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Vishnu killing Madhu-Kaitabha - a folio from Devi Mahatmya

Madhu (Sanskrit: मधु) and Kaitabha (Sanskrit: कैटभ) are asuras or demons of Hindu mythology who are associated with Hindu religious cosmology.


Both Madhu and Kaitabha originated from one of the ears of God Vishnu. While he was in the deep sleep of Yoganidra, a lotus has sprouted out from his navel where Brahma, the creator, was sitting and contemplating to create the cosmos and the universe.

Madhu and Kaitabha are considered demons, designed to annihilate Brahma. However, Brahma spotted them and invoked the goddess Mahamaya. At this point, Vishnu awoke, and the two conspiring demons were killed. This led to Vishnu being called Madhusudanah or the killer of Madhu.

Another legend states that during the creation, the demons Madhu and Kaitabha stole the Vedas from Brahma and deposited it deep inside the waters of the primeval ocean. Vishnu, in his manifestation as Hayagriva, killed them and retrieved the Vedas. The bodies of Madhu and Kaitabha disintegrated into 2 times 6 — which is twelve pieces (two heads, two torsos, four arms and four legs). These are considered to represent the twelve seismic plates of the Earth.