(10) संकटे मधुसूधनं, Sankate Madhusoodhanam
Call upon Madhusoodhana in the times of sadness
Vanquishing Madhu and Kaitabha
The naama Madhusoodhana can be analysed by splitting it into two parts 'Madhu' and 'Soodhana'. Soodhana essentially means 'to destroy'. The Devi Bhaagavatham tells us the story of two demon brothers Madhu and Kaitabha who were born out of Vishnu's earwax as He remained in Yoga Nidra. They grew incredibly powerful by chanting the Maha Bheeja Mantra and were granted the boon of 'Swachchanda Marana' or voluntary death, by the Mother Goddess. Conceited by their powers they attacked Brahma. Brahma, totally helpless at the attack, pleaded to Yoga Maya to withdraw from Vishnu so that He would arise and destroy these demons. Yoga Maya conceded and Vishnu woke up. However, due to the boons granted to the brothers, Vishnu was not able to kill them. Finally, He decided that trickery was the way to go, and offered them a boon. Conceited by their apparent success, the demons told that they would grant Him a boon and not vice-versa. Vishnu snatched the chance, and asked that they die at His hands immediately. Betrayed by their own boon, Madhu and Kaitabha requested Vishnu that they do not die in water. Maha Vishnu obliged and took His Vishwaroopa and placing the brothers on His dry lap, He killed them. Since Vishnu had destroyed the brothers, He was praised as Madhusoodhana or the Killer of Madhu.

The Mahabharatha tells us a slightly different story, where the Madhu-Kaitabha brothers steal the Vedas from Brahma and hide it in the depths of the ocean. Vishnu then incarnates as Hayagriva (The Horse headed one), kills the brothers and retrieves the Vedas. Either way, this explains why He is known as Madhusoodhana."विष्णु कर्नोद्भवं चापि मधु नाम महासुरम| तस्य तवाद्वधा देव देव दानव मानवाः मधुसूदनः इत्याहुर्शयस्च जनार्दनं || Vishnu Karnodbhavam chaapu Madhu Naama Mahaasuram. Tasya Tavaatvadhaa deva deva maanavaah Madhusoodhanah Ityaahurshayascha Janaardanam." From the earwax of Vishnu was born a great Asura known as Madhu. Since Vishnu destroyed him, He is praised as Madhusoodhana by devas, Rishis, Asuras and men. Another possible meaning of 'Madhu' could also mean honey or rather the fruits of action. Since Vishnu destroys the fruits of actions of the devotees who worship Him, He is called Madhusoodhana.

Now, to see why Madhusoodhana is capable of vanquishing our sadness, we need to firstly understand the very nature of grief. Defined clearly, sadness is an emotion characterized by feelings of disadvantage, loss, helplessness, sorrow, and rage. We are sad when we lose something that we feel should have remained with us. Thus, in one way, sadness stems from desire, the reigning characteristic of Rajo Guna. In our texts this is referred to as Kaama. Again, where does sadness lead to? Mostly, it leads to rage and anger - directed either inwards or outwards. This is Krodha, a defined characteristic of Tamo Guna. Now, the brothers, Madhu and Kaitabha can be thought to represent Kaama and Krodha respectively. Just like they were destroyed, Madhusoodhana destroys not only our sorrows, but also the root and the fruit of it. A fitting use of this naama is employed by Veda Vyaasa in the Mahabharatha.

संजय उवाच :
तं तथा कृपयाविष्टमश्रुपूर्णाकुलेक्षणं |
विषीदंतमिदं वाक्यमुवाच मधुसूदन: || - भगवद्गीता (2.1)
Sanjaya Says:
"To Arjuna, who stood with a perturbed mind and eyes brimming with tears,
Madhusoodhana spoke these sentences" Bhagavad Geetha(2.1)

Having understood the potential of this divya naama of Madhusoodhana to wipe out sorrow and fear, Vyasa uses this word thus at the very beginning of the Geetha.

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