What is the Baha’i Festival of Ridvan?

Ridvan (which in Arabic translates to “paradise”) is a twelve-day long festival of the Baha’i religion. It commences on the 21st of April and runs until the 2nd of May.

Ridvan is the holiest festival for the Baha’is because it remembers their founder Baha’u’llah’s (1817-1892) announcement in 1863 that he was the prophet mentioned by the Bab. It was in the Garden of Ridvan on the outskirts of Baghdad that, just after his exile from the city to Constantinople, Baha’u’llah proclaimed to be a Manifestation of God. He was supposedly the Promised One foretold in all of the world’s religions. The festival lasts twelve days because that his how long Baha’u’llah stayed in the garden for. It was also during this period that his followers and admirers in Baghdad came to bid him farewell.

Ridvan has a number of functions for Baha’is. It gives the Baha’i global community both a sense of history and a divine mission to continue building a global spiritual civilization. It reminds them to spread their faith and teachings even in periods of global turmoil and conflict. The festival also reminds the Baha’i to stay strong in commitment to the teachings and laws of their religion and to be bold in overcoming opposition and persecution. The religion indeed has a history of persecution, especially when it emerged in predominantly Islamic communities who took offense at the Baha’is not believing Muhammad to be the final prophet.

On the first day of Ridvan, Baha’is gather to vote for their Local Spiritual Assembly. This is a body of nine people whose responsibility it is to oversee and administer the affairs of the community. Also on this day the religion’s headquarters or governing council, the Universal House of Justice located in Haifa, Israel, sends a message to its faithful around the world. These are called the Letters of Ridvan and can touch on various topics from the growth of the community, the community’s efforts and contributions to their societies, and the progress of specific projects and plans. The 2020 Letter of Ridvan shared the Universal House of Justice’s concern with the Coronavirus pandemic devastating the lives of millions (1). The organization wants to cultivate spiritual qualities that are most needed at this time such as solidarity, public health awareness, constant encouragement, and giving a helping hand to those who need it.

For devotees, Ridvan is a time of great celebration and festivity. These occur in many locations around the globe when friends and family gather to enjoy food and socialize. The festival is open to all and communities gather to read from the Baha’i writings, listen to music, chant, and share devotions and stories. Inspirational stories about the religion’s history and growth attempt to inspire devotees to stay strong in the faith.

References

  1. The Universal House of Justice. Riḍván 2020. Available.

McMullen, Mike. 2015. The Bahá’ís of America: The Growth of a Religious Movement. Book. New York: NYU Press. p. 45-127.

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