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.)