[November 5, 2023 is the Bahulāśtami in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt of a bhāva anuvāda of a discourse by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on October 16, 2014. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
Today is a special tithi which our pañjikā refers to as Bahulāṣṭamī and those from Rādhā-kuṇḍa refer to as Ahoyi-āṣṭamī [named after Goddess Ahoyi]. In every sphere, there are two lines of consideration – spiritual and material (social). The place where Rādhā-kuṇḍa is situated was previously called Ariṭa-grāma; Ariṣṭāsura was ruling there, wreaking havoc and disturbing all the locals around. Finally, Śrī Kṛṣṇa killed Ariṣṭāsura who had assumed the form of a gigantic bull. However, Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī and the sakhīs informed Śrī Kṛṣṇa, “You have committed the sin of killing a cow [and in such an impure state], please do not touch us otherwise the sin of go-hatyā [cow slaughter] will come upon us as well. The sin of killing a cow can be atoned only by bathing in all the sacred rivers.”
To atone for His ‘sin’, Śrī Kṛṣṇa summoned all the sacred rivers; so each of them appeared there uttering their respective names. Śrī Kṛṣṇa then bathed in their holy waters and the pool of water that formed there became known as 'Śyāma-kuṇḍa'. Later, Rādhārāṇī along with Her sakhīs, dug another pond for themselves, but there was not even a drop of water in this pond. First they used a kaḍachī [ladle] and later their kaṅkaṇa [bangles] to dig, hence that area became known as 'Kaṅkaṇa-kuṇḍa'.
Still, no water appeared. So, they began fetching pots of water from the nearby Kusuma-sarovara to fill their freshly dug pond. Can a pond be filled with pots of water? Śrī Kṛṣṇa then summoned all the holy rivers again to fill the new pond. They promptly arrived pronouncing their names, filling the pond with their holy waters. But when 'Mānasī Gaṅgā' did not appear, Śrī Kṛṣṇa became enraged. In fear of His wrath, she arrived there at midnight with such force that she pierced through the border separating the two ponds. In this way, the waters of Śyāma-kuṇḍa and Rādhā-kuṇḍa combined.
MATERIALISTS USE RĀDHĀ-KUṆḌA TO FULFILL THEIR DESIRES
The karma-kāṇḍīs [materialists] use Rādhā-kuṇḍa to fulfill their materialistic desires. [It is believed that] if any childless couple takes a dip in Rādhā-kuṇḍa at midnight [on the eighth lunar day of the dark fortnight of the month of Kārtika] they will be blessed with a child. [Ahoyi-aṣṭamī is observed differently in the rest of India, particularly Gujarat, Maharashtra and many Southern states where the mothers fast from dawn to dusk even from water for the well-being of their children.]
Once, a childless couple from Kosī [a village in Vṛndāvana] took a dip in Rādhā-kuṇḍa and they were blessed with a child. Later that couple returned with their child and celebrated a grand festival. Being of Rājasthāni origin, they made arrangements for the Rajasthani delicacy, dāl-bāṭī-cūrmā. They offered this to all the pilgrims and also gave each one a ten rupee note as dakṣiṇā. I witnessed two such instances.
On Ahoyi-aṣṭamī, lakhs of people go to Rādhā-kuṇḍa and bamboo structures are erected everywhere around the kuṇḍa in order to prevent people from drowning. There is also great significance of offering charity on this tithi; if anyone does so, they are benefited exponentially. For this reason, many offer gupta-dāna [offering charity anonymously] by placing gold or silver inside a peṭhā [ash-gourd] into Rādhā-kuṇḍa. Others just come to cut open those offered vegetables by the banks of Rādhā-kuṇḍa to see if there is anything hidden inside.
THE QUALIFICATION TO BATHE IN RĀDHĀ-KUṆḌA
However, the transcendentalists do not pay attention to such activities. It is said:
yathā rādhā priyā viṣṇos tasyāḥ kuṇḍaṁ priyaṁ tathā sarva-gopīṣu saivaikā viṣṇor atyanta-vallabhā
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 18.5)
[Just as Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is most dear to Lord Kṛṣṇa, so is Her pond, known as Rādhā-kuṇḍa. Of all the gopīs, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is certainly the most beloved.]
Rādhārāṇī is the object of worship for all the sakhīs [girlfriends] and goddesses. It is said, one who bathes there will attain love like Rādhārāṇī.
But we have heard that our parama-gurudeva Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, would not even touch the water, what to speak of taking a dip in Rādhā-kuṇḍa, considering himself ineligible to do so; so high was his conception. However, although he himself would not touch the water, he told his disciples that they could do so. I also observed some of his disciples bathe there at night. Though later, they also claimed, “One should not take bath here.” What is the inner meaning? Whatever is spoken at a given point in time corresponds with one’s eligibility.
One year, parama-gurudeva observed the Kārtika-vrata at Rādhā-kuṇḍa at the Vraja Svānanda-sukhadā-kuñja. He also established Kuñjabihārī Gauḍīya Maṭha [nearby] and established a camp for everyone to stay.
At some point, I observed that many had developed the attraction to bathe in Rādhā-kuṇḍa at midnight. Personally, I never developed the inclination to bathe in Rādhā-kuṇḍa.
[Externally] taking a dip does not constitute taking snāna [holy bath]. An actual dip happens when one has dipped in the [pure] conceptions. Therefore, it is not so easy to take a dip in Rādhā-kuṇḍa. The illusory energy of Bhagavān spreads Her covering over that place, [so those without the proper eligibility] remain over the covering itself and never have contact with the real Rādhā-kuṇḍa. [Endnote 1]
DISCOVERY OF RĀDHĀ-KUṆḌA
Due to the influence of time, the two ponds - Rādhā-kuṇḍa and Śyāma-kuṇḍa - were covered and in that place a field of grains appeared. Śrī Caitanya-deva reclaimed and unearthed many hidden pastime places in Vṛndāvana through the medium of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī. At that time, no one had any idea of Rādhā-kuṇḍa and Śyāma-kuṇḍa. Śrī Caitanya-deva bathed in the little water remaining in those paddy fields and thus affirmed that they were Rādhā-kuṇḍa and Śyāma-kuṇḍa. Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī used to reside there and tigers used to come wandering by. For his safety, a small hut was built for him [on the urging of Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī].
EMPEROR AKBAR’S OFFERING TO ŚRĪLA RAGHUNĀTHA DĀSA GOSVĀMĪ
The water in the paddy fields was shallow but sweet. When Akbar was enthroned, he would visit Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī who resided there for two years. Each time his entourage of soldiers, horses and elephants were thirsty and would attempt to drink from those fields, where Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa resided, they were told [by the locals], “One Bābā resides there and your entourage will inevitably consume all the water.” Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī however invited them, “All of you drink without any worry; I assure you the water level will not recede.” Miraculously, everyone observed that despite consuming so much water, the level remained just as before; and thus, that tract of land was offered to Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, whose name was inscribed there on a brass plate. Later the local paṇḍās, pronouncing themselves to be ādi-vāsīs, claimed “This place belongs to us”. In reality, these paṇḍās were never there before, they came later. The Supreme Court ruled out their claim over the land confirming that it belonged to Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī as it is in his name [as per the records]. All this was featured in the newspaper and evidenced on the brass inscription that the land is in the name of Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī.
RESTORATION OF RĀDHĀ KUṆḌA
It occurred to Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī that if these kuṇḍas were not developed, then with the passage of time they would be lost forever. Around that time, one wealthy person who was visiting Badrinātha expressed a desire to serve the Lord. So Badrinātha appeared to him in a dream saying, “Donate the wealth you intend to offer Me to Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī who resides in Āriṭa-grāma, [now known as Rādhā-kuṇḍa], I will consider that as My real service.”
That wealthy man sought out Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī and met him [eager to offer him a donation], but Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī declined the offer saying, “I have no necessity for it.” Because for one who doesn’t even perform madhukarī, what is the need of money? [The word madhukarī comes from the word madhukara, which refers to a bee collecting pollen from flower to flower. A madhukarī is a saintly person or a mendicant who does not accept a full meal at one house but begs from door to door, taking a little food from each householder's place.] Daily, he used to accept only one leaf cup of buttermilk. But when the wealthy person informed him about his dream and the desire of Lord Badrinārāyaṇa, Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī remembered that he had in fact desired to develop Rādhā-kuṇḍa. First Rādhā-kuṇḍa was developed [under the guidance of Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī] and later Śyāma-kuṇḍa was built. When Śyāma-kuṇḍa was to be developed, there were six kadamba trees present, who appeared to Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī in a dream and said, “O Gosāi! We are Pañca-pāṇḍavas (five Pāṇḍavas) along with our Mother Kuntī, so please do not cut us. We are residing here in the form of trees to witness the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa”. For this reason, these trees were not cut and hence the shape of Śyāma-kuṇḍa did not turn out to be square. When we visit these holy places we cannot grasp these things but mahāpuruṣas [great personalities] can understand.
THE VISION OF MAHĀBHĀGAVATAS
Once, in Navadvīpa, there was a snake in the forest where Śrīla Vaṁśīdāsa Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja used to reside. One man had the inclination to serve Bābājī by clearing and cutting all the natural surroundings. Afterwards, in praise of his own service, he said, “Now that I have cleaned up everything, no snakes will come here.” Śrīla Vaṁśīdāsa Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja did not respond, but became very grave. Later he confided to his servant, “Mahā-pākhaṇḍī [great hypocrite]! Mahā-aparādhī [great offender]! After committing offences, he comes here to show his valor!” What offence did he commit? These trees are tapasvīs [those who perform penances]. They are here to witness the pastimes of Bhagavān and he has cut them off?” Such is the vision [of the mahā-bhāgavatas].
The glories of the holy places are not realized merely by our external vision; they have to be experienced through the ears. In those parikramā days we would hear the glories of the places from Bhakti Ratnākara, Bhāgavata, Govinda-līlāmṛta and so on.
Today is the appearance day of Rādhā-kuṇḍa. Materialistic people (karma-kāṇḍīs) perform charities and pious activities by giving away gold and silver in an attempt to fulfill their material desires, but they do not engage themselves in hari-bhakti. So many people take bath in Rādhā-kuṇḍa on this day.
In 1932, during the month of Kārtika, while lecturing at Rādhā-kuṇḍa, Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura made the following statement:
"Those who are still attached to this body and mind can never attain the qualification to bathe in the kuṇḍa of our Vṛṣabhānu-nandinī; I say this at all times! But those who are not attached to this body or mind are eternally qualified. This body has been produced by our mother and father. One who still deliberates upon this body or deliberates upon the mind cannot bathe in Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa! Only one who is knowledgeable of his aprākṛta body and intrinsic internal nature can bathe there.
"We are fallen souls! These words should always remain in our ears. They will be most beneficial for us life after life. By hearing such words, we will be protected from offences."
[The above quote was published in numerous books and periodicals of the Gauḍīya Maṭha during that period [1932-33].