Gaudiya Vaishnavas worship Radha Kunda, situated at the northern tip of Govardhana Hill as the most sacred place in the universe.
Srila Rupa Goswami glorifies the topmost position of Radha Kunda in the following verses from his Sri Upadesamrita.
“The holy place known as Mathura is spiritually superior to Vaikuntha, the transcendental world, because the Lord appeared there. Superior to Mathura Puri is the transcendental forest of Vrindavana because of Krishna’s rasa-lila pastimes. And superior to the forest of Vrindavana is Govardhana Hill, for it was raised by the divine hand of Sri Krishna 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. Where, then, is that intelligent person who is unwilling to serve this divine Radha Kunda, which is situated at the foot of Govardhana Hill?”
“In the sastra it is said that of all types of fruitive workers, he who is advanced in knowledge of the higher values of life is favored by the Supreme Lord Hari. Out of many such people who are advanced in knowledge (jnanis), one who is practically liberated by virtue of his knowledge may take to devotional service. He is superior to all the others. However, one who has actually attained prema, pure love of Krishna, is superior to him. The gopis are exalted above all the advanced devotees because they are always totally dependent upon Sri Krishna, the transcendental cowherd boy.”
“Among the gopis, Srimati Radharani is the most dear to Krishna. Her kunda (lake) is as profoundly dear to Lord Krishna as this most beloved of gopis. Who, then, will not reside at Radha Kunda and, in a spiritual body surcharged with ecstatic devotional feelings (aprakrta-bhava), render loving service to the divine couple Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, who perform their astakaliya-lila, their eightfold daily pastimes. Indeed, those who execute devotional service on the banks of Radha Kunda are the most fortunate people in the universe.”
“Of the many objects of favored 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.” (Srila Rupa Goswami’s “The Nectar of Instruction,” by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, verses 9-11)
Radha Kunda is located in the northwest part of Vraja 100 km south from the capital Delhi. The kunda is situated on the parikrama (pilgrimage) path around Govardhana Hill. Govardhana’s shape resembles the form of a peacock and both ponds – Radha Kunda and Syama Kunda – are like its eyes.
The Appearance of Radha Kunda and Shyama Kunda in Vraja
Radha Kunda appeared after Sri Krishna killed the demon Aristasura. Because Aristasura was in the form of a bull, which is considered to be a sacred symbol of dharma, the gopis told him that he had made an offence.
When Krishna tried to approach her desiring to exchange love, Radharani snubbed and rebuked him, saying that he had become impure by killing a bull. She suggested that he could get purified by bathing in the holy rivers of all sacred places.
Rather than travel to all the holy places, Krishna summoned all the holy rivers to him. He struck the ground with His heel and immediately all the waters from all holy rivers appeared. The lake they formed when they filled the impression he had made became known as Shyama Kunda.
In a competitive mood, the gopis led by Srimati Radharani also created a kunda by digging the earth with their bangles. All the holy rivers then petitioned Srimati Radharani to allow them to enter her new kunda. Thus Radha Kunda appeared.
Within 5,000 years of the kundas’ manifestation, the location of Radha Kunda and Shyama Kunda had been forgotten. It was Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who came and rediscovered them. Later, Srila Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami and Srila Jiva Gosvami supervised the excavation of the kundas, building bathing ghats (stairs and platforms) as we see today.
Underneath the waters of Radha Kunda in the center is a small walled in section of the lake called Kankana Kunda (or Kanchan Kunda). This wall was built by Krishna’s great grandson, Vajranabha and it marks the site of the original pond created by gopis with their bracelets.
Radha Kunda and Shyama Kunda appeared at midnight on Bahulastami (the eight day of the waning moon in the month of Karttika). Each year on this day, many thousands of people gather at Radha Kunda and Shyama Kunda lighting the dark waters with thousands of ghee lamps and joyously singing the praises of this sacred place. When the clock strikes midnight, the pilgrims dive into the waters of Radha Kunda to commemorate and celebrate the sacred appearance of Srimati Radharani’s lake.