Thursday, September 13, 2007

Baha'i gardens

the real reason to go to Haifa is to see the Baha'i gardens. These are an absolutely magnificent series of terraced gardens spilling down the side of a hill from the peak down toward the ocean. ABout a third of the way up the hill is a shrine to a Baha'i figure called the Bab, which means "the gateway." The Bab was a man who lived before the Baha'i founder and prophecized his coming. The Bab is buried in the shrine while Bahaullah is buried in a less spectacular site further north in Israel.

We parked our car at the bottom of the hill and went up to the gate. We were allowed in by a Brazillian Baha'i young man, but we could only walk a short way up the first terrace. In the heat everyone was relieved that we weren't allowed to walk any further up into the gardens.

Then we drove up to the top and started to walk down the hill, but again access was limited to only a small section of the gardens. We never got anywhere close to the shrine at the center. The guards explained that only organized tour groups could walk throughout the gardens. The gardens were too large for them to allow people to walk unsupervised. Sadly, I got the meaning: left alone people would likely vandalize the gardens, rip up the plants and pee in the bushes and so on. A shame. But the gardens were lovely to look at, if not walk among.


Jaume said...

Actually, the Bab did not literally prophecize Baha'u'llah's coming. He referred in his writings to a mysterious figure called "The One that God Shall Make Manifest" as the final bringer of the completion of the Bab's revelation. After his untimely death, several people among his disciples rose to claim that they were "The One". Baha'u'llah was the man who got most adherents among the Bab's followers. That was the beginning of the Baha'i Faith (therefore it is incorrect to call the Bab "a Baha'i figure", since there were no Baha'is at that time).

As for organized tour groups who are allowed to visit other parts of the gardens and buildings, these are tours only for Baha'is in good standing. It is a privilege and pilgrimage for them, who in many cases wait for several years until they get permission to be in an official tour. (The visit also includes, as a highlight, the contemplation of a photograph of Baha'u'llah himself, who is otherwise never represented in pictures.)

Sneezy said...

A follower of the Bab is called a Babi. A follower of Baha'u'llah is called Baha'i. The "i" indicates "follower of" the preceding.

In English we pluralize the terms so we use Babis and Baha'is.

Jaume said...

Sneezy is right. I have also read the word "Bayani" (from the Bayan, the Bab's Holy Book) as a name for the Bab's followers today (probably only a few thousands).

Rev. Ricky said...

I take your point about not calling the Bab a Baha'i figure and I appreciate the clarification.

But it makes me think. Would you not call John the Baptist a Christian figure because he predates Jesus? For that matter Jesus himself predates Christianity, but it would be silly not to call Jesus a Christian figure.

Perhaps the most accurate language would be to say that the Bab is an important figure to Bahai's in the founding of their religion