Quoting from the Agni Purana, as found on this page, while discussing the proper conduct of students (brahmacharis), it is stated that:

The first stage in life is that of brahmacharya (student-hood). A student should never eat honey or meat and should never indulge in singing or dancing. He should completely give up violence and speaking to women. His duties are to discuss the shastras (holy texts) and associate with learned men. Apart from that, he will meditate in solitude on the true nature of the brahman.

Restriction of eating meat is understood, but why is there a restriction on consumption of madhu (honey/alcohol)?

Or is it a mistranslation?

This suspicion grew on my mind when I found another translation for "madhu" as "alcoholic drink."

Quoting from the 2nd verse of the Phala Sruti of the Surya Ashtakam found here:

Aamisham madhu panam cha, Ya karothi raver dhine, Saptha janma bhaved rogi, Janma janma dharidhratha.

Translated as-The one who eats meat, Or drinks alcoholic drinks on Sundays, Will become sick for seven births, And would be poor from birth to death.

So, does "madhu" refer to honey or an alcoholic drink? If it's the former (honey), then why is it prohibited from consumption?

  • It refers to alcohol.
    – user1195
    Mar 13, 2016 at 12:14
  • @moonstar2001 So the first translator made a big mistake.
    – Rickross
    Mar 13, 2016 at 12:55
  • It is not a mistake. Honey is an euphemism for alcohol. Mar 13, 2016 at 14:54
  • @PradipGangopadhyay What Mr. Ramachander did was the correct thing.The first translator should have simply mentioned it as alcohol .
    – Rickross
    Mar 13, 2016 at 15:59
  • @Rickross The original text says 'honey' which is an euphemism for alcohol. Mar 14, 2016 at 16:00

4 Answers 4


The Shatapatha Brahmana Section 11.5.4 describes the Upanayana ceremony for the initiation of a pupil into Brahmacharya:

1 He says, 'I have come for Brahmakarya:' he thereby reports himself to the Brahman. He says, 'Let me be a Brahmakârin (student):' he thereby makes himself over to the Brahman. He (the teacher) then says, 'What (ka) is thy name?'--now Ka is Pragâpati: he thus initiates him after making him one belonging to Pragâpati.

In the end of that chapter the text mentions the following:

18 And they also say, 'He who is a Brahmakârin should not eat honey, lest he should reach the end of food, for honey, doubtless, is the utmost (supreme) essence of plants.'

But Svetaketu Âruneya, when eating honey, whilst he was a student, said, 'This honey, in truth, is the remainder (essential part) of the triple science (the Vedas), and he, indeed, who has such a remainder, is an essence.' And, indeed, if a Brahmakârin, knowing this, eats honey, it is just as if he were to utter either a Rik-verse, or Yagus-formula, or a Sâman-tune: let him therefore eat freely of it.

The entire chapter actually talks about many modifications being done to the ceremonies as evidenced by the following lines:

6 He then recites to him (teaches him) the Sâvitrî;--formerly, indeed, they taught this (verse) at the end of a year, thinking, 'Children, indeed, are born after being fashioned for a year: thus we lay speech (voice) into this one as soon as he has been born.'

7 Or after six months, thinking, 'There are six seasons in the year, and children are born after being fashioned for a year: we thus lay speech into this one as soon as he has been born.'

8 Or after twenty-four days, thinking, 'There are twenty-four half-months in the year, and children are born when fashioned for a year: we thus lay speech into this one as soon as he has been born.'

9 Or after twelve days, thinking, 'There are twelve months in the year, and children are born when fashioned for a year: we thus lay speech into this one as soon as he has been born.'

10 Or after six days, thinking, 'There are six seasons in the year, and children are born when fashioned for a year: we thus lay speech into this one as soon as he has been born.'

11 Or after three days, thinking, 'There are three seasons in the year, and children are born when fashioned for a year: we thus lay speech into this one as soon as he has been born.'

So it seems while there were some schools of thought that advocated not eating honey during Brahmacharya there were other more modern ones that did in fact advise eating as much of it as the Brahmachari desired.

  • 1
    Very nice answer sir Sep 19, 2018 at 17:16

Excess of honey gives toxication in our blood.

Brahmachari ashram is also called brahmacharya deeksha. There are many rules to be followed during this stage of life. In the olden days,. Children on reaching on appropriate age were performed upanayanam and taken to the gurukulas. They lived in gurukulas till they completed their studies.

Students were only allowed to eat unless their teacher and his wife has their meal. Performing sandhyavandanam thrice a day, Sleeping on the floor, eating meals once a day, ont falling prey to the activities which involve rajas, not sleeping in the afternoon and in the sunset time (asura sandhya) were the rules followed by the brahmacharis. These are the promises done by the pupil towards the parents. while taking upananyanam saying "bāḍham" which means promising he will indeed do that. Satvika aharam was prescribed to the students and not allowed to have mrushtanna bhojanam (meal of tastiest meal including all tastes) on some auspicious days. So there were some restrictions on diet to students in brahmacharya deeksha.

When we consider your question, the word honey has both the meanings honey and alcohol.

There is an incident in Valmiki Ramayanam Sundara Kanda Sarga 62 in which Vanras along with Hanuma, angada and other Vanaras enter a garden known as Madhuvana after knowing the news that Hanuman has seen Sita in Lanka.

केचित् पीत्वा अपविध्यन्ति मधूनि मधु पिन्गलाः |
मधु उच्चिष्टेन केचिच् च जघ्नुः अन्योन्यम् उत्कटाः || ५-६२-१०

Some monkeys, with their skin-colour as yellow as honey, after drinking vessels of honey, also threw some honey away. Some others, with the remnant of honey in their arms, after drinking, whipped up one another with their excessive intoxication.

अपरे वृक्ष मूलेषु शाखाम् गृह्य व्यवस्थितः |
अत्यर्थम् च मद ग्लानाः पर्णानि आस्तीर्य शेरते || ५-६२-११

Some others, seizing a branch of a tree, stood rooted at the foot of a tree. Some, who were highly intoxicated, laid down spreading leaves on the ground.

उन्मत्त भूताः प्लवगा मधु मत्ताः च हृष्टवत् |
क्षिपन्ति अपि तथा अन्योन्यम् स्खलन्ति अपि तथा अपरे || ५-६२-१२

Those monkeys, who were intoxicated by drinking the honey, became inebriated and started pushing one another cheerfully and some others began to stumble.

From above shlokas, it is clear that Vanaras drank honey but did not drink alcohol. But they were intoxicated and began to stumble with excessive intake of honey. It brought toxication in their body.

So it is acceptable that a Brahmachari should not eat honey during his studies.

  • Why is it clear to you that they drank honey but not alcohol? "Inebriated" means drunk, so it seems pretty clear to me that they did drink alcohol. May 7, 2016 at 12:37
  • 1
    The translation may be both alcohol or honey. But the garden is full of juicy fruits and trees. There was no mention of vessels of alcohols as mentioned in lanka and ravana's palace. So I assume that honey is what they drank. There are also translators who use alcohol instead of honey. May 8, 2016 at 6:32
  • does it mean that honey intoxicate us ?
    – Ritesh.mlk
    Feb 17, 2017 at 8:33
  • @Rishi Anything taken in excess is not good. Vanaras took in excess that they lost their senses. "अति सर्वत्र वर्जयेत्". Feb 18, 2017 at 3:37

A similar verse is found in Manu Smriti 2.177:

वर्जयेन् मधु मांसं च गन्धं माल्यं रसान् स्त्रियः ।

Medhatithi comments on this in his manu-bhāṣya, that:

‘Madhu ’—stands for the honey produced by bees. As for wine (which also is called ‘madhu’), it is an intoxicant; and hence its use is prohibited even before the Upanayana: ‘The Brāhmaṇa should ever abstain from intoxicants’—says Gautama (2.20).

Ref: Manu Smriti with commentary of Medhatithi

  • Thanks for the answer and welcome to the site.
    – Rickross
    May 25, 2021 at 4:48

The word madhu has so many meanings. "Madhu vata ritaayate" in Shanti sukta and "garja garja kshanam muda madhu yabat pivamyaham" in Chandi do not mean the same madhu.

Here we get different meanings of madhu: http://sanskritdictionary.com/?iencoding=iast&q=मधु&lang=sans&action=Search

Swami Shivananda includes honey in sattwik diets:http://sivanandaonline.org/public_html/?cmd=displaysection&section_id=437

But there is also a belief that too much consumption o sweets raises lust:

aheriva ganad bhito mistannaad cha vidhad iva/rakshashivhyo iva stribhyah sa vidhyam adhigachchati (Reference-Omkarnath-Rachanavali, vol.6, page -91) that means who is afraid of pubic as snakes, of sweets as poisons and of women as 'rakshashis' attains vidya.

This sloka is addressed to brahmacharins and so no demeaning of women is implied.

  • haha (last line) but isn't sweet taste related to sattvikatva?
    – Rickross
    Jan 26, 2019 at 10:24

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