Ridvan: A 12-day festival of joy

The Baha’i Festival of Ridvan, celebrated this year from April 21-May 2, is a special time for Baha’is that marks the beginning of the religion in 1863.

Ridvan is a word from the Arabic language meaning ‘paradise’, a name that Baha’u’llah, the prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith, gave to a beautiful garden located on the banks of the Tigris river. It was in this garden that He publicly announced His mission as a Manifestation of God, and the commemoration of Baha’u’llah’s time in the garden of Ridvan is a time of great significance and celebration for Baha’is across Canada.

In 1863, after living in exile for a decade in Iraq, Baha’u’llah and His family were informed by Ottoman authorities that He was to again be exiled, this time 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. Along with the first day, the ninth and the twelfth days of the Ridvan festival are considered holy days for which Baha’is suspend work and studies if possible.

The Ninth Day of Ridvan, April 29, 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 2, 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).

Ridvan, the most significant of Baha’i holy days, is also the time when the local, national and international institutions of the Baha’i Faith are elected. Local and national governing councils are renewed through election on an annual basis, while the international governing council of the Baha’is, known as the “Universal House of Justice” is formed once every five years. This year is one such year, where members of national governing councils gathered during Ridvan to elect a new membership to the Universal House of Justice. Coverage of the gathering of these 1,300 delegates from around the world is provided by the Baha’i World News Service.

When the Universal House of Justice is elected, national elections are postponed. Canada’s own national convention will be held this year in May, in Toronto, and will see some 171 local delegates from across the country participating.

It is increasingly common for political leaders and government officials at all levels to recognize the holy days celebrated by the community and extend their greetings on these days.

Preceding Ridvan this year, for example, the community in Ontario received greetings from Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario, where she mentions, “Our province is proud to be home to a flourishing Bahá’í community and a faith whose central beliefs resonate with the values we cherish as Ontarians.” She pays tribute to Baha’u’llah, “a spiritual leader and teacher [who] taught His followers that there was only one race – the human race. He established a faith that enshrined the ideals of a united global society, respect for diversity, and equality of all people.”

Dr. Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation, and Science for the Ontario Legislature extended his greetings alongside the Premier’s.

Guiliana Natale, Director of Inclusion and Religious Freedom with Global Affairs Canada, shared greetings, addressed to Baha’is in Canada and around the world. She acknowledged the situation of Baha’is in Iran and Yemen, expressing that her office “[pays] tribute to the courage and tremendous resilience of the Bahá’í Community.” She also acknowledged that, “the Bahá’í Community is an important part of Canada’s diverse religious mosaic”.