krsnasyoccaih pranaya-vasatih preyasibhyo ’pi radha
kundam casya munibhir abhitas tadrg eva vyadhayi
yat presthair apy alam asulabham kim punar bhakti-bhajam
tat premedam sakrd api sarah snatur aviskaroti
“Of the many objects of favoured delight and of all the lovable damsels of Vrajabhumi, Srimati Radharani is certainly the most treasured object of Krishna’s love. And, in every respect, Her divine kunda is described by great sages as similarly dear to Him. Undoubtedly Radha-kunda is 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 Krishna is fully aroused.”
– The Nectar of Instruction verse 11
Sri Radha Kunda manifested on the eighth day of the waning phase of the moon in the month of Kartik. This day is observed by bathing in the holy waters at midnight, which is said to be the time Radha Kunda manifested. At this time, thousands of devotees gather at the banks of Radha Kunda in Vrndavan. The devotees assembled there not only offer various gifts and offerings such as water, milk, fruits, sweets, garlands, lamps and money, but they also offer their minds, bodies and souls. Unified in prayer, they glorify Sri Radha Kunda, which is non-different from Srimati Radhika Herself. In the purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 10.36.16, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura beautifully describes the pastime of the appearance of Radha Kunda.
The appearance of Radha Kunda is commonly referred to as Bahulastami. Bahulastami is a beautiful pastime wherein the cow Bahula takes shelter of Krishna. On the bank of Krishna Kunda, in Vrndavan, are deities of a cow and her calf, a brahmana, a tiger and Krishna, all of which remind pilgrims of the beautiful pastime of Bahula.
Once, the cow Bahula was peacefully grazing, when a tiger attacked her. Bahula requested the tiger to allow her to return to her calf, feed it, and bid it farewell before it made a meal of her. Agreeing to her proposal, the tiger waited for her return. In the meantime, the cow went to her master, a brahmana, and to her calf and told them what had happened.
When they heard her pitiful story, they volunteered themselves to go in her place as the tiger’s meal. Bahula declined their selfless offer, but in the end all three – cow, calf and brahmana – returned to offer themselves to the tiger, who was delighted by this exceedingly favourable turn of events.
While the tiger contemplated which victim to eat first; who should appear but Lord Krishna, the presiding Deity of Dharma and the guardian of all the residence Vraja. Holding His chakra in one hand, Krishna assured the tiger of everlasting fame if he were to show leniency to the cow and its kin for their truthful and honorable conduct. The tiger released Bahula from her promise, and the calf and brahmana rejoiced on their mother being spared and felt blessed by Krishna’s merciful intervention.
Being so pleased with Bahula’s truthfulness and integrity, Krishna named the forest after her – Bahulavan – and blessed her to become His consort, thus in her next birth, Bahula became one of Krishna’s wives. This day was also named after her – Bahulastami.
Bahulavan is considered by some Vaisnavas as the most sacred forest of all, for it includes the most sacred place of all – Sri Radha Kunda. Srila Rupa Goswami writes in his Upadesamrta the following verse which confirms the superiority of Radha Kunda above any place else:
“The holy place known as Mathura is spiritually superior to Vaikuntha, the transcendental world, because the Lord appeared there. Superior to MathuraPuri is the transcendental forest of Vrndavan because of Krishna’s rasa-lila pastimes. And superior to the forest of Vrndavan is Govardhana Hill, for it was raised by the divine hand of Sri Krsna and was the site of His various loving pastimes. And, above all, the superexcellent Sri Radha Kunda stands supreme, for it is over flooded with the ambrosial nectarean prema of the Lord of Gokula, Sri Krishna.”
In Sri Navadvipa Dham, Sri Radha Kunda has manifested Herself in two places: in the island of Rtudvipa and Antardvipa.
In the Navadvipa Bhava Taranga, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes the mood and activities of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as He came to Rtudvipa.
ritudvipam tato gatva
drishtva sobham vanasya ca
“Arriving at Ritudvipa and seeing the beauty of the forest, Saci-nandana started crying while remembering Radha-kunda and other sacred places.”
In the island of Antardvipa, at the house of Candrasekar Acarya the maternal uncle of Mahaprabhu, is the Sri Caitanya Math, which is the headquarters of Gaudiya Math established by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Under guidance and instruction of Sarasvati Thakura, his disciples brought the sacred waters, Giriraja silas from the sacred Govardhana Hill, and the Tamala and Keli Kadamba trees from Vrindavan and . Being constantly absorbed in meditation, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura saw these holy places to be manifested and present in the Math.
In Sri Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir, on the day of Bahulastami, Radha Kunda and Syama Kunda are manifested in two beautifully constructed ponds on the platform below the alter of Sri Sri Radha Madhava. The kundas are decorated with lotuses, lamps and many beautiful shrubs and plants. Devotees are given the opportunity to bathe in these kundas, by sprinkling drops of this sacred water on their heads.
All glories to the appearance of Sri Radha Kunda, the holiest of the holy places!