The word Madhusudana means ‘slayer of Madhu’. This name is often used for Krishna in the Mahabharata epic, especially by the Pandava prince, Arjuna, in the Bhagvad Gita section. Madhu was an Asura or demon who was killed by Lord Vishnu in his horse-like incarnation, Hayagriva. The demon’s twin brother, Kaitabha, was also killed by Vishnu. Krishna, too, is an incarnation of Vishnu, which is why he is referred to as Madhusudana.
Madhu and Kaitabha, the twin demonic forces, took birth from the wax that came out of Vishnu’s ears. Madhu represented “Tamasic guna“ or darkness, while Kaitabha represented “Rajasik guna” or activity. These gunas are the basest elements of human nature, the fundamental energies that are present in all creation. The two demons undertook penance for many years until finally Goddess Lakshmi, Vishnu’s consort, appeared before them. They sought a boon from her – the power to decide their time and means of death. She granted the boon readily.
With their new power of invincibility, the two demons began to create havoc. They attacked Brahma and stole the Vedas from him when he was meditating. Brahma could not do anything against them.He approached Vishnu, who was in a deep sleep or Yoga Nidra. He was under the spell of Nidra Devi, the Goddess of sleep. Brahma failed to awake Vishnu, and he turned to Nidra Devi for help. He prayed to Goddess Mahamaya by singing hymns and praising her. He was aware that Vishnu was under the veil of illusion or Maya, and only the Goddess could wake him up from his slumber.
Once Vishnu awoke, Brahma requested that Vishnu destroy his own creation, the demons Madhu and Kaitabha. Vishnu then took the form of Hayagriva, his horse-like form, and fought the two demons for a long time -5000 years. Victory, however, proved to be elusive because of the boon the Asuras had received.
Finally, Vishnu decided to seek the help of the Goddess. She suggested that Vishnu destroy them using deceit. Vishnu then decided to play a trick. He told the demons that he would give them a boon. The asuras were taken aback. Vishnu had not been able to defeat them but was willing to give them a boon. This was not to their liking, as they felt they were more powerful than Vishnu. They felt that it was their prerogative to bestow boons. So they offered to grant Vishnu a boon instead, as they were under the influence of Mahamaya, who made them delusional. This led to their doom eventually.
Vishnu was delighted to see things unfolding according to his plan. He told the demons that he wished that they would meet their death at his hands. The demons realized, too late, that they were trapped. Still, they tried to escape from the situation by saying that Vishnu should kill them in a place where there was no water, knowing well that the entire earth was filled with water due to the great deluge. So Vishnu killed them by keeping their heads on his thighs, which were free of water. He used the Sudarshana Chakra (discus) to slay them. Thus, the Asuras were destroyed by their own arrogance. From their bodies, fat or“medhas” flowed out and coagulated. This created the earth, and so the earth is also called “Medini”.
Vishnu also made a promise to the two demons that he would continue the battle again during Lord Rama’s time (Rama is another avatar of Vishnu). While Adisesha became Lakshmana and fought Kaitabha (who was reborn as Athikaya), Vishnu as Rama fought Madhu, who took birth again as Khara.
Madhusudana Homam is a powerful remedy that can be performed by those who are enduring many problems in life and desire freedom from fear and the destruction of their enemies. It gives relief from the sins of one’s past life and offers salvation.