Every year Baha’is from all over the world and of all cultural backgrounds celebrate Naw-Ruz on the day of the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, with Tihran, the birthplace of Baha’u’llah, as its standard.
Naw-Ruz has its origins as a Zoroastrian observance in ancient Iran and, to this day, is celebrated as a cultural festival by Iranians of all religious backgrounds. In addition to being celebrated by Iranians and members of the Iranian diaspora, the observance of Naw-Ruz has also spread to many other parts of the world, and is celebrated as a cultural holiday in India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Naw-Ruz, which means “New Day”, is celebrated at the vernal equinox, on the first day of spring. It is a time of joy and celebration, with the darkness of winter coming to an end and the reappearance of light, warmth and the beauty of spring’s flowers. It is a day of new beginnings, of change and hope.
However, for Baha’is, Naw-Ruz also has deep spiritual significance. Naw-Ruz marks the end of the 19-day Baha’i Fast, which is a period of reflection and profound spiritual reinvigoration for Baha’is. Naw-Ruz was ordained by Baha’u’llah as a celebration of humanity’s “spiritual springtime”: the Baha’i dispensation.
The Baha’i dispensation began with the Declaration of the Bab, whose entire mission was to prepare the world for a Divine Teacher with a Message He considered greater than His own: Baha’u’llah. The revelation of Baha’u’llah – the latest in humanity’s long history of receiving Divine Teachings through the Messengers of God is often, in Baha’i writings, likened to the beginning of springtime.
Abdu’l-Baha spoke of the effect that Baha’u’llah’s revelation – like the revelations of the previous Manifestations of God in previous Dispensations – had on the world, and likens it to a spiritual springtime:
At the time of the vernal equinox in the material world a wonderful vibrant energy and new life-quickening is observed everywhere in the vegetable kingdom; the animal and human kingdoms are resuscitated and move forward with a new impulse. The whole world is born anew, resurrected. Gentle zephyrs are set in motion, wafting and fragrant; flowers bloom; the trees are in blossom, the air temperate and delightful; how pleasant and beautiful become the mountains, fields and meadows.
Likewise, the spiritual bounty and springtime of God quicken the world of humanity with a new animus and vivification. All the virtues which have been deposited and potential in human hearts are being revealed from that Reality as flowers and blossoms from divine gardens. It is a day of joy, a time of happiness, a period of spiritual growth. I beg of God that this divine spiritual civilization may have the fullest impression and effect upon you. May you become as growing plants. May the trees of your hearts bring forth new leaves and variegated blossoms. May ideal fruits appear from them in order that the world of humanity, which has grown and developed in material civilization, may be quickened in the bringing forth of spiritual ideals.
Surrounded by the changes in the physical world accompanying the vernal equinox and the beginning of spring, Baha’is are provided with a profoundly beautiful opportunity to contemplate on beginnings and renewal, and in particular, what it means to stand at the beginning of a new Dispensation in the history of humanity’s eternal Covenant with God.
The spiritual significance of the vernal equinox, and the promise of a New Day that the Baha’i observance of Naw-Ruz celebrates, is best captured in these words by Abdu’l-Baha:
Do you know in what day you are living? Do you realize in what dispensation you are alive? Have you not read in the holy scriptures that the consummation of the ages there shall appear a day which is the sun of all the past days?
This is the day in which the Lord of Hosts has come down from heaven on the clouds of glory! This is the day in which the inhabitants of all the world shall enter under the tent of the word of God. This is the day whose real sovereign is His Highness, The Almighty. This is the day when the East and the West shall embrace each other like unto two lovers. This is the day in which war and contention shall be forgotten. This is the day in which nations and governments will enter into an eternal bond of amity and conciliation. This century is the fulfillment of the Promised Century.
The East shall become illumined, the West perfumed and the children of men shall enter beneath the all-embracing canopy of the oneness of the world of humanity. […]
The foundation of divine religion is love, affinity and concord. Praise God that this cycle is the period of illumination! Minds have made great progress; intelligences have been unfolded; the means of unity and agreement are brought about; communication between the races of men is rapidly established. Now is the time that all of us may embrace the law of peace and treat each other with honesty and straightforwardness. Let the religious prejudices be wiped away. Let the law of racial supremacy be discontinued. Let political expediences be done away with. Let the love of country be superseded by the love of the world. Let us all deal with each other with infinite kindness. We are all the servants at the one Divine Threshold. We are all receiving the rays of truth from the same Sun of Reality. We must all believe in all of the prophets. We must all acknowledge the divine authority of all the heavenly books. We must wash our hearts free of all human prejudices. We must serve God. We must propagate the oneness of the realm of humanity. We must be the cause of the appearance of the perfections of the world of man. We must not be like the beasts of prey. We must not allow carnage and bloodshed. We must regard the blood of man as sacred. We must not shed the holy blood of man for the paltry earth. We must all agree upon one fundamental principle – that principle is the oneness of the kingdom of humanity.
In this age, Baha’u’llah has breathed the Holy Spirit into the dead body of the world. Consequently every weak soul is strengthened by these fresh divine outbreathings. Every poor man will become rich, every darkened soul will become illumined, every ignorant one will become wise, because the confirmations of the Holy Spirit are descending like unto torrents. A new era of divine consciousness is upon us. The world of humanity is going through a process of transformation. A new race is being developed. The thoughts of human brotherhood are permeating all regions. New ideals are stirring the depths of hearts and a new spirit of universal consciousness is being profoundly felt by all men.
A very blessed Naw-Ruz to all our dear readers!
In her professional life, Preethi has dabbled in various combinations of education, community development and law. At heart, though, she's an overgrown child who thinks the world is one giant playground. She's currently on a quest to make learning come alive for young people and to bring the world's stories and cultures to them, with educational resources from One Story Learning