149 Years Later …

Article contributed by Niloofar Davidson

“Arise, and proclaim unto the entire creation the tidings that He Who is the All-Merciful hath directed His steps towards the Ridván and entered it.”

 (Bahá’u'lláh 1990, Gleanings from the writings of Bahá’u'lláh US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 31)

The end of April is beautiful in Canberra. Almost every suburb is speckled with red and gold burnished foliage, the cockatoos are rummaging through grass and leaves, and the air is perfect for a brisk evening walk. At the Bahá’í Centre in Weston, watchful kangaroos line the driveway in the dusk light, welcoming us on our way. A feeling of warmth rushes over me at the sight. This is the beginning of the Festival of Ridván.

In 1863 Bahá’u'lláh, the prophet-founder of the Bahá’í Faith, during a twelve day sojourn in a garden outside the city of Baghdad proclaimed His message. He was about to be exiled by the government authorities of the Ottoman Empire to the city of Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) for no other reason than that He continued to encourage and teach love and harmony between the various peoples, ethnicities and religions of Baghdad. To His family and friends gathered in the garden with Him He announced that He was the Promised One of all the religions, the messenger of God for this day:

“The utterance of God is a lamp, whose light is these words: Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship. He Who is the Day Star of Truth beareth Me witness! So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.”
(Bahá’u'lláh 1990, Gleanings from the writings of Bahá’u'lláh US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 288)

Having already suffered innumerable hardships, including imprisonment and exile from His native Persia, and about to suffer continued exile and imprisonment for the rest of His earthly days, He showed only love and compassion towards His companions. Every day in the garden He would hand out roses to those who gathered in His presence. His followers named that garden the Garden of Ridván (paradise).

Over the years that followed, Bahá’u'lláh revealed guidance for the spiritual and material progress and wellbeing of humanity. Among these was the blue-print for an administrative order that operates from the grass-roots level in the form of Local Spiritual Assemblies, a council of nine adults elected by anonymous ballot every year. An illustration of the spiritual heart and foundation of the administration, these elections are held on the eve of the Festival of Ridván.

There are Bahá’ís in every country, participating in the spiritual and social life of their communities and striving to apply Bahá’u'lláh’s teachings in all facets of life. And now, 149 years later, half-way around the world a community of His followers here in Canberra gather to reflect on that momentous time Bahá’u'lláh and His companions spent in the Garden of Ridván:

“Rejoice with exceeding gladness, O people of Bahá, as ye call to remembrance the Day of supreme felicity, the Day whereon the Tongue of the Ancient of Days hath spoken, as He departed from His House, proceeding to the Spot from which He shed upon the whole of creation the splendours of His name, the All-Merciful.”
(Bahá’u'lláh 1990, Gleanings from the writings of Bahá’u'lláh US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 35)


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