The Baha’i religion was propounded and propagated by Baha’u’llah in the 19th century. The religion was solely based on monotheistic principles and had gained a great deal of followers.
The resounding reason for the propagation and founding of this religion was to create an equality and unity among all human beings, without any kind of bias and disrespect towards each other.
The Baha’i Holiday calendar is also an effort to create a complete and comprehensive calendar for the followers of the Baha’i religion.
These festivals and observances are commemorated the world over by the believers. There are in totality nine annual Baha’i festivals along with an annual fast. All the holidays and observances are intricately connected with the events of the life of the founder of the Baha’i faith.
The Baha’i faith followers do not work on holy days. There are also two further special days, but those days work is not suspended as they were promoted by Abdu’l-Bahá, the eldest son of Baha’u’llah. The eldest son always considered himself to be the mere servant of his father and thus those two days are not proper holidays.
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The Baha’i calendar is followed in the pattern of solar calendar and also includes a leap year after every four year. The Baha’i calendar has 19 months all of which has 19 days. The calendar also has some additional days which are known as the ‘Intercalary Days’.
The Baha’i calendar is also known as Badi which in literal terms mean beautiful, wonderful or unique. Other than the Baha’i New Year celebration, the other celebrations all are based on the founder or significant propagators of this religion. As mentioned earlier the nine days of importance also means complete abstinence from work and it requires people to stay away from work.
Let us have a look at what the religious holidays for the Baha’i faith are and what are their significance-
- Naw-Ruz (Baha’i New Year)- March 21st – Tuesday – this is the Baha’i New year day. It is observed on the day of the vernal equinox and is in general an extremely joyous occasion as it comes at the end of the nineteen day period of the annual fasting. Prayers are offered and the day is marked with joyous festivities all around. There is a lot of amusement and gaiety attached to this observance all over the world. This date is the one which has been celebrated as the New Year in Persia for thousands of years. This is a time for profound spiritual introspection for the Baha’is.
- Festival of Ridvan (Declaration of Baha’Ullah) – April 21st – Friday – this festivity marks Bahaullah’s departure from Baghdad to Constantinople in 1863 to commence as a prophet. A twelve daylong celebration ensues from this day. The first day commemorated the momentous occasion when he arrived at the Najíbíyyih Garden where he declared his mission. On this day people abstain from work.
- Declaration of the Bab – May 23rd – Tuesday – the Bab declared of his mission for which he has travelled to the Mullá Husayn on this day in 1844. This momentous occasion marks the inception of foundation of the Bahá’í era. This is one of the most important festivals in the Baha’i calendar. The Bab revealed to the world that he was the one who would be bringing forth the messages of unity, peace and justice directly from God. Commemorations are generally held about 2 hours after sunset.
- Ascension of the Baha’u’llah – May 29th – Monday – this is the day which marks the transgression of Bahaullah, the founder and prophet of this religion, from this life to the other life. He passed away in the year 1892 and was aged 75 at that time. When he passed away he was living in exile in the outskirts of Akka in a small house later came to be known as bahji. Work is suspended on this sorrowful day.
- Martyrdom of the Bab- July 9th – Sunday – in the year 1850,on this day the prophet of the Baha’i faith Siyyid Ali Muhammed, was brutally murdered. And martyred. After he had spent 3 years in the prison, he was mercilessly killed in front of the firing squad. After killing him, his body was thrown away at the outskirts of the city, from where the disciples rescued the body in the dark of the night. The dead body was preserved in a wooden casket and taken from place to place. Finally on 1909 the ‘Abdu’l-Bahá could build a shrine and the body was kept inside that. This was in Mt Carmel. Work is suspended on this day.
- Birth of the Bab- October 20th – Friday – An auspicious day for the followers of the Baha’i religion. This day commemorates the birth of Siyyid Ali Muhammad, who was a doyen of the religion. He was born in 1819. Work is suspended on this day.
- Birth of Baha’u’llah – November 12th – Sunday – this auspicious day marks the birth of Bahaullah, who was the founder of the Baha’i religion and was also an eminent philosopher. This is also a day when people are expected to abstain from work and pray in peace.
- Day of the Covenant – November 26th – Sunday – This auspicious day marks the appointment of Abdul Baha, who was the eldest son of Bahaullah as the “Center of His Covenant”. According to a different opinion, since Abdul Baha’s birthday fell on the May 23rd, the day of the Declaration of the Bab, there were requests for him to name a day when he could be celebrated and he had named this date. However, work is not suspended on this day, as Abdul Baha himself was a very humble man and considered himself nothing but a servant to his father.
- Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Baha – November 28th – Tuesday – This sad day marks the death anniversary of Abdul Baha, the eldest son of Bahaullah. He passed away on the year 1921. He was the successor of Bahaullah. This day is not traditionally considered holy and thus abstinence from work is in no way required.
Apart from these observances there are three more observances which are considered holy and deserve a special mention.
- The Nineteen Days of Fasting- March 2nd Thursday to March 21st Tuesday – this was a fast initiated by Baha’u’llah himself. This is considered to be holy and most important by the followers of the Baha’i faith. Baha’u’llah had said that the Baha’is of the age between 15 and 70 should fast for these 19 days if possible abstaining from food or drink from sunrise to sunset. The fast takes place during the month of Ala, as per the Baha’i calendar. This precedes the Baha’i New Year. This period of fasting is thus considered to be a phase of spiritual preparation for embarking on the New Year. This is a period when through prayers and fasting they look and seek to find a deeper meaning of life. The Baha’i people begin the New Year with a renewed spirit and faith. During this time the local communitycongregate for prayers, reading of scriptures and enjoyment in their fellow people’s company.
- Race Unity Day – June 12th – Monday – This special day was initiated by the Baha’i religion followers in the year 1957 by the people residing in America to protest and eradicate all kinds of racial discrimination.
- World Religion Day – January 17th – Tuesday – The Third Sunday of the month of January is slated for the observance of this event. This day is observed based on the covenant that there is a world religion uniting and integrating all religious beliefs and encompassing the entire human race and all the faiths. This day was first observed in the year 1950 at the behest and enthusiasm of the Baha’i faith practitioners living in America. The Baha’i religious belief says that there is a possibility of universal brotherhood and universal peace prevailing in this world with a little help from everyone.