What makes the Festival of Ridvan, celebrated April 21 to May 2, the holiest of days for Baha’is? It commemorates the anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s declaration in 1863 that He was the Promised One of all earlier religions.
Up to this point, Baha’u’llah, who was born into a noble Persian family in 1817, had dedicated His life to improving the world and helping others. He became one of the foremost followers of the Bab, for which He was imprisoned, tortured and banished from His native land.
After spending 10 years in exile in Baghdad, Baha’u’llah was ordered to Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) for another period of exile. Before leaving Baghdad, He spent 12 days in a garden on the banks of the Tigris River. The garden later was named Ridvan, meaning “Paradise” or “good pleasure” in Arabic.
As His followers gathered around Him, Baha’u’llah announced that He was the Promised One of all earlier religions — “Him Whom God shall make manifest.” His declaration marks the beginning of the Baha’i Faith.
“Surely there could be no greater bliss than to stand in this spot, at this Hour, with the Promised One of God!” author, Druzelle Cederquist, writes on her Luminous Realities blog.
Baha’is suspend work on the holiest days of Ridvan – the first (April 21), ninth (April 29) and twelfth (May 2). These mark the day of Baha’u'llah’s arrival in the garden, the arrival of His family and the group’s departure for Constantinople.
Throughout Ridvan, Baha’is gather for devotions and attend social gatherings. It is also during this time that elections take place for Baha’i governing bodies.