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Riḍván (Arabic: رضوان Riḍwán; Persian transliteration: Riḍván, Persian pronunciation: [ɾezvɒːn]) is a twelve-day festival in the Bahá'í Faith, commemorating Bahá'u'lláh's declaration that he was a Manifestation of God. It begins at sunset on April 19 and continues until sunset, May 1 (in 2016.) On the first (April 20), ninth (April 28) and twelfth days of Ridván (May 1), work and school should be suspended.
"Ridván" means paradise, and is named for the Garden of Ridván outside Baghdad, where Bahá'u'lláh stayed for twelve days after the Ottoman Empire exiled him from the city and before commencing his journey to Constantinople.
It is the holiest Bahá'í festival, and is also referred to as the "Most Great Festival" and the "King of Festivals".
In 1844 Siyyid `Alí-Muhammad of Shiraz proclaimed that he was "The Báb" (Arabic: "The Gate"), after a Shi'a religious concept. His followers were therefore known as Bábís. The Báb's writings introduced the concept of "He whom God shall make manifest", a Messianic figure whose coming, according to Bahá'ís, was announced in the scriptures of all of the world's great religions.
Bahá'u'lláh claimed that his mission as the Promised One of the Báb, was revealed to Him in 1853 while imprisoned in the Síyáh-Chál in Tehran, Iran. After his release from the Síyáh-Chál, Bahá'u'lláh was banished from Persia, and he settled in Baghdad, which became the centre of Bábí activity. Although he did not openly declare this prophetic mandate, he increasingly became the leader of the Bábí community.
Bahá'u'lláh's rising prominence in the city, and the revival of the Persian Bábí community, gained the attention of his enemies in Islamic clergy and the Persian government. They were eventually successful in having the Ottoman government summon Bahá'u'lláh from Baghdad to Constantinople (present-day Istanbul).
Before Bahá'u'lláh left for Constantinople, many visitors came to visit him. To allow his family to prepare for the trip, and to be able to receive all these visitors, he decided to move to the Najibiyyih garden across the Tigris river from Baghdad. He entered the garden on April 22, 1863 (31 days after Naw Ruz, which usually happens on March 21) accompanied by his sons `Abdu'l-Bahá, Mírzá Mihdí and Mírzá Muhammad `Alí, his secretary Mirza Aqa Jan and some others, and stayed there for eleven days.
After his arrival in the garden, Bahá'u'lláh announced his mission and station for the first time to a small group of family and friends. The exact nature and details of Bahá'u'lláh's declaration are unknown. Bahíyyih Khánum is reported to have said that Bahá'u'lláh stated his claim to his son `Abdu'l-Bahá and four others. While some Bábís had come to the realization that Bahá'u'lláh was claiming to be the Promised One through the many remarks and allusions that he had made during his final few months in Baghdad, it appears that most other Bábís were unaware of Bahá'u'lláh's claim until a few years later while he was in Edirne.
For the next eleven days Bahá'u'lláh received visitors including the governor of Baghdad. Bahá'u'lláh's family was not able to join Him until April 30, the ninth day, since the river had risen and made travel to the garden difficult though lasting only nine days was a comparatively mild flooding of the river. On the twelfth day of their stay in the garden, Bahá'u'lláh and his family left the garden and started on their journey to Constantinople.
In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, written during 1873, Bahá'u'lláh ordains Ridván as one of two "Most Great Festivals", along with the Declaration of the Báb. He then specified the first, ninth, and twelfth days to be holy days; these days mark the days of Bahá'u'lláh's arrival, the arrival of his family and their departure from the Ridván garden, respectively.
The Festival of Ridván is observed according to the Bahá'í calendar, and begins on the thirty-second day of the Bahá'í year, which usually falls on April 21. The festival properly starts at two hours before sunset on that day, which symbolises the time that Bahá'u'lláh entered the garden. On the first, ninth, and twelfth days, which are Bahá'í Holy Days, work is prohibited. Currently, the three holy days are usually observed with a community gathering where prayers are shared, followed with a celebration.
The time that Bahá'u'lláh spent at the Garden of Ridván, and the associated festival and celebration, has a very large significance for Bahá'ís. Bahá'u'lláh calls it one of two "Most Great Festivals" and describes the first day as "the Day of supreme felicity" and he then describes the "Garden of Ridvan as "the Spot from which He shed upon the whole of creation the splendours of his Name, the All-Merciful".
The festival is significant because of Bahá'u'lláh's private declaration to a few followers that he was "Him Whom God shall make manifest" and a Manifestation of God, and thus it forms the beginning point of the Bahá'í Faith, as distinct from the Babi religion. It is also significant because Bahá'u'lláh left his house in Baghdad, which he designated the "Most Great House", to enter the Garden of Ridván. Bahá'u'lláh compares this move from the Most Great House to the Garden of Ridván to Muhammad's travel from Mecca to Medina.
Furthermore, during Bahá'u'lláh's first day in the garden, he made three further announcements: (1) abrogating religious war, which was permitted under certain conditions in Islam and the Bábí faith; (2) that there would not be another Manifestation of God for another 1,000 years; and (3) that all the names of God were fully manifest in all things.
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