SUNSET WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20: The “King of Festivals” arrives for Baha’is at sunset today, as the faithful begin the 12-day festival of Ridvan. The festival recalls a sacred period when Baha’u’llah, the Promised One for Baha’is, entered the Garden of Ridvan in 1863. For many Baha’is, work and school are suspended all day tomorrow as the faithful reflect on the commencement of Baha’u’llah’s prophethood. (The Baha’i Library has more.) It was during his first day in this garden that Baha’u’llah publicly declared that he was a Manifestation of God. It was also on the first day that Baha’u’llah instituted the festival of Ridvan.
You can enjoy photos of the garden at Bahaullah.org. Formerly known as the Najibiyyih Garden, the site was renamed by Baha’u’llah to mean “paradise.” The garden was home to Baha’u’llah after his exile from Baghdad and before his journey to Constantinople. During these 12 days, Baha’u’llah was hardly alone—visitors, family and friends filled the garden to pay tribute and spend time with Baha’u’llah. It was also here that Baha’u’llah made three more major announcements: That religious war was against the faith; that there would not be another Manifestation of God for 1,000 years; and that all names of God were fully manifest in all things. (Wikipedia has details.) For several years, the Baha’i Universal House of Justice has held elections for Local and National Spiritual Assemblies during Ridvan. Spiritual Assemblies, and not clergy members, guide the Baha’i faith.
This year, Baha’is will have another reason to celebrate: After more than two years of restoration, another important Baha’i destination—Haifa’s Baha’i Shrine—has recently been unveiled. (Check out an article from the Baha’i World News Service.) The Shrine was deemed a site of “outstanding universal value” on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008, and the 1909 structure was restructured for support and restored artwork through more than 130,000 hours of work by workers and volunteers from six continents. The project was completed two years ahead of schedule.
(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.)