Ridvan: Baha’is wrap up the ‘Most Great Festival’ on sacred 12th day

Red chip path leading down tree-lined garden, blue bench and table with food to the sides of path

The Ridvan Garden. Photo by Daniela Kantorova, courtesy of Flickr

SUNSET , MONDAY, MAY 1: The most holy Baha’i festival worldwide is the 12-day period known as Ridvan, and today, that festival wraps up with a day reserved for the recollection of a pivotal day: the day Baha’u’llah’s and his family departed the garden for Constantinople. For many Baha’is, work and school are suspended all day.

During Ridvan, those of the Baha’i community gather, pray and hold celebrations. Local Spiritual Assemblies—that is, the governing bodies of Baha’i communities worldwide—are elected on the first day of Ridvan.

THE BAB, BAHA’U’LLAH & THE NAJIBIYYIH GARDEN

The festival of Ridvan recalls a sacred period when Baha’u’llah, the Promised One for Baha’is, entered and temporarily took up residence in the Najibiyyih Garden, in 1863.

The story of Ridvan, however, actually begins years before Baha’u’llah revealed his identity and took up temporary residence in Najibiyyih Garden—with a man who called himself “the Bab” (translated, the Gate). The year was 1844 CE when Siyyid Ali-Muhammad, of Shiraz, made the proclamation that he was the Bab—and that a Messianic figure was coming. Nine years later, the man known as Baha’u’llah experienced a revelation while imprisoned in Tehran, Iran: he was the Promised One foretold of by the Bab.

After release from prison, Baha’u’llah settled in Baghdad, which was becoming the center of the Babi (followers of the Bab) movement. Though he made no open claims related to his revelation, Baha’u’llah slowly began attracting more and more Babi followers. The growing Babi community, along with Baha’u’llah’s increasing popularity, caused the government to exile Baha’u’llah from Baghdad to Constantinople. After having packed his things, Baha’u’llah stayed in the Najibiyyih garden to both receive visitors and allow his family sufficient time to pack for the journey.

On April 22, 1863, Baha’u’llah moved to a garden across the Tigris River from Baghdad with his sons, secretary and a few others. In the Najibiyyih Garden, Baha’u’llah announced his prophetic mission to a small group of close friends and family. In addition, Baha’ullah made three announcements: that religious war was not permissible; that there would not be another Manifestation of God for 1,000 years; and that all the names of God are fully manifest in all things. For 11 days, Baha’u’llah stayed in the Najibiyyih Garden. On the 12th day, the entire group departed for Constantinople.

THE ‘MOST GREAT FESTIVAL’

Formerly known as the Najibiyyih Garden, the site was renamed by Baha’u’llah as “Ridvan,” meaning “paradise.” During the 12 days that he was in the garden, Baha’u’llah was hardly alone—visitors, family and friends filled the garden to pay tribute and spend time with Baha’u’llah. (Photos of the garden are at Bahaullah.org.)

 

Ridvan: Baha’is observe 12-day festival of Baha’u’llah’s prophethood

People sit in a line of chairs along a stone walkway, slightly curved, with trees behind and flowers, manicured grass and gardens in front of the chairs

Baha’is gather in the gardens surrounding the Shrine of Baha’u’llah, on the Ninth Day of Ridvan in 2008. Photo by Barney Leith, courtesy of Flickr

SUNSET SUNDAY, APRIL 20 and SUNSET MONDAY, APRIL 28 and SUNSET THURSDAY, MAY 1: The “Most Great Festival” has arrived for Baha’is worldwide, in a 12-day engagement known as Ridvan. So named for the Garden of Ridvan, outside of Baghdad, the Festival of Ridvan recognizes the 12 days that Baha’u’llah spent in the Garden of Ridvan, in 1863. After being exiled by the Ottoman Empire, Baha’u’llah resided in the Garden to accept visitors while his family packed in preparation for a move to Constantinople.

In the Garden of Ridvan, several key principles of the Baha’i faith were established through a series of announcements. (Learn more from the Baha’i Library Online.) In the years since Baha’u’llah’s stay in the Garden, the first, ninth and 12th days of the Festival of Ridvan have been regarded as especially holy.

Did you know? “Ridvan” means “Paradise” in Arabic.

The story of the Festival of Ridvan actually begins 20 years before Baha’u’llah ever resided in the Garden—and, more specifically, with another man, by the name of Siyyid Ali-Muhammad of Shiraz. In 1844 CE, Siyyid Ali-Muhammad announced that he was “The Bab,” or “The Gate,” who would make way for a Messianic figure to come: for “He whom God shall make manifest.” Nine years later, in 1853, a man called Baha’u’llah claimed his mission as the Promised One—the One foretold of by the Bab. (Wikipedia has details.) Ever increasing in popularity among the people—particularly the Babis, the followers of the Bab—Baha’u’llah’s power was feared by authorities, and he and his family were eventually exiled to Constantinople.

Prior to his departure for Constantinople, Baha’u’llah knew that crowds of Babis and visitors would flock to him—and so, to allow his family opportunity to pack for the trip, Baha’u’llah temporarily resided in the Najibiyyih garden. On the ninth day in the Garden of Ridvan, Baha’u’llah’s family joined him; on the 12th day, the entire family left the Garden, journeying toward Constantinople.

What, exactly, was announced in the Garden of Ridvan?
While departing from the “Most Great House” in Baghdad, Baha’u’llah compared his journey to the Garden of Ridvan as similar to Muhammad’s trip from Mecca to Medina. Once in the Garden, according to Baha’i tradition, Baha’u’llah declared to a small group that he was, indeed, “He whom God shall make manifest.” Furthermore, Baha’u’llah made three announcements: that permission for religious war was annulled; that there would not be another Manifestation of God for another 1,000 years; and that all names of God are manifest in all things. This time in the Garden provided a time of transition, when Babi followers would be renewed as members of the new Baha’i faith. During Ridvan today, elections take place for the local and national governing bodies.

IN THE NEWS:
NEW WEBSITE;
UN TO CONTINUE PROBE IN IRAN

A new website for the Baha’i Faith has recently been announced: the international governing body of the Baha’is, the Universal House of Justice, has launched a fresh interface: The new website can be viewed here.

The United Nations Human Rights Council has voted to extend the mandate of its investigation into Iran, hoping to improve human rights for Baha’is in the country. United Nations Baha’i Representative Diane Ala’i states, “The vote today to extend the mandate of Ahmed Shaheed is a powerful signal that the world expects action—not just words—from President Rouhani and his government on human rights.” Read more details in this news story.