Sunset on April 20 marks the beginning of the 12-day Festival of Riḍván, the holiest day in Baha’iism. Although Ridván is generally given place of prominence, it should be noted that the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, one of the two holy books of Bahai’ism, refers to Ridván as one of the two “Most Great Festivals” (the other is the Declaration of the Bab).
Employees and students should be accommodated for observance on the first, ninth and twelfth days of Riḍván. Since Baha’iism observes holidays from the sunset of the preceding day through sunset of the day of the holiday, employees and students should be excused from sunset on April 22 through sunset on April 21, from sunset on April 28 through sunset on 29, and from sunset on May 1 through sunset on May 2.
Riḍván marks the announcement by Mírzá Ḥusayn-`Alí Núrí that he was the Bahá'u'lláh or Promised One and Messenger of the One True God.
The Bahá'u'lláh made his announcement that he was the Promised One on April 21, 1863 in what was then called Najibiyyih Garden or Na’Mayn on the outskirts of Baghdad on the banks of the Tigris River. At the time what is today Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire, and the Ottoman authorities had banished the Bahá'u'lláh. Fearing a threat to the dominance of Islam in Baghdad, the Ottoman religious officials formally exiled in Constantinople to remove him from his growing throngs of followers.
|The Garden of Ridván |
before the Iraqi government
built the Baghdad Medical City
over its location
The Bahá'u'lláh stayed in Najibiyyih Garden for 12 days following his announcement. During this time he greeted his followers who came to meet with him before his exile. On the ninth day, the Bahá'u'lláh’s family arrived (the Holy Family having been delayed by the flooding of the Tigris up to that point). On the twelfth day, the Ottoman authorities forcibly removed him to take him to prison in Constantinople. His followers then renamed the site as the Garden of Ridván (Paradise) which it is called today and which is from where the holiday takes its name.
The Three Declarations in the the Garden of Riḍván
While in the Garden of Ridván, after announcing himself to be the Promised One, the Bahá'u'lláh made three additional declarations. These were revealed in the Tablet of Ridvan.
|The Baha'i Temple in Haifa, Israel|
The Holiest Site in Baha'iism
In the First Declaration, the Bahá'u'lláh forbade any of his followers from religious war. He particularly excluded the Islamic interpretation of jihad as religiously justified reasons for war. This prohibition also specifically prevented his followers from fighting to protect their faith, including any thought to fight to protect the Bahá'u'lláh himself.
The Second Declaration indicates that after the Bahá'u'lláh no other Promised One or Manifestation of God would be made manifest for 1000 years. Still, the Bahá'u'lláh would not be the final Manifestation of God as a new manifestation would definitely come after the 1000 years were up.
|Baha'i Temple, New Delhi, India|
This last proclamation is seen as the unity of all religions, which themselves are simply different ways of approaching the one true God. The unity of all religions is one of the core beliefs of Baha’ism along with the unity of all humanity and the unity of the one true God.He Who is the Desire of all nations hath shed upon the kingdoms of the unseen and of the seen the splendor of the light of His most excellent names, and enveloped them with the radiance of the luminaries of His most gracious favors -- favors which none can reckon except Him, Who is the omnipotent Protector of the entire creation. – “The Tablet of Ridván,” Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah
|The Baha'i House of Worship|
in Wilmette, Illinois near Chicago
is the largest Baha'i Temple in the world
Ridván is generally observed by refraining from all work on the first, ninth and twelfth days accompanied with communal prayers in the temple or gatherings in people's homes for worship services. Beyond that, customs vary widely (as with the observance of all Baha’i holidays). Indeed, while the days of refraining from work are clearly indicated, the only formal requirement for communal prayers specifically laid out is that on the first day of Ridván at 3:00 PM (marking the time Bahá'u'lláh first entered the Garden of Ridván). Still, most Baha’i traditions customarily mark the ninth and twelfth days with communal prayers as well. Additionally, many Baha’is go to the temple for communal gatherings on each day of the festival, although they still go to school or work on these other days.
Riḍván is also the time when Baha’is hold their annual elections for the nine-person local Spiritual Council. Each elected local Spiritual Council member holds this religious office for one year until the next Ridván.
While traditions beyond this vary greatly, among the most common customs among Baha’i congregations is the outdoor gathering for a communal picnic in a local garden or other green area as a remembrance of the Garden of Riḍván.
| American children in cardboard boats |
pretending to cross the Tigris River
on the ninth day of Ridván
Some Baha’i families re-enact scenes from the Bahá'u'lláh’s time in the Garden. For example, on the ninth day, children make symbolic boats to cross over the flooded Tigris River as the Bahá'u'lláh’s family had done.
| Ridván decoration board|
with 12 flowers with an activity
for each day of the festival
Other Baha’i traditions include displays of flowers such as roses to recall the garden setting. People often decorate with assemblages of 12 items (such as twelve flowers or twelve Baha’i stars) to symbolize the twelve days that the Bahá'u'lláh stayed in the Garden of Ridván.
As with all of my religious observance posts, this discussion of the holiday Ridván reflects only my superficial summary of the holiday. This post in no way intends to indicate what is or is not the proper way in which to celebrate the holiday from a theological perspective. The intention here is only informational.
Please feel free to leave a comment on your own observances or on anything else in this post. I welcome your input. Happy Ridván!
Want To Read More?
“Happy Riḍván Festival!” All Beliefs, http://www.allbeliefs.com/showthread.php?t=10055
“Bringing the Ridvan Festival to Life,” Enable Me To Grow website, http://www.enablemetogrow.com/2012/04/11/bringing-the-ridvan-festival-to-life/
Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, http://www.peyman.info/cl/Baha%27i/Others/ROB/V1/Notes-Foreward.html#pxv
John Walbridge, “Ridvan,” Sacred Acts, Sacred Space, Sacred Time: Baha'i Studies volume 1, Oxford: George Ronald, 1995, posted on Baha’i Library Online, http://bahai-library.com/walbridge_encyclopedia_ridvan
Clip Art Sources
Ridvan opening clip art: http://campus.fortunecity.com/caltech/531/kids/holydays/ridvan.html
Garden of Ridvan photograph: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/78/Ridvan-garden-baghdad.jpg
Baha'i Temple, Haifa, Israel: http://www.pathsofdevotion.com/_wizardimages/bahai_temple_haifa.JPG
Baha'i Temple, New Delhi, India: My own photograph
The Baha'i House of Worship, Wilmette, Illinois: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Willmette_how.jpg
American children in cardboard boats crossing the Tigris: http://www.motherhoodandmore.com/2011/05/horses-holy-days-tulips-and-nose-kisses.html
Ridvan decoration board: http://www.enablemetogrow.com/2012/04/11/bringing-the-ridvan-festival-to-life/
Closing Happy Ridvan clip art with rose: http://www.moringa.com.my/Ridvan1.jpg
“Ridván,” Fortunecity.com, Kids/Holidays: http://campus.fortunecity.com/caltech/531/kids/holydays/ridvan.html