this dilemma by changing the trio to babies and suckling them while nude. Thus, the laws of chastity and hospitality were both upheld. For restoring the gods to their original forms, Atri requested that a son be born to Anasuya and himself; Dattatreya was the fulfillment of the boon.

Cultural context

calendar art; popular religious art

Iconographic meaning

Dattatreya, famed sage, son of Vedic sage, Atri, and wife, Anasuya, is considered to be one of Vishnu's (preserver of the universal order) incarnations. Three heads represent Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu; four dogs symbolize four Vedas.

Physical description

Rectangular shaped calendar print depicting a three-headed six-armed male, Dattatreya, wearing a light orange dhoti, sandals, brown beaded necklaces with a red bag tied over shoulder on left. He is standing on grassy bank of lake amid an ox and four dogs – two white and two brown. Hair in top knots on all heads. The central figure has red 'U' form on forehead; oval shaped form on the others. Held in each of the six hands is an object: gold mace, long brown shafted trident, brown ring, white conch, pink lotus and a gold pot with long spout. Forested landscape, predominantly green with some brown. Advertisement at print's top "Madura Mills Co. Ltd., Merchants and Cotton Spinners". Edges unevenly cut. Story printed on reverse.