He, as Colebrooke was the first to point out, takes Mahidâsa "to be an incarnation of Nârâyana, proceeding from Visâla, son of Abga," and he adds, that on the sudden appearance of this deity at a solemn celebration, the whole assembly of gods and priests (suraviprasangha) fainted, but at the intercession of Brahmâ, they were revived, and after making their obeisance, they were instructed in holy science. This avatâra was called Mahidâsa, because those venerable personages (mahin) declared themselves to be his slaves (dâsa).
In order properly to understand this legend, we must remember that Ânandatîrtha, or rather Visvesvaratîrtha, whose commentary he explains, treated the whole of the Mahaitareya-upanishad from a Vaishnava point of view, and that his object was to identify Mahidâsa with Nârâyana. He therefore represents Nârâyana or Hari as the avatâra of Visâla, the son of Brahman (abgasuta), who appeared at a sacrifice, as described before, who received then and there the name of Mahidâsa (or Mahîdâsa), and who taught this Upanishad. Any other person besides Mahidâsa would have been identified with the same ease by Visvesvaratîrtha with Vishnu or Bhagavat.
A third legend has been made up out of these two by European scholars who represent Mahidâsa as the son of Visâla and Itarâ, two persons who probably never met before, for even the Vaishnava commentator does not attempt to take liberties with the name of Aitareya, but simply states that the Upanishad was called Aitareyî, from Aitareya.
Leaving these legends for what they are worth, we may at all events retain the fact that, whoever was the author of the Aitareya-brâhmana and the first three books of the Aitareya-âranyaka, was not the author of the two concluding Âranyakas. And this is confirmed in different ways. Sâyana, when quoting in his commentary on the Rig-veda from the last books, constantly calls it a Sûtra of Saunaka, while the fourth Âranyaka is specially ascribed
- Colebrooke, Miscellaneous Essays, 1873, II, p. 42.