On April 20, Canadians across the country celebrated the first of twelve days of the Baha’i Festival of Ridvan (pronounced RIZ-von). The Ridvan Festival, the most significant amongst the Baha’i holy days, begins with the first day that marks the anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s declaration as the “One Who was to be the Bearer of a new Message for humankind”. As festivities for this coming October will mark the 200th anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s birth, significant efforts are being made by the Baha’i community of ensuring that all Canadians feel welcome to join the celebrations of a Messenger who promoted the oneness of humanity.
Ridvan is a word from the Arabic language meaning ‘paradise’, a name that Baha’u’llah gave to a garden renowned for its beauty that was once located on the banks of the Tigris river. In 1863, after living in exile for a decade in Iraq, Baha’u’llah and His family were informed by Ottoman authorities that Baha’u’llah was to be exiled further from His home country of Persia (modern Iran) due to the continuing spread of His influence. Before leaving Baghdad, Baha’u’llah crossed the Tigris river for a 12-day stay in the garden to receive well-wishers, many of whom were deeply distressed over His impending departure. Nevertheless, the anniversary is marked with joy by Baha’is due to his public announcement of His role and mission. Along with the first day, the ninth and the twelfth days of the Ridvan festival are considered holy days for which Baha’is refrain from work and studies if possible.
The Ninth Day of Ridvan, April 28, marks the anniversary that Baha’u’llah’s family joined Him in the Ridvan garden after having been prevented from doing so due to by the flooding of the Tigris. The river’s flooding receded enough for His family’s reunification being the cause of much joy. The Twelfth Day of Ridvan, May 1, is the anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s departure from the Ridvan garden and the beginning of the extension of His exile from Baghdad to Constantinople (now known as Istanbul, Turkey).
The Ridvan period also marks the annual time that national and local Baha’i governing councils will be elected from the membership of their respective communities worldwide. This year, Canada’s national convention will see 171 delegates, representing all the country’s regions, gather in Toronto to elect Canada’s nine-member governing council, referred to as a National Spiritual Assembly. Besides electing the National Spiritual Assembly, the delegates will consult and offer constructive suggestions to the general administration of the Baha’is Community.