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.

RIDVAN: Baha’is celebrate 150th anniversary of 12-day festival

Fountain in elaborate garden with trees

A portion of the Garden of Ridvan. Photo in public domain

SUNDAY, APRIL 21-THURSDAY, MAY 2: Baha’s around the world are celebrating an event 150 years ago in a garden of paradise. In that beautiful setting, Baha’u’llah initiated his prophethood, signaling a 12-day period that would become known as “The Most Great Festival”—or Ridvan. For a period of 12 days in 1863, Baha’u’llah inhabited the Najibiyyih Garden (calling it the Garden of Ridvan, literally Paradise) before beginning his journey to Constantinople. Today, Baha’is hold sacred these 12 days, particularly the first, ninth and 12th days. (Learn more from the Baha’i Library.) Amid several announcements and tablets produced in the garden, Baha’u’llah officially declared his mission as the one foretold by the Bab.

Two decades before Baha’u’llah’s time in the Garden of Ridvan, a Persian man known as Siyyid Ali-Muhammad began proclaiming that he was “The Bab” (Arabic for The Gate), and that a Messianic figure would soon be coming. Followers, known as Babis, began slowly growing in numbers. (Wikipedia has details.) Time passed, and a prisoner in Iran known as Baha’u’llah received a revelation: that he was the Promised One of the Bab. Nonetheless, Baha’u’llah kept quiet about his revelation for 11 years, all the while gaining more leadership within the Babi community. Finally, Baha’u’llah received so much attention that governments and enemies of the Babi feared a threat, and Baha’u’llah was asked to leave. To allow his family time to pack for the journey to Constantinople, Baha’u’llah spent 12 days in the Garden of Ridvan. (View photos of the garden at Bahaullah.org.)

BAHA’U’LLAH AND MUHAMMAD

In a move he compared with Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to Medina, Baha’u’llah departed from his “Most Great House” in Baghdad to the Garden of Ridvan. As hoards of visitors had come to see Baha’u’llah in the weeks before his departure from Baghdad, he moved to the garden to receive the final crowds. Along with his sons, secretary and a few others, Baha’u’llah arrived in the garden two hours before sunset. On that first afternoon, Baha’u’llah made three critical announcements: one, that religious war would no longer be permitted for Babis; two, that there would not be another Manifestation of God for 1,000 years; and three, that all the names of God are fully manifest in all things. Furthermore, Baha’u’llah announced his identity as a Manifestation of God, thus forming the beginnings of the Baha’i faith.

THE NINTH AND TWELFTH DAYS

In addition to the First Day of Ridvan, Baha’is suspend work and school on the Ninth Day and the Twelfth Day. On the Ninth Day, Baha’u’llah’s family joined him in the garden; on the Twelfth Day, the group departed for Constantinople.

NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLIES COMMENCE

The Baha’i administrative year begins today, on the First Day of Ridvan, and local spiritual assemblies also are elected. National and international spiritual assemblies will be elected later in Ridvan. (Note: International spiritual assemblies are held every five years, with 2013 being a participating year. The Eleventh International Baha’i Convention will be held April 25-May 2, 2013, in Haifa, Israel.)