COLUMBIA — April 21 marks the first day of Ridvan, or “The Most Great Festival” and “King of the Festivals,” the 12-day celebration of the Baha’i faith.
In 1863, Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith, traveled to the garden of Najib Pasha just outside Baghdad. Naming the garden Ridvan, which means “paradise” in Arabic, Baha’u’llah spent 12 days there with his followers before being exiled to Constantinople, or modern day Istanbul. It was on his arrival that Baha’u’llah proclaimed his mission as God’s messenger.
Baha’u’llah made what is known as the “Three Announcements.” First, his followers were forbidden to promote or protect their faith through jihad, or religious war; second, the next prophet would not arrive for 1,000 years; and third, all of God’s names were manifest in all things. The third announcement is interpreted by many Baha’is as recognizing a mystical transformation between God and the world.
THE OBSERVANCES AND CELEBRATIONS
During Ridvan, all followers of Baha’i refrain from work on the first, ninth and twelfth days.
The first day is the most revered, as it was the day that Baha’u’llah arrived to the garden. It is also the only day that has a specific time for observation. It is believed that Baha’u’llah made his announcement as prophet around 3 p.m.
The ninth day honors the arrival of Baha’u’llah’s family to the garden, and the twelfth day recognizes Baha’u’llah’s departure.
The celebrations typically involve a re-creation of the Ridvan garden, complete with makeshift tents decorated with red roses or scented by rose water. It is in this garden that communal prayers and readings of Baha’u’llah’s announcement and teachings take place.
The first day of Ridvan also marks the annual election of Baha’is to the local Baha’i authoritative body, the Spiritual Assembly.
Nine members are elected to the Spiritual Assembly through secret ballots.
There are no nominations, and a member may not run for election; instead, Baha’is vote for the people who they feel are the most qualified to serve on the assembly.