The Festival of Ridvan (Riz-wahn), celebrated from April 21 to May 2, commemorates the anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s declaration in 1863 that He was the Promised One of all earlier religions.
The Ridvan period is bittersweet, as Baha’u’llah was soon to be exiled to Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey). Baha’u’llah spent 12 days in a garden in Baghdad visiting with His followers. He named the garden Ridvan, which means “Paradise” or “good pleasure” in Arabic.
When He entered the garden, Baha’u’llah proclaimed the Festival of Ridvan and made three announcements: First, He forbade His followers to fight to advance or defend the Faith (religious war had been permitted under past religions); second, He declared there would not be another prophet for another 1,000 years; and third, He proclaimed that all the names of God were inherent in all things at that moment.
Baha’u’llah’s arrival in Ridvan and his announcement of the Festival of Ridvan mark the moment when the essence of the Baha’i Faith was expressed.
Baha’is suspend work on the holiest days of Ridvan—the first, ninth and 12th . These mark the day of Baha’u’llah’s arrival in the garden, the arrival of His family and the group’s departure for Constantinople.
The Most Great Festival is, indeed, the King of Festivals. Call ye to mind, O people, the bounty which God hath conferred upon you. Ye were sunk in slumber, and lo! He aroused you by the reviving breezes of His Revelation, and made known unto you His manifest and undeviating Path. — Baha’u’llah
Throughout Ridvan, Baha’is gather for devotions and attend social gatherings. In Texas, Perry Productions has been staging a Ridvan pageant for the last 10 years.
At Ridvan, Baha’is annually elect members of local and national administrative bodies, called Spiritual Assemblies. Baha’u’llah taught that in an age of universal education, there was no longer a need for a special class of clergy. Instead, he provided a framework for administering the affairs of the Faith through a system of elected councils at the local, national and international levels. All Baha’i elections occur through secret ballot and plurality vote, without candidacies, nominations or campaigning.
Reprinted with permission from the Baha’is of the United States
(see U.S. Baha’i News)