Baháʼís commemorate Ridván, the “King of Festivals,” "The Most Great Festival"

It was during the Festival of Ridván that Baháʼu'lláh, for the first time, publicly declared His station as a Manifestation of God, as the Promised One foretold in all the world’s religions. 

Baháʼís commemorate Ridván, the “King of Festivals,” "The Most Great Festival"
Compiled by: Jaya Raju Thota, India( JRT, India)

Baháʼís all around the world will commemorate the “King of Festivals,” the holiest days of the Baha’i year, on 21st April, 29th April and 2nd May 2022.

It was during the Festival of Ridván that Baháʼu'lláh, for the first time, publicly declared His station as a Manifestation of God, as the Promised One foretold in all the world’s religions. He brought with Him a Revelation that heralded a new era – the beginning of the Baháʼí Faith.

These celebrations commemorate the beginnings of the Baháʼí Faith in 1863, in a beautiful rose garden filled with the songs of nightingales on an island in the middle of the Tigris River. Called the Garden of Riḍván, which means “paradise,” this flowering, fragrant, birdsong-filled spot witnessed the birth of the world’s newest independent religion.

On this island near the ancient city of Baghdad, the Riḍván garden marks the exact place where Baháʼu'lláh first declared his mission and inaugurated the Baháʼí Faith.

The most holy Bahá'í festival worldwide is the 12-day period known as Ridván. Named “Ridvan” for “paradise,” this sacred festival commemorates Baháʼu'lláh"s time in the Najibiyyih Garden—after He was exiled by the Ottoman Empire—and the first announcement of His prophethood. It is the day on which Bahá'u'lláh declared His Mission as a Messenger of God.

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The story of Ridván actually begins years before Baháʼu'lláh revealed His identity and took up temporary residence in the Najibiyyih Garden, with a man who called Himself “the Báb” (translated, the Gate). The year was 1844 CE when Siyyid Ali-Muhammad, of Shiraz, made the proclamation that he was the Báb—and that a Messianic figure was coming. Nine years later, the man known as Baháʼu'lláh experienced a revelation while imprisoned in Tehran, Iran: He was the Promised One foretold of by the Báb.

After release from prison, Baháʼu'lláh settled in Baghdad, which was becoming the center of the Bábis (followers of the Báb) movement. Though He made no open claims related to His Revelation, Baháʼu'lláh slowly began attracting more and more the Báb"s followers. The growing the Bábi community, along with Baha’u’llah’s increasing popularity, caused the government to exile Baháʼu'lláh from Baghdad to Constantinople.  After having packed His things, Baháʼu'lláh stayed in the Najibiyyih garden to both receive visitors and allow his family sufficient time to pack for the journey.

Precisely 31 days after Naw Rúz,, on April 21, 1863, Baháʼu'lláh moved to a garden across the Tigris River from Baghdad with His sons, secretary and a few others. In the Najibiyyih Garden, Baháʼu'lláh announced His Prophetic Mission to a small group of close friends and family. In addition, Baháʼu'lláh made three announcements: that religious war was not permissible; that there would not be another Manifestation of God for 1,000 years; and that all the names of God are fully manifest in all things. For 11 days, Baha’u’llah stayed in the Najibiyyih Garden. On the ninth day, the rest of His family joined Him; on the 12th day, the entire group departed for Constantinople.


During Ridván, those of the Baháʼí community gather, pray and hold celebrations.

Ridván is observed according to the Bahá'í calendar, and the first day begins at sunset on the thirty-second day of the Bahá'í year, which falls on either April 20 or 21. This year it is April 21, 2022. Given that the First Day of Ridván is also one of the Bahá'í Holy Days, work and school is prohibited. Baha'i's traditionally observe this holiday by gathering together in prayer and celebration.

In 1863, exactly 31 days after the celebration of New Year (Naw Rúz,), Baháʼu'lláh set forth on the first stage of what would be a four-month journey from Baghdad to Constantinople after being exiled by the governing officials of the city. Baháʼu'lláh left His house and was ferried across the Tigris River before reaching the Najibiyyih Garden, where He would spend the next 12 days farewelling friends and followers before His final departure from Baghdad. Although the occasion of Baháʼu'lláh's departure was one of sorrow, He fore-tellingly declared it the inauguration of a festival of supreme felicity and joy.

Nine days after Baháʼu'lláh's arrival in the Najibiyyih Garden, known thereafter as the Garden of Ridvan, He was joined by the rest of His family. By this time successive waves of visitors were streaming into the garden seeking the presence of Baháʼu'lláh and wishing to bid Him farewell. In a recount from Nabil in his Narrative, he describes Baháʼu'lláh walking at night among the tents of those who had come to the garden, observing aloud:

"Consider these nightingales. So great is their love for these roses, that sleepless from dusk till dawn, they warble their melodies and commune with burning passion with the object of their adoration. How then can those who claim to be afire with the rose-like beauty of the Beloved choose to sleep?"

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The last day of Baha’u’llah’s stay in the Garden of Ridván before His impending departure was one of loss and sadness for those who had to remain.

Believers and unbelievers alike sobbed and lamented. The chiefs and notables who had congregated were struck with wonder. Emotions were stirred to such depths as no tongue can describe, nor could any observer escape their contagion.

At noontime, twelve days after He had first entered the Garden, Baháʼu'lláh mounted a horse and departed the garden.

While the above mentioned Garden of Ridván refers to the Najibiyyih Garden where Baháʼu'lláh spent His last 12 days in Baghdad receiving friends who came to bid him farewell, there is in fact a second Garden of Ridván that is referred to by the Baháʼís. Fifteen years after Baháʼu'lláh had declared His mission at the original Festival of Ridvan, He eventually moved to a house outside of the prison city Akka in what is today Israel. Baháʼu'lláh’s son ʻAbdu'l-Bahá rented a small island garden of great beauty close enough to the house for Baháʼu'lláh to frequent. Baháʼu'lláh named this garden the Garden of Ridván and once even received pilgrims there over a period of nine days.

Baháʼu'lláh’s momentous declaration happened during the twelve day period before His banishment to Istanbul, Turkey (then called Constantinople). Ten years before, in 1853, the Persian government had exiled Baháʼu'lláh to Baghdad, fearing the rapid spread of his teachings and their progressive impact on society. 

In April of 1863, because His teachings continued to spread and threaten the clerics, Baháʼu'lláh faced a second exile, as described by Jinab-i-Fadil in “Star of the West, Volume 8”:

"At last the enemies of the Cause secured from the government authorities an order banishing Baháʼu'lláh from Baghdad. It first read that he should go, alone. But later this was changed, permitting his family and a few followers to accompany him. The band of exiles left Baghdad and paused, first, in a beautiful garden outside the city. Here they sojourned for twelve days. A tent was pitched for Baháʼu'lláh, and around it the tents for the others. These days in the garden are called “The days of Ridván” and they are of supreme importance, for it was then that Baháʼu'lláh declared, to a few followers, His great mission and began to build the palace of peace and unity for the world. He revealed many wonderful verses which sing the melodies of the New Day of God.


Once the twelve days of celebration and rejoicing ended, an arduous exile began. Jinab-i-Fadil continues:

When the twelve days were over, the party, mounted on horses and donkeys and guarded by Turkish soldiers, set out again. The believers who could not accompany them were utterly broken-hearted. It was as though Baha’u’llah was a king starting upon a glorious journey. Outwardly, an exile—but in his spirit a great light was shining.

The grueling trek the exiles took to Constantinople, over the deserts and mountains of Asia Minor in the heat of the summer, lasted four months. During that period Baha’u’llah proclaimed the mission of his new Faith—the oneness of humanity and peace between all nations—to a widening circle of believers. With this profound announcement, Baha’u’llah transformed the occasion of his banishment from crisis to victory.

"To Israel He was neither more nor less than the incarnation of the ‘Everlasting Father,’ the ‘Lord of Hosts’ come down ‘with ten thousands of saints’; to Christendom Christ returned ‘in the glory of the Father,’ to Shi’ih Islam the return of the Imam Husayn; to Sunni Islam the descent of the ‘Spirit of God’; to the Zoroastrians the promised Shah-Bahram; to the Hindus the reincarnation of Krishna; to the Buddhists the fifth Buddha". Shoghi Effendi, "God Passes By".


In 1863, Baháʼu'lláh stayed in a garden on the banks of the Tigris River for 12 days, during which His many admirers in the city came to bid Him farewell. Baháʼu'lláh announced to the friends gathered with Him during those days that He was God's Messenger for a new age, foretold in the world's scriptures. He called the garden they were gathered in "Ridvan," meaning "paradise.", the Universal House of Justice addresses a message to the Baha'is of the World. This year's message calls attention to the reality that "humanity's ultimate well-being is dependent upon its differences being transcended and its unity firmly established."

Local Spiritual Assemblies—that is, the governing bodies of Baháʼí communities worldwide—are elected on the first day of Ridván.

Baha’u’llah established a unique system of administration that has governed the Baháʼí community up until today. Founded on a set of unique electoral and consultative principles, the Baháʼí administrative order is organized around elected governing councils, operating at the local, national, and international levels.

In thousands of localities around the globe on the first day of Ridván, Baháʼís also vote for their local governing councils. And throughout the 12-day festival of Ridvan, national conventions are held in more than 180 countries and territories, during which delegates gather to vote for their National Spiritual Assembly, a nine-member council responsible for guiding, coordinating, and stimulating the activities of the Baha'is in its jurisdiction. Baháʼí elections are distinct for their lack of nomination and campaigning. 

Shoghi Effendi says: "Pending its establishment, and to insure uniformity throughout the East and throughout the West, all local Assemblies will have to be re-elected once a year, during the first day of Ridván, and the result of polling, if possible, be declared on that day."

At the local level, Baháʼí community life is governed by the Local Spiritual Assembly – a freely elected body of nine people who guide and administer the affairs of the community. The Local Spiritual Assembly is elected on the first day of Ridván, which begins, according to the Baháʼí calendar, at sunset on April 20 and ends at sunset on April 21.


Local Spiritual Assemblies—that is, the governing bodies of Baháʼí communities worldwide—are elected on the first day of Ridván.

Every year at Ridván, the Universal House of Justice releases a Ridván Message addressed to the Baháʼís of the world. Being the legislative authority, the Baháʼí community looks to the Universal House of Justice for counsel, guidance and direction in its spiritual and administrative affairs.

As such, in the same way Baháʼu'lláh shared His Vision of the new era that began with His Declaration at Ridvan in 1863, so too does the Universal House of Justice continue each Ridván to keep the Baháʼí community in line with it in an ever-evolving world.

Baha’u’llah wrote that since for…

"…each day there is a new problem and for every problem an expedient solution, such affairs should be referred to the Ministers of the House of Justice that they may act according to the needs and requirements of the time."

Today Baháʼis and their friends around the world remember the eve of Baháʼu'lláh’s banishment from Baghdad to Istanbul, not as a time of sorrow, regret or defeat, but as a happy festival of revelation and renewal. The Ridvan holy days demonstrate the power of the prophet of God to create good from evil, bring forth light from darkness, and win triumph from seeming subjugation. 'ʻAbdu'l-Bahá, Baháʼu'lláh’s eldest son, wrote:


"The Persian government believed the banishment of Baháʼu'lláh from Persia would be the extermination of His cause in that country. These rulers now realized that it spread more rapidly. His prestige increased, His teachings became more widely circulated. The chiefs of Persia then used their influence to have Baháʼu'lláh exiled from Baghdad. He was summoned to Constantinople by the Turkish authorities. While in Constantinople he ignored every restriction, especially the hostility of ministers of state and clergy. The official representatives of Persia again brought their influence to bear upon the Turkish authorities and succeeded in having Baháʼu'lláh banished from Constantinople to Adrianople, the object being to keep him as far away as possible from Persia and render His communication with that country more difficult. Nevertheless the Cause still spread and strengthened."

During Ridván, those of the Baháʼí communities  gather, pray and hold celebrations.

The Festival of Ridván in common Baháʼí speak refers most often to the Festival of Ridván – a 12-day yearly festival held from April 21st to May 2nd to commemorate the 12 days Baháʼu'lláh spent in the Garden of Ridván in Baghdad in 1863, during which time He declared His Prophetic Mission to His followers and announced His station as the Promised One of all religions.

Ridvan, together with the Declaration of the Bab, are designated by Baha’u’llah as “the two Most Great Festivals” and are attributed according significance in the Baháʼí calendar and celebrated as such in the Baháʼí World. 

Ridván is a twelve-day festival in the Baháʼí faith, commemorating Baháʼu'lláh's declaration that he was a Manifestation of God. It is the holiest Baháʼí festival, and is also referred to as the "Most Great Festival" and the "King of Festivals".

The 1st, 9th and 12th days of Ridván are considered Holy Days, on which work should be suspended.