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Simple google search with word "Dattatreya" shows many images of lord Dattatreya. but 1 important point to note is in most of those images, lord Dattatreya is shown surrounded by 4 dogs and cow.

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And below,

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As per Wikipedia Article on lord Dattatreya, the 4 dogs is a symbolism for the four Vedas and mother earth.

he is surrounded by four dogs and a cow, which is a symbolism for the four Vedas and mother earth that nourishes all living beings

The citation given in Wikipedia does not point to any scriptural reference for above point and links to this book

Is there a scriptural reference which explains why lord Dattatreya is shown surrounded by 4 dogs and cow?

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1. Starting with Cow:

CC Madhya 14.223

ananta kāma-dhenu tāhāṅ phire vane vane dugdha-mātra dena, keha nā māge anya dhane

“In Vṛndāvana there are cows that fulfill all desires [kāma-dhenus], and their number is unlimited. They graze from forest to forest and deliver only milk. The people want nothing else.

Refer

Brahmnayam dharma Thathwagnam, Bhakthe keerthi vivardhanam, Bhakthabeeshta pradham vande, Smarthrugaami Sanovathu.

Translation

Salutations to him who is holy and master of religion, Whose fame is spread by his devotees, And who fulfills all wishes of his devotees, Who always remember him with faith.

Jaya Labha yasa kama, Dathur dathasya yasthavam, Bhoga moksha pradaasye maam, Prapathe Sakruthe bhaveth

Translation

This prayer addressed to Dathathreya, Gives victory , profit , fame and desire, Happy life and salvation to the one To the one who recites it regularly with faith.

Conclusion: kāma-dhenu that fulfill all desires, so does praying Dathathreya, hence cow.

2. four dogs

Symbolically, dogs represent loyalty, obedience, devotion, and the Vedas. Bhairava, a fierce form of Shiva, who is worshipped in Tantra, has a dog as his vehicle. Refer

Shvan, a Sanskrit word meaning a dog, finds repeated references in Vedic and later Hindu mythologies

The expression "Vedic" is derived from the Sanskrit word veda, which means knowledge, wisdom or revelation.

Karpoora kanthi dehaya, Brhma moorthy daraya cha, Veda sasthra parignaya, Dathathreya namosthuthe.

My salutations to Dathathreya, Who has a colour of burning camphor, Who takes up the role of the creator, And who is master of the holy Vedas.

Conclusion: Dathathreya a god in the form of a combination of the great trinity consisting of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, Brahma created Vedas, Dathathreya master of all 4 vedas & dog symbolic of Vedas, hence four dogs.

Refer 1 and 2

  • 1
    your post does makes a good case of associating properties of cow and dog to the qualities associated with Lord Dattatreya. However, i am looking for more explicit mention of cow and dog and their connection or may be a incidence from Hindu scriptures which has some correlation of cow and dog with Lord Dattatreya – AADHinduism Oct 29 '17 at 9:19

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