From April 21 to May 2, Baha’is observe the Festival of Rezvan. This most holy day commemorates the anniversary of Bahá’u’lláh’s declaration in 1863 that He was the Promised One of all earlier religions. April 21, 1863 marks the beginning of the Baha’i Faith.
Bahá’u’lláh was first banished from His native land in 1852, the beginning of 40 years of exile, and persecution. He was sent first to neighboring Baghdad. Fearing that Bahá’u’lláh’s acclaim would re-ignite popular enthusiasm for the Babi movement in Persia, the Shah’s government successfully convinced the Ottoman authorities to send him farther into exile.
In April 1863, before leaving Baghdad, Bahá’u’lláh and His companions camped in a garden on the banks of the Tigris River. From 21 April to 2 May, Bahá’u’lláh shared with those Bábis in His company that He was the Promised One foretold by the Báb and in all the world’s scriptures.
The garden became known as the Garden of Rezvan (Paradise). The anniversary of the twelve days spent there are celebrated in the Bahá’í world as the most joyous of holidays, known as the Rezvan Festival.
On 3 May 1863, Bahá’u’lláh rode out of Baghdad, on His way to Constantinople (now Istanbul), accompanied by His family and selected companions. He had become an immensely popular and cherished figure. Eyewitnesses described the departure in moving terms, noting the tears of many scholars, government officials and onlookers and the honor paid to Him by the authorities.
Baha’is celebrate the Rezvan Festival through devotions and social gatherings.
Annually, at this time, Baha’is also elect members of local and national administrative bodies, called Spiritual Assemblies. Baha’u’llah taught that in an age of universal education, there was no longer a need for a special class of clergy. Instead, he provided a framework for administering the affairs of the Faith through a sytem of elected councils at the local, national and international levels.
Baha’i elections occur through secret ballot and plurality vote, without candidacies, nominations or campaigning.
In 1868, Bahá’u’lláh and His family arrived in the harsh penal colony of the Ottoman Empire, Acre. This was the final stage in His long exile and where he was to spend the rest of His life, in Acre and its environs.
On 29 May 1892, Bahá’u’lláh passed away. His remains were laid to rest in a garden room adjoining a restored mansion, which is known as Bahji. For Bahá’ís, this spot is the most holy place on earth.