Madhu has been used for millennia in a similar metaphorical sense as wine is in English, e.g. "the wine of truth", and employed in that manner in Hindu religious literature. For example, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, believed to have been composed in the first millennium BCE, contains a chapter called the Madhu Brahmana and "the secret essence of the Vedas themselves, was called the madhu-vidya or honey doctrine".
There are different opinions surrounding the word Madhu. Some scholars opine metaphorical usage of madhu to a time very close to the initial composition of the Vedas. Soma, the shared sacred drink of the Indo-Iranians (known as Haoma in Avestan), is often metaphorically referred to as Madhu in the Vedas. However, "the Avesta, which is quite close to the Veda with regard to the terminology of Soma, does not know the equation Soma = madhu."
Usage in names
The derivative form Madhur (मधुर, مدھُر) is used as a Hindu first-name for males and Madhu is a first-name common among males, although both names can occur for either gender. Madhuri is a common feminine variant of Madhur. The word madhur is a combination of madhu (honey/sweet) and -r/-ra (like or similar). Several other names are based on the root madhu, such as Madhukar, Madhusudhan, Madhulika and Madhubala.
- Kvasir, a wise being in Norse mythology born from the spit of the gods and from whose blood the Mead of Poetry is crafted
- David L. Spess, Soma: the divine hallucinogen, Inner Traditions / Bear & Company, 2000, ISBN 978-0-89281-731-3,
... the secret essence of the Vedas themselves, was called the Madhu-vidya or 'honey doctrine' ...
- Sureśvarācārya, K.P. Jog, Shoun Hino (1988), Sureśvara's vārtika on Madhu Brāhmaṇa, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, ISBN 978-81-208-0438-8,
... space i.e., Akasa which is in the earth as also in the stomach, though referred to separately, applies equally to the Supreme Brahman described in the Madhu Brahmana (a chapter of Brhadaranyaka Upanishad) ...
- Hermann Oldenberg, The religion of the Veda, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1988, ISBN 978-81-208-0392-3,
... the Avesta, which is quite close to the Veda with regard to the terminology of Soma, does not know the equation 'Soma' = 'madhu'. Here, one does not meet the Vedic poet's fondness for playing with the idea of honey ...
- R.C. Dogra, Thought Provoking Hindu Names, Star Publications, 1999, ISBN 978-81-7650-316-7,
... Madhu (मधु) (m/f) Sweet, charming, pleasant, delightful, the juice or nector of flowers ... Madhur (मधुर) (a) Sweet, melodious, pleasant, agreeable ...
- Vimla Patil, Baby names: over 4000 beautiful Indian names for your child, Rupa, 1988,
... Madhubala (f), sweet girl; Madhuchhanda (f), pleasing metrical composition ... Madhulekha (f), beautiful girl; Madhulika (f), honey; Madhumalati (f), a flowering creeper ...