Vaiṣṇava – “In his Vaiṣṇava Toṣani ṭīkā of Śrīmad-bhāgavat 10.45.3 Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī says that ariṣṭa-vadha (the slaying of Ariṣṭāsura, which prompted the appearance of Rādhākuṇḍa) took place on CAITRA PURNIMA. (ekādaśasya caitra paurṇamāsyam ariṣṭavadhaḥ, ed). Does that prove then that Caitra purṇimā is the ACTUAL APPEARANCE DAY OF Rādhākuṇḍa, because Rādhākuṇḍa manifested after the death of Ariṣṭāsura? Why then are Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas bathing on Kārtika Bahulāṣṭamī if IT IS NOT THE APPEARANCE DAY OF Rādhākuṇḍa? What are they celebrating?? What is so special about Bahulāṣṭamī, that the Padma Purāṇa glorifies bath then in Rādhākuṇḍa, and our Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī quotes that in Mathurā Māhātmyam??"
Advaitadās – 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 becomes very dear to Lord Hari, to whom this kuṇḍa is also very dear." Possibly this statement caused the tradition of Rādhākuṇḍa snān as we know it now. When this has become mixed up I do not know, but probably not too long ago as the current shape of Rādhākuṇḍa, with concrete steps, only exists since, I believe, 1864.
Vaiṣṇava – “I heard that we are bathing then to honor the discovery day of Rādhākuṇḍa by Mahāprabhu. But I thought Mahāprabhu arrived in Mathurā on Kārtika pūrṇimā, so how could He have been here on aṣṭamī? I was told that’s Mathurā, but BEFORE going to Mathurā while Mahāprabhu was on Vraja parikramā, Mahāprabhu came here on Bahulāṣṭamī and discovered Rādhākuṇḍa. Advaitajī, it seems that Bhakti Ratnākara says the VERY FIRST PLACE Mahāprabhu saw in Vraja-maṇḍala was Mathurā… He took Viśrāma Ghāṭ bath, Keśavji darśana, AND THEN Vraja-dhāma parikramā? Is there any pramāṇa to prove that Kārtik pūrṇimā was the first day that Mahāprabhu touched Vraja-maṇḍala, be it Mathurā or elsewhere?"
Advaitadās - Not only Bhakti Ratnākara, also Caitanya Caritāmṛta (Madhya 17.155) says that Mahāprabhu first came to Mathurā, then (Madhya 17.193) He saw the 12 forests, and only then (Madhya 18.3) He came to Rādhākuṇḍa. Yes, there can also be something wrong with the traditional celebration of Mahāprabhu’s first arrival in Braja on Kārtika Pūrṇimā, as far as I know there is no mentioning of Mahāprabhu entering Vraja on Kārtika Pūrṇimā, but that would still not solve the problem with the Caitra Pūrṇimā date of Rādhākuṇḍa’s appearance.
Vaiṣṇava - Who is Bahulā, and what is her/his relationship with Kārtika Bahulāṣṭamī?
Advaitadās - Bahulā is described as Hari’s wife in Mathurā Māhātmyam 342 (quoting from Skānda Purāṇa without any details) and-
The story of Bahulā Devi is recounted in a number of Purāṇas and in some versions the details of the story vary, but the essence of the story is the same. In the Padma Purāṇa, it says that in her previous life, before attaining the position as the consort of Lord Śrī Hari, Bahulā had taken birth as a cow in the forest of Bahulāvana, and her character was severely tested by the Lord Himself. One day, Bahulā was taken to the pasturing ground by her master, a local brāhmaṇa, so that she could feed on the fresh grass of Bahulāvana forest. Suddenly a very hungry tiger appeared from the jungle and was preparing to attack and eat Bahulā. Seeing that the end was near, Bahulā requested the tiger to wait just a moment so that she could feed milk to her hungry calf waiting nearby. Bahulā promised to return as soon as the calf was fed. The tiger agreed to the proposal and waited for Bahulā to return. Within a short time, after feeding her baby calf, Bahulā returned as promised. To her amazement she found that the tiger had disappeared and Kṛṣṇa was standing there along with Yamarāja, who had appeared as the tiger just to test her truthfulness. Being pleased with Bahulā’s honesty, even in the face of death, Kṛṣṇa gave her the benediction that in her next life she would attain the position as one of the goddesses of fortune and achieve the Supreme Lord as her husband.
Vaiṣṇava - “According to the śāstra pramāṇa of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī’s ṭīkā on Śrīmad-bhāgavat 10.45.3, which is rock safe evidence for Vaiṣṇavas, it seems perfectly justified and correct that all Vaiṣṇavas should honor Rādhākuṇḍa appearance by bathing at midnight on Caitra pūrṇimā in Rādhākuṇḍa?”
Advaitadās - That seems logical and fair but somehow that’s not how the tradition developed.
Vaiṣṇava - That would save a lot of crushed ribs and bruises experienced by our gentle brothers and sisters in those rugby-match midnight Kārtika-baths.
Advaitadās - Most people who bathe in Rādhākuṇḍa at midnight on Bahulāṣṭami want good offspring, a dowry for their daughter and a new motorcycle. In all the 35 years I did rāgānugā bhakti I went in only once on such a night, in 2002. Rūpa Gosvāmī writes in Upadeśāmṛta (11) that rādhā-prema awaits a bather in Rādhākuṇḍa on any day of the year, at any time. tat premedam sakṛd api saraḥ snātur aviskaroti. Who needs a motorcycle anyway?
Vaiṣṇava – “And on the other hand to honor Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī’s pramāṇa for a Bahulāṣṭamī-bath in Rādhākuṇḍa, one could just bathe easily during the day in Rādhākuṇḍa. Is this true or false?”
Advaitadās - Yes, bathing on Bahulāṣṭamī can be done in the daytime as well, as there is no mentioning of night or midnight in those Padma Purāṇa ślokas (kārtike bahulāṣṭamyāṁ, Haribhakti-vilāsa 16.207-208) at all. In his Dig-darśinī-ṭīkā to that verse, Sanātan Goswāmī also does not mention the slaying of Ariṣṭāsura or the appearance of Rādhākuṇḍa being connected with the Bahulāṣṭamī-bathing. He merely writes: śrī rādhā-prāṇa-nāthāya śrīmad dāmodarāya te; sarvaṁ caitanya-devāya gurave’rpitam eva me. tatra kuṇḍe naraḥ snātvā hareḥ priyatamo bhavet. hi yataḥ. tatra tatra snānaṁ tasya hareḥ pratosaṇaṁ prakarṣeṇa toṣayatītyarthaḥ - "This is all dedicated to the Lord of Śrī Rādhā's life, Śrī Dāmodara, to Caitanya-deva and Guru. Having bathed there, in the kuṇḍa, should be dearmost to Hari. Bathing there is most pleasing to Hari."