Bahulāṣṭamī - the appearance day of Śrī Rādhākuṇḍa - 2016
Rādhākuṇḍa at night

Undoubtedly Rādhā-kuṇḍa is very rarely attained even by the great devotees; therefore it is even more difficult for ordinary devotees to attain. If one simply bathes once within those holy waters, one’s pure love of Kṛṣṇa is fully aroused. (The Nectar of Instruction, Text 11)

- the appearance day of Śrī Rādhākuṇḍa

In the Kārtika Māhātmya of the Padma Purāṇa, it is said:
govardhana girau ramye rādhākuṇḍaṁ priyaṁ hareḥ
kārtike bahulāṣṭamyāṁ tatra snatvā hareḥ priyaḥ

"Anyone who bathes in Rādhākuṇḍa, which is situated by the charming Govardhana Mountain, on the day of Bahulāṣṭamī (the eighth day of the dark lunar quarter) in the month of Kārtika (October/November) becomes very dear to Lord Hari, to whom this kuṇḍa is very dear."

In the autumn (October/November) at the appearance day of Rādhākuṇḍa many thousands of people gather and wait for the midnight. Then they take bath in Rādhākuṇḍa. It is really ecstatic and exiting event with ghee lamps shining on darkened waters of Śrī Rādhākuṇḍa.

Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī writes in Upadeśāmṛta (The Nectar of Instruction 11) that rādhā-prema (love for Śrī Rādhā) awaits a bather in Rādhākuṇḍa:

kṛṣṇasyoccaiḥ praṇaya-vasatiḥ preyasībhyo 'pi rādhā
kuṇḍaṁ cāsyā munibhir abhitas tādṛg eva vyadhāyi
yat preṣṭhair apy alam asulabhaṁ kiṁ punar bhakti-bhājāṁ
tat premedaṁ sakṛd api saraḥ snātur āviṣkaroti

"Of the many objects of favored delight and of all the lovable damsels of Vrajabhūmi, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is certainly the most treasured object of Kṛṣṇa's love. And, in every respect, Her divine kuṇḍa is described by great sages as similarly dear to Him. Undoubtedly Rādhā-kuṇḍa is very rarely attained even by the great devotees; therefore it is even more difficult for ordinary devotees to attain. If one simply bathes once within those holy waters, one's pure love of Kṛṣṇa is fully aroused."

This Kuṇḍa is as dear to Śrī Kṛṣṇa as Rādhā Herself. After bathing in Rādhā-kuṇḍa, Kṛṣṇa declared that henceforth, anyone who with firm faith took their bath on that day would achieve the same ecstatic love that Rādhārāṇī had for Him. Rādhārāṇī and Her girlfriends then took bath in Śyāma-kuṇḍa and Rādhikā declared that anyone who takes bath in Śyāma-kuṇḍa, will achieve the same ecstatic love that Kṛṣṇa has for Her.

When Śrī Raghunātha first saw Śrī Rādhākuṇḍa he spontaneously desired to live on its banks. In Vilāpa Kusumāñjali (15) he has written:

yadā tava sarovaraṁ sarasa bhṛṅgasaṅghollasat
saroruhakulojjvalaṁ madhura vāri sampūritam
sphuṭat sarasijākṣi he nayana yugma sākṣād vabhau
tadaiva mama lālasājani tavaiva dāsye rase

“O Blooming lotus-eyed girl (Rādhe)! When my eyes directly saw Your pond (Rādhākuṇḍa), which is filled with sweet water and lotus flowers surrounded by blissfully humming bees, then I really got the desire to taste the nectar of Your service!”

The manifestation of Śrī Rādhākuṇḍa
Although Śrī Rādhākuṇḍa and Śyāmakuṇḍa are manifest from beginningless time during Kṛṣṇa’s manifest pastimes on earth, Śrī-Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava and their sakhīs used a humorous pastime to reveal the kuṇḍas.

Rādhākuṇḍa manifested after the death of Ariṣṭāsura. Because Ariṣṭāsura was in the form of a bull, which is considered to be the symbol of religion, the gopīs told him that he had made an offence.

Also Rādhārāṇī rebuked Kṛṣṇa, saying that He became impure by killing a bull, the symbol of religion. She suggested that He could get purified by taking bath in the holy rivers of all sacred places.

Rather than travel to all the holy places, the Lord brought all the holy places to that spot. He struck the ground with His heel and immediately all the waters from all holy rivers appeared. This place became known as Śyāma-kuṇḍa. In a competitive mood, the gopīs led by Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī also created a kuṇḍa by digging the earth with their bangles. All the holy rivers then petitioned Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī to allow them to enter Her new kuṇḍa. Thus Rādhā-kuṇḍa appeared.

About 5,000 years later the location of Rādhā-kuṇḍa and Śyāma-kuṇḍa was unknown, then Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu came to Vṛndavana and discovered them. Later, Śrīla Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī and Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī supervised the expansion and building of the kuṇḍas to what they are today.

The discovery of Rādhā-kuṇḍa by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is described in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya-līlā, Chapter 18, Verses 3-14:

The Lord (Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu) then understood that the holy place called Rādhā-kuṇḍa was no longer visible. However, being the omniscient Supreme Personality of Godhead, He discovered Rādhā-kuṇḍa and Śyāma-kuṇḍa in two paddy fields. There was only a little water, but He took His bath there.

"Of all the gopīs, Rādhārāṇī is the dearmost. Similarly, the lake known as Rādhā-kuṇḍa is very dear to the Lord because it is very dear to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Indeed, Lord Kṛṣṇa gives ecstatic love like that of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī to whoever bathes in that lake even once in his life.

The attraction of Rādhā-kuṇḍa is as sweet as that of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Similarly, the glories of the kuṇḍa [lake] are as glorious as Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.

Because of its wonderful transcendental qualities, Rādhā-kuṇḍa is as dear to Kṛṣṇa as Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. It was in that lake that the all-opulent Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa performed His pastimes with Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī with great pleasure and transcendental bliss. Whoever bathes just once in Rādhā-kuṇḍa attains Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī's loving attraction for Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Who within this world can describe the glories and sweetness of Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa?

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu thus offered prayers to Rādhā-kuṇḍa. Overwhelmed by ecstatic love, He danced on the bank, remembering the pastimes Lord Kṛṣṇa performed on the bank of Rādhā-kuṇḍa. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu then marked His body with tilaka made from the mud of Rādhā-kuṇḍa, and with the help of Balabhadra Bhaṭṭācārya, He collected some of the mud and took it with Him.”

In the center of Rādhākuṇḍa of today is small area with the wall around it called Kankanakunda (or Kancankunda). It is the area of the original pond created by gopīs with their bracelets.

The Glories of Śrīmatī Rādhikā's Kund, (Pond) is described by Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī in his “Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍāṣṭakam

“After the killig of Ariṣṭāsura, Śrīmatī Rādhikā and Her sakhīs exchanged many joking words with Śrī Kṛṣṇa concerning the necessary atonement for one who has committed the offence of killing a bull. As a result, the Queen of Vṛndāvana, Śrīmatī Rādhikā, and Her sakhīs joyfully excavated and filled Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa with their own hands. May that immensely fragrant Rādhā-kuṇḍa be my shelter. (1)

In the land of the hearts of those who bathe in Rādhā-kuṇḍa, a desire tree of the superlative prema, which is not attainable even for Kṛṣṇa’s principal queens in Dvārakā, will arise. May that supremely charming Rādhā-kuṇḍa be my shelter. (2)

For the pleasure of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, even Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself, yearning to attain Her merciful sidelong glance, regularly bathes in Rādhā-kuṇḍa, carefully observing all the appropriate rituals. May that supremely enchanting Rādhā-kuṇḍa be my shelter. (3)

May that supremely enchanting Rādhā-kuṇḍa, which the moon of Vraja, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, loves as much as He loves the crown-jewel amongst the sweet girls of Vraja, Śrīmatī Rādhikā, and which He has made known by the name of Rādhikā Herself, be my shelter. (4)

The mercy obtained by serving Rādhā-kuṇḍa makes the desire-creeper of prema for the prince of Vraja sprout and is celebrated for bearing the flower of service to my svāmini Śrīmatī Rādhikā. May that supremely charming Rādhā-kuṇḍa be my shelter. (5)

Gloriously manifest on the banks of Rādhā-kuṇḍa are eight kuñjas* named after Rādhikā’s principal sakhīs.* Acting as stimuli for the amorous pastimes of the Divine Couple, these kuñjas are filled with the sweet humming of bumblebees. The lotus feet of that Rādhikā, who sends Kṛṣṇa to enjoy in all the different kuñjas, are desired by everyone. May that supremely enchanting Rādhā-kuṇḍa be the shelter of my life. (6)

*On the eastern bank is the kuñja known as Citrā-sukhada, on the southeastern side is Indulekhā-sukhada, on the southern bank is Campakalatā-sukhada, on the southwestern side is Raṅgadevī-sukhada, on the western bank is Tuṅgavidyā-sukhada, on the northwestern side is Sudevī-sukhada, on the northern bank is Lalitā-sukhada, and on the northeastern side is the kuñja known as Viśākhā-sukhada.

Situated on an exquisite dais on the bank of Rādhā-kuṇḍa and accompanied by Her beloved sakhīs, our svāmini Śrīmatī Rādhikā charmingly engages in sweet, joking words with Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the moon of Vraja. These playful verbal exchanges are enhanced by the suggestion of so many innuendoes. May that Rādhā-kuṇḍa be the shelter of my life. (7)

May that very charming and especially fragrant Rādhā-kuṇḍa, where intoxicated with love the Divine Couple and the sakhīs daily sport with great joy in the water so fragrant with exquisite lotus flowers, be the sole shelter of my life. (8)

To that devotee who, in a resolute mood of aspiring to serve Śrīmatī Rādhikā, reads this charming prayer describing Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa, even in their present body Śrī Kṛṣṇa will quickly grant them darśana of not only His beloved Rādhikā, but also of Their many variegated amorous pastimes. Witnessing these pastimes and envisioning himself serving Yugala-kisora in various ways, such a devotee will feel immense jubilation.” (9)

Taking Bath in Rādhā-kuṇḍa

Taking Bath in Rādhā-kuṇḍa

There is some controversy among ISKCON devotees whether to bath in Rādhā-kuṇḍa or not. When the neophyte western devotees first came to India some started to jump in Rādhā-kuṇḍa  from roofs and make themselves into "water-bombs" etc., engaging in frivolous water sports, swimming around like mundane swimming pool and have no regard to the sacredness of the lake. This was not approved of by Śrīla Prabhupāda and he told devotees if they could not respectfully take bathe in Rādhā-kuṇḍa and Śyāma-kuṇḍa they should not do it at all, but just sprinkle some water on their heads.

However Śrīla Prabhupāda has encouraged devotees to take bath there when ever possible in a respectful fashion. Śrīla Rupa Goswami and Śrīla Prabhupāda have both recommended bathing in Rādhā-kuṇḍa and Śyāma-kuṇḍa.

Śrīla Prabhupāda writes in the purport of Nectar of intruction verse 11:
“Why is Rādhā-kuṇḍa so exalted? The lake is so exalted because it belongs to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, who is the most beloved object of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Among all the gopīs, She is the most beloved. Similarly, Her lake, Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa, is also described by great sages as the lake that is as dear to Kṛṣṇa as Rādhā Herself. Indeed, Kṛṣṇa’s love for Rādhā-kuṇḍa and Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is the same in all respects. Rādhā-kuṇḍa is very rarely attained, even by great personalities fully engaged in devotional service, not to speak of ordinary devotees who are only engaged in the practice of vaidhī bhakti.

It is stated that a devotee will at once develop pure love of Kṛṣṇa in the wake of the gopīs if he once takes a bath in Rādhā-kuṇḍa. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī recommends that even if one cannot live permanently on the banks of Rādhā-kuṇḍa, he should at least take a bath in the lake as many times as possible. This is a most important item in the execution of devotional service”.

Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura writes in this connection that Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa is the most select place for those interested in advancing their devotional service in the wake of the lady friends (sakhīs) and confidential serving maids (mañjarīs) of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Living entities who are eager to return home to the transcendental kingdom of God, Goloka Vṛndāvana, by means of attaining their spiritual bodies (siddha-deha) should live at Rādhā-kuṇḍa, take shelter of the confidential serving maids of Śrī Rādhā and under their direction engage constantly in Her service. This is the most exalted method for those engaged in devotional service under the protection of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.

In this connection Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura writes that even great sages and great devotees like Nārada and Sanaka do not get an opportunity to come to Rādhā-kuṇḍa to take their baths. What, then, to speak of ordinary devotees? If, by great fortune, one gets an opportunity to come to Rādhā-kuṇḍa and bathe even once, he can develop his transcendental love for Kṛṣṇa, exactly as the gopīs did. It is also recommended that one should live on the banks of Rādhā-kuṇḍa and should be absorbed in the loving service of the Lord. One should bathe there regularly and give up all material conceptions, taking shelter of Śrī Rādhā and Her assistant gopīs. If one is thus constantly engaged during his lifetime, after giving up the body he will return back to Godhead to serve Śrī Rādhā in the same way as he contemplated during his life on the banks of Rādhā-kuṇḍa.

The conclusion is that to live on the banks of the Rādhā-kuṇḍa and to bathe there daily constitute the highest perfection of devotional service. It is a difficult position to attain, even for great sages and devotees like Nārada. Thus there is no limit to the glory of Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa. By serving Rādhā-kuṇḍa, one can get an opportunity to become an assistant of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī under the eternal guidance of the gopīs. (Nectar of Instruction 11)