Garden of Ridván, Baghdad

Garden of Ridván, Baghdad

The Garden of Ridván (literally garden of paradise) or Najibiyyih Garden[1] was a wooded garden in what is now Baghdad's Rusafa District, on the banks of the Tigris river. It is notable as the location where Bahá'u'lláh, founder of the Bahá'í Faith, stayed for twelve days from April 21 to May 2, 1863, after the Ottoman Empire exiled him from Baghdad and before commencing his journey to Constantinople. During his stay in this garden, Bahá'u'lláh announced to his followers that he was the messianic figure of He whom God shall make manifest, whose coming had been foretold by the Báb. These events are celebrated annually during the Festival of Ridván.[1]

Location and appearance

Baghdad in the 1850s. The garden is located at the left of this map, above the Tigris River.

The garden was located in a large agricultural area immediately north of the walls of the city of Baghdad, about 450 metres (1,480 ft) from the city's northern Mu'azzam gate. Located on the eastern bank of the Tigris River in what is now the Bab al-Mu'azzam neighbourhood of Baghdad's Rusafa District, it was directly opposite the district in which Bahá'u'lláh lived during his stay in the city, on the river's western bank.[1][2]

A ground plan drawn in the 1850s by officers of the Indian Navy (pictured) shows the garden immediately adjacent to the city's citadel, with four avenues meeting at a circular area in the centre. A structure, possibly the garden palace, is located at the edge of the garden near the riverbank.[3] The garden was described as a wooded garden[1] having four "flower-bordered avenues" lined with roses,[4] which were collected by gardeners during Bahá'u'lláh's stay and piled in the center of his tent to be offered to visitors. "So great would be the heap," the chronicler Nabíl-i-A`zam relates, "that when His companions gathered to drink their morning tea in His presence, they would be unable to see each other across it."[4] Nightingales were said to sing loudly in the garden, which, together with the fragrance of the roses, "created an atmosphere of beauty and enchantment".[nb 1][2] By the side of the river, upstream from Najib Pasha's palace, was an open space in the garden where one of Bahá'u'lláh's companions raised a tent for him, around which a small village of tents was later raised for the rest of his family.[1]

In travelling to Constantinople, Bahá'u'lláh's caravan would take a road that would bring them by the garden, thus it was a logical choice for them stop there in order to assemble and to receive visitors. Access to the garden from the opposite riverbank was possible by way of a ferry across the Tigris, as in Bahá'u'lláh's case, or by "floating bridge",[1] as in the case of the governor and other friends who followed.[1][2]

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