Rishi Atri was the human son of Brahma. His sons included Chandra, Durvala, and Dattatreya. His wife was Sati (entirely devoted to the husband) Anusuya, the daughter of Daksha Prajapati. She is greatly revered by women for her Sat (devotion to the husband) was strong enough to change the trinity of gods into babies.
Once, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva arrived at the ashram to test the strength of her devotion to her husband. At that time, Rishi Atri was not at home. They took the guise of Brahmins and asked Anusuya for bhiksha (the customary food that Brahmins would beg for from householders) but they put one condition that she would divest herself of all clothes and give them the diksha in that undressed state. Only in front of a baby can a woman be undressed without losing her decorum and thus using her powers gained by her devotion to her husband, Anusuya turned the three gods into babies and nursed them too.
The three gods were trapped as babies and unable to go back. Their wives Saraswati, Lakshmi & Kali respectively came to Atri’s ashram to fetch their husbands back. They requested Anusuya to restore their husbands to their adult form. Anusuya obliged and the three gods turned from babies to their adult, divine form.
The three gods then asked her to seek a boon. Devi Anusuya said, “having nursed all three of you has kindled my maternal instinct. May the three of you be born as my sons.” As a result of the boon from the three gods, Dattatreya was born. Among pativrata (devoted to their husbands, chaste) wives, who are devoted and dedicated to their husbands, Anusuya’s name heads the list.
When Rama was going from Chitrakoot towards Dandaka forest during his fourteen years in the forest, he stopped at first in Rishi Atri’s hermitage. Atri and Anusuya gave Rama, Sita and Lakshman a warm and affectionate welcome.
Rama extolled the virtues of Anusuya and her devotion to her husband and asked Sita to learn the lessons of ideal womanhood and dedicated devotion to husband’s welfare, from Sati Anusuya. Sita spent her time with Anusuya and learnt about the duties and expectations of an ideal wife. Anusuya also gifted her the divine garments she had received from Indra, the God of heavens, that made ones skin never look wrinkled or old as well as her own beautiful ornaments. On adorning these clothes and ornaments, Sita always looked resplendent and freshly dressed.
Atri and Anusuya are thus key characters in the narration of the Ramayana.
Atri and Anusuya, Ramayana Characters