The Exile of Bahá'u'lláh
Upon His release, Bahá'u'lláh was banished from His native land, the beginning of 40 years of exile, persecution. He was sent first to neighboring Baghdad. After about a year, He left for the mountainous wilderness of Kurdistan, where He entirely alone for two years. The time was spent reflecting on the implications of the task to which He had been called. The period is reminiscent of the periods of seclusion undertaken by the Founders of the world's other great Faiths, calling to mind the wanderings of 40 days and nights spent by Christ in the desert, and Muhammad's retreat in the cave on Mt. Hira.
In 1856, at the urging of the exiled Bábis,
Bahá'u'lláh returned to Baghdad. Under His renewed leadership, the stature of the
Bábi community grew and Bahá'u'lláh's reputation as a spiritual leader spread throughout the city. Fearing that
Bahá'u'lláh's acclaim would re-ignite popular enthusiasm for the movement in Persia, the Shah's government successfully 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--foretold, indeed, in all the world's scriptures.
The garden became known as the Garden of Ridvan, which indicates "paradise" in Arabic. The anniversary of the twelve days spent there are celebrated in the
Bahá'í world as the most joyous of holidays, known as the Ridvan Festival.
On 3 May 1863, Bahá'u'lláh rode out of Baghdad, on His way to Constantinople, the imperial capital, 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.
Map of Baha'u'llah's exiles - Click to enlarge
After four months in Constantinople, Bahá'u'lláh was sent as a virtual state prisoner to Adrianople (modern Edirne), arriving there on 2 December 1863. During the five years He spent there,
Bahá'u'lláh's reputation continued to grow, attracting the intense interest of scholars, government officials and diplomats.