Madhusudan is one of the most popular titles of Krishna. It literally means the one who slayed the demon Madhu (Madhu – the name of the demon; Sudan – one who slayed). During Krishnavatar, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, Krishna vanquished several demons. However, we do not come across a demon called Madhu killed by Krishna during his incarnation in the age of Dwapar. Arjuna nevertheless makes use of the name Madhusudan several times in Bhagavad Gita to address Krishna. This is because all the names attributed to Lord Vishnu are interchangeably used to address Lord Krishna as well since He is considered Poorna Avatar (the complete manifestation of Vishnu). Here we discuss a mythological story narrated in the Puranas that describe how Vishnu slayed a demon called Madhu.
Very long ago before the start of creations, Lord Vishnu was in Yoganidra – engrossed into himself on his serpent couch. From his naval came out Lord Brahma seated on a lotus and started the creations as Vishnu’s representative. From the ear wax of Lord Vishnu, came out two demons called Madhu and Kaitab. They started troubling all the three worlds and even snatched the Vedas of Lord Brahma which helped him with the creative process. Lord Brahma approached Mother Lakshmi and she in turn woke up Vishnu from his deeply engrossed state. Lord Vishnu found the two demons and listened to all the complaints from Brahma. First, the Lord took the form of Hayagriva (Haya – horse; Griva – neck) and rescued the Vedas. There was a stiff fight between the demons and the Lord.
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At the end, though defeated, the demons would not die as a result of the boon they received from Brahma which said they will face their death only when they wished to die. Hayagriva asked the demons for a boon. In all their arrogance, they granted him whatever he wanted. Vishnu sought their death as the boon and caused the death of Madhu and Kaitab in a witty manner. Therefore as the slayer of Madhu, Lord Vishnu is called as Madhusudan.