The Twelfth Day of Ridvan
Ridvan is a twelve day festival celebrated in the Baha’i faith. This festival celebrates the commencement of the prophethood of Baha’u’llah, the founder of Baha’i. The festival starts at sunset on April 201h and ends at sunset on May 2nd. It is the holiest of Baha’i festivals. The twelfth day of Ridvan is the last day of the festival and signals the end of the holiday period.
The Baha’i faith is a monotheistic religion that is currently one of the fastest growing religions in the world. It is the world’s youngest independent religion and is known for its unity as it has not divided into various subgroups and sects. Baha’i represents a cross section of humanity as its adherents come from most every ethnic group, country, culture, and profession.
Ridvan means “paradise” in the Persian language and is named for the Garden of Ridvan, located outside of Baghdad. After Baha’u’llah was exiled from Baghdad in 1863 by the Ottoman Empire, and he stayed in the Garden of Ridvan for twelve days before leaving for Constantinople (present day Istanbul).
Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi, more commonly known as the Bab, is one of the central figures in the Bahai faith. He was the forerunner of Baha’u’llah and was the founder of Babism. He soon acquired tens of thousands of supporters but his religious movement was suppressed by the Iranian government and many of the followers were jailed or killed. In 1850, the Bab was executed by firing squad. In many of his writings, the Bab alluded to a Promised One. Prior to his death, he sent a letter to the younger brother of Baha’u’llah and appointed him leader of the Babi faith. This was purportedly done to divert attention from the real prophet, Baha’u’llah.
While in prison in 1853, Baha’u’llah experienced a revelation from God in which he learned that he was a prophet of God. Baha’u’llah was first exiled to Baghdad from Teheran in Persia in 1853, and for ten years he did not tell anyone of his revelation. In 1863, authorities feared that he might create public unrest, and decided that he should be exiled to Constantinople. To prepare for this long journey, Baha’u’llah remained in the Garden of Ridvan. He arrived there at sunset on April 21st, and the festival now begins at sunset to commemorate this arrival time. It was on this first evening in the garden, that Baha’u’llah shared knowledge of his great revelation with anyone. After his declaration, his followers become known as Baha’i’s.
When Baha’u’llah entered the garden, he made three proclamations. First, he strictly forbade his followers to fight to advance or defend the faith. Next, he declared that there would not be another prophet for one thousand years. Last, he proclaimed that all the names of God were in all things at the moment.
During his time in Constantinople, he wrote a series of letters to the world’s leader including Emperor Napoleon III of France, Queen Victoria of England, and Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany. He warned that there would be catastrophic upheavals in the world’s social and political order. He urged the world leaders to pursue policies of peace and justice. The Turkish government eventually exiled him to Acre, a penal city in Palestine. He spent the remainder of his life there and died in 1892.
The first, ninth and twelfth days of the festival are the holiest days. The first day celebrates arrival of Baha’u’llah in the Garden of Ridvan, and it is on this day each year that Baha’i administrative year begins with the election of local and national spiritual assemblies. The ninth day celebrates the arrival of his family, and the twelfth day of Ridvan celebrates the day that Baha’u’llah and his family and friends left the garden to begin his journey to Constantinople.
On all three days, school and work is suspended. People observe prayers, religious meetings, and enjoy celebrations. These celebrations include feasts, the giving of gifts, and the giving of alms to the poor and needy. During this time, members of the Bahai faith rededicate their efforts to fulfill the aspirations of people of all faiths to transform the world into a prosperous peaceful place. The twelfth day of Ridvan officially ends the festival and marks a return to normal every day life. However, the spirit of the Baha’i faith should continue throughout the year.