On the Ninth Day of Ridvan, the Baha’i festival of paradise, Baha’is joyously commemorate the birth of their new Faith and its unity.
As the Tigris River reached flood stage in April of 1863, Baha’u’llah and a handful of his followers crossed over to the redolent Garden of Ridvan (Paradise), set up their tents and welcomed the divine springtime. They celebrated that holiest of human observances, the advent of a new prophet of God on Earth:
… verily, this is the spring season of God. In the Holy Books a promise is given that the springtime of God shall make itself manifest; Jerusalem, the Holy City, shall descend from heaven; Zion shall leap forth and dance; and the Holy Land shall be submerged in the ocean of divine effulgence … It is a day of joy, a time of happiness, a period of spiritual growth. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 38.
During the 12-day Ridvan period, Baha’u’llah’s declaration of his mission to a few followers in the Garden of Ridvan gave new inspiration to everyone around him, infusing the entire gathering in that garden of paradise with joy and life.
So each year Baha’is celebrate these joyous days during the Ridvan Festival, and Baha’i communities all over the world host parties and gatherings where everyone is welcome.
During that First Day of Ridvan in 1863, Baha’u’llah revealed the Suriy-i-Sabr, known as the Tablet of Job. In it, Baha’u’llah revealed one of the great themes of the Baha’i teachings, progressive revelation:
God hath sent down His Messengers to succeed to Moses and Jesus, and He will continue to do so till ‘the end that hath no end; so that His grace may, from the heaven of Divine bounty, be continually vouchsafed to mankind. – quoted by Shoghi Effendi in The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 116.
After the spring flooding on the Tigris receded sufficiently, Baha’u’llah’s family and many other followers crossed the river to join him in the Garden of Paradise. Baha’is celebrate that Ninth Day of Ridvan today, commemorating the unity of the family and the great joy of Baha’u’llah’s declaration.
Exiled by a vicious Persian despot—Nasiri’d-Din Shah, and two of his most hostile, virulent ministers, Mirza Aqasi and Amir-Nizam—Baha’u’llah, his family and his followers would soon embark on their forced exile out of Baghdad. Their perilous four-month overland journey would take them to a foreign city with an alien language and culture. Impoverished, reviled by officials and homeless by royal decree, they had no idea what tests, trials and tortures the future might hold. The capitol of the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople (now Istanbul) awaited them, infamous for its Turkish prisons and the harsh, brutal treatment it doled out to its captives.
But regardless of the dangers ahead, Baha’u’llah, his family and his companions remained joyous. During their time in Ridvan, the historian Nabil wrote about Baha’u’llah’s short sojourn in that fragrant, beautiful garden:
One night, the ninth night of the waxing moon, I happened to be one of those who watched beside His blessed tent. As the hour of midnight approached, I saw Him issue from His tent, pass by the places where some of His companions were sleeping, and begin to pace up and down the moonlit, flower-bordered avenues of the garden. So loud was the singing of the nightingales on every side that only those who were near Him could hear distinctly His voice. He continued to walk until, pausing in the midst of one of these avenues, He observed: “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?” – quoted by Shoghi Effendi in God Passes By, p. 153.
Later, Baha’u’llah wrote these lines, encouraging all humanity to respond to the Baha’i message of love, unity and peace:
Arise, and proclaim unto the entire creation the tidings that He Who is the All-Merciful hath directed His steps towards the Ridvan and entered it. Guide, then, the people unto the garden of delight which God hath made the Throne of His Paradise. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 30.