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Bahá'í Calendar and Festivals

by Amin Banani

published in Encyclopaedia Iranica, Volume 3
New York: Columbia University, 1989
The notion of renewal of time, implicit in most religious dispensations, is made explicit in the writings of the Bāb and Bahāʾ-Allāh. To give this spiritual metaphor a concrete frame and to signalize the importance of the dispensation which he came to herald, the Bāb inaugurated a new calendar. In a significant break with the Islamic system, he abandoned the lunar month and adopted the solar year, commencing with the astronomically fixed vernal equinox (March 21), the ancient Persian new year festival of Now Rūz (Persian Bayān 6:14). Bahāʾ-Allāh confirmed this calendar in al-Ketāb al-aqdas (40:258-60; see aqdas), and ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ set the final number of Bahai holy days, i.e., festivals and commemorative days on which work is suspended, at nine per year. The Bahai year (see badīʿ) consists of 19 months of 19 days each, i.e., 361 days, with the addition of four intercalary days (five in leap years) between the 18th and the 19th months in order to adjust the calendar to the solar year. The Bāb named the months after the attributes of God. The original Arabic names and their accepted English equivalents and correspondence dates to the Gregorian calendar are shown in Chart 4, below.

The intercalary days are February 26 to March 1 inclusive. The 19th month is designated as the month of fasting. The nine holy days are: (1) festival of Now Rūz (New Year), March 21; (2) 1st day of the festival of Reżwān (Declaration of Bahāʾ-Allāh) April 21; (3) 9th day of the festival of Reżwān, April 29; (4) 12th day of the festival of Reżwān, May 2; (5) declaration of the Bāb, May 23; (6) ascension of Bahāʾ-Allāh, May 29; (7) martyrdom of the Bāb, July 9; (8) birth of the Bāb, October 20; (9) birth of Bahāʾ-Allāh, November 12.

Bibliography : The Bāb, Bayān-e fārsī, n.d., n.p. Bahāʾ-Allāh, Ketāb-e aqdas, Bombay, 1908. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, Wilmette, Ill., 1944. ʿAbd-al-Ḥamīd Ešrāq Ḵāvarī, Ayyām-e tesʿa, Tehran, 1947.


Chart 4. Bahai Calendar and Festivals
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