Whether Dattatraya is God and whether we can chant His name?
1. Whether any entity is to be accepted as God or His incarnation is not the matter of anyone’s personal opinion, faith or desire. But it is to be learnt from authorized sources i.e.
a) firstly from authorized scriptures, and
b) from message imparted by bonafide representatives of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in disciplic succession.
2. Srimad Bhagavatam (1.3.28) contains following verse regarding the source of all incarnations of the Lord.
ete camsa-kalah pumsah
krsnas tu bhagavan svayam
mrdayanti yuge yuge
(All the above-mentioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Shri Krishna is the original Personality of Godhead. All of them appear on planets whenever there is a disturbance created by the atheists. The Lord incarnates to protect the theists.)
Srila Prabhupada has specified in the purport of this verse that all the incarnations of the Lord, including the Lord Himself, descend on the different planets of the material world as also in different species of life, ‘To fulfill particular missions’.
Originally the Lord is full of
1) all opulences,
2) all prowess,
3) all fame,
4) all beauty,
5) all knowledge, and
6) all renunciation.
When they are partly manifested through the plenary portions or parts of the plenary portions, it should be noted that certain manifestations of His different powers are required for those particular functions.
Dattatraya, Matsya, Kumara and Kapila exhibited transcendental knowledge.
3. Srimad Bhagavatam (1.3.11) specifies about incarnation of Lord as Lord Dattatraya in following verse,
sastham atrer apatyatvam
vrtah prapto ’nasuyaya
(The sixth incarnation of the purusa was the son of the sage Atri. He was born from the womb of Anasuya, who prayed for an incarnation. He spoke on the subject of transcendence to Alarka, Prahlada and others (Yadu, Haihaya etc)).
Srila Prabhupada mentions in the purport that the Lord incarnated Himself as Dattatraya, the son of Rsi Atri and Anasuya. The history of the birth of Dattatraya as an incarnation of the Lord is mentioned in the Brahmanda Purana in connection with story of a devoted wife. It is said there that Anasuya, the wife of Rsi Atri prayed before the lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva as follows: “My lords, if you are pleased with me, and if you desire me to ask from you some sort of blessings, then I pray that you combine together to become my son.” This was accepted by the lords, and as Dattatraya, the Lord expounded the philosophy of the spirit soul and especially instructed Alarka, Prahlada, Yadu, Haihaya, etc.
4. Accordingly these above mentioned references show that Lord Dattatraya is an incarnation of the Lord and as He is a partial expansion of the Supreme Lord Vishnu, His Holy Name can be chanted as well in order to get His causeless mercy and to learn transcendental knowledge under His guidance. However in this age of Kali, the chanting of Hare Krishna Mahamantra is recommended which includes prayers to all other incarnations.
Hare Krishna Mahamantra
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare