Dattatreya is considered to be the incarnation of either Vishnu or the all-powerful Trinity of Hindu mythology viz. Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh.
The legend behind the emergence of this temple goes like
this; Dattatreya is the son of the sage 'Atri' and his wife 'Anasuya'. He
practised his penance in a very severe manner and his power grew so much
that ultimately flames began to emerge from his Jatas. The Trimurthis,
Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh greatly pleased at his Tapa made their
appearance before him and asked him as to what he desired. He said he
wanted nothing more than a son of divine powers, having the qualities or
'Gunas' of all the three of them, they promised him that in the second
part or 'Yuga' of the "Vaivaswat Manvantar", children would be
born to him who would be incarnations of themselves.
As the days passed Anasuya gave birth to a number of children, the number being variously stated to be either ten or three. Any way, three of her children were the 'Amshas' or parts or part incarnations of the three gods. The first son, 'Soma', was an avatar of Brahma, the second 'Datta' that of Vishnu and the third 'Durvasa' that of Shiva.
In the best traditions of those days Atri devoted great attention to the education and training of his sons, and soon all the three were proficient in various 'Vidyas', branches of knowledge. 'Dattatreya' followed the footsteps of his father and undertook a penance equal in severity for the attainment of true knowledge. He made the banks of the river Gomati his abode and after hundreds of years of Tapa acquired "Satya-Jnyana". He was now ready for the mission of his life. Here it is to be noted that Datta is represented as the 'Amshwvatar', a partial incarnation of Vishnu alone; and not one of the three gods of the Trinity.
The shrine at Ganagapur has not yet assumed the form of a
temple, though it is on its way to do so. Basically it was a 'Math' or
'Ashram' of Shri Nrisimha Sarasvati in an old block of buildings. The main
gate faces towards the west and is built in the "Nagarkhana", a
Maratha model. After entering one can come see a spacious mandap.
Once upon a time it must have been an open courtyard after the fashion of medieval mansions, but is now completely roofed over. On the southern side of the mandap one can see a raised platform, the holy of holies, It's a very small room divided into two by a wall. There are two doors and in the inner portion are the image of Dattatreya and the "Nirguna padukas" - a pair of sandals.
There is a very small opening in the wall, which allows
pilgrims to have a glimpse of the image. This opening is framed in a
silver-plate framework. Some feet away is a door in the dividing curtain,
where inside the sanctuary are the Padukas. It is these Padukas that are
the object of worship at this place. It is a symbol of the constant and
eternal presence of Dattatreya in his form as Nrisimha Sarasvati at this
Facing the Padukas in a small niche in the western wall is a small Ganesh image known as Shri Vigbnahar Chintamani. This image is said to have been established by the Guru when he came to stay in this math. Nobody is allowed to enter the garbhagriha that contains the padukas and the image.