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For Bahá’ís, Ridván is the most sacred time of the year and the holiest of all festivals. It celebrates the announcement of Bahá'u'lláh's station as a Divine Messenger.

The word Ridván is an Arabic word that broadly means “Paradise”. The festival commemorates the twelve days Bahá'u'lláh spent in a garden in Baghdad while preparing to leave for Constantinople (the capital of Turkey, now Istanbul), wishing farewell to its residents. It was then that He first told people of His station as a Manifestation of God.

There are no exact details on how this happened. It is generally believed that Bahá’u’lláh initially chose to tell just a few close companions. First-hand accounts come from His son and daughter, Abdu’l-Baha and Bahiyyih Khanum and it seems He asked them to keep it a secret at this stage, in order to introduce people gradually to the reality of His station.

It had been ten years since Bahá’u’lláh’s first banishment from Tehran in Persia to Baghdad in modern-day Iraq. In that time He had, in the face of immense challenges, succeeded in uniting the Babí community as well as winning the respect and admiration of the local government and populace. While in Baghdad, almost all of the surviving leaders of the Babí Faith went to visit Bahá’u’lláh and endorsed Him as the (unofficial) leader of their community.

When the officials of the Persian government exiled Bahá’u’lláh to Baghdad, it was to stamp out his growing popularity. After ten years, they realised this wasn’t working, and pressured the Ottoman government to move Him much further away, to the capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul (then known as Constantinople). Bahá’u’lláh had become a very highly respected figure in Baghdad society, and the summons had to be offered as a polite invitation.

Bahá’u’lláh pitched His tent in a garden outside the city, alongside the river Tigris on 21st April, so He could bid farewell to visitors in a place other than His house, making it easier for His family to pack. The gardener's name was Ridván, and that is the name by which Bahá'u'lláh also called the garden. The next day He left His House in Baghdad, for the last time, and travelled back to the garden. A crowd had gathered to see Bahá'u'lláh leave – Babí and non-Babí alike – and they lined the streets as He walked. There was a tumultuous display of grief from the gathered crowd, with people crying and chanting. Once camped in the garden, Bahá'u'lláh received a constant throng of visitors and well-wishers. Roses were in bloom and each morning hundreds of fresh-picked roses would lie in piles in the tents, the visitors would be given these roses as gifts.

Around the world, most Baha’i elections are held during Ridván, a practice which started in Abdu’l-Baha’s lifetime. The National Spiritual Assembly is also elected during the Ridván Festival, at National Convention, as is the Universal House of Justice, every five years. The Universal House of Justice also writes a letter to the Baha’i World every Ridván, summarising the year’s progress and setting future challenges.

The Festival of Ridvan

13 Jalál to 5 Jamál
(21 April - 2 May)