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Today marks the first day of Ridvan, the holiest period of the year for members of the Baha’i faith, a religion that began in modern-day Iran and has major temples in IsraelIllinois and India. (Photo below shows me at the Lotus Temple in New Delhi a few years ago — very impressive building.)

lotus temple.jpg

The holiday runs April 21 to May 2, commemorating founder Baha’ullah’s declaration as God’s messenger. In America, adherents will both pray and organize; an official press release states that hundreds of American Baha’i communities will elect nine-member Local Spiritual Assemblies to manage affairs for the next year and send 171 delegates to the Baha’i Temple near Chicago to elect their National Spiritual Assembly or nine-member national governing council for 2010-2011.

For more on the festival, check out this Beliefnet column by Randolph Dobbs, a Baha’i leader in California.

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