The moment I stepped inside I heard the most powerful sound of all: Silence. I was overwhelmed. It was no ordinary silence. It was silence that was saying something, that this was a sacred place and I should be silent to respect it. I felt as if the power of the silence was running through my veins, welcoming me into it’s holy place while reminding me to remain silent.
These were the emotions running through me when I went into the Shrine of the Bab in Haifa. Baha’is from all over the world go on a pilgrimage, in which they visit and pray at the Shrine of the Bab in Haifa and The Shrine of the Baha’ullah and the Bahji in Acco (Acre) to connect with God and pay their respects to their two holiest messengers.
Inside the shrine, two women lay their backs to the wall behind me on both sides, praying to connect themselves closer with the Bab. At the back of the interior was where the Bab is buried. Carpets lay out all over the square floor. Endless sets of candles displayed creating an image of unique composition. Four chandeliers set at the corners of the square room, with one magnificent chandelier dazzling in the middle over the square floor. Red petals laid out face down in front as if they were a placed there as a sign of mourning and honor for the Bab.
A few weeks later, I continued my pilgrimage to the site of the Bab’s successor and the holiest site of the Baha’I Faith: The Shrine and Bahji of the Baha’ullah in Acco.
I walked through a white arching balcony as if I was entering a castle and into its courtyard. There was a long narrow path in between tall trees on each side, which led to the Shrine and the Bahji (Mansion) of the Baha’ullah. Once I reached the end, with no trees blocking my view, I saw the most indescribably beautiful image I had ever seen.
You would have thought it was humanely impossible to put together such a beautiful place. I thought I was in the Garden of Eden. It was so big, so green, so evenly cut and clean. Bushes
Bushes were shaped into perfect squares.
Pots of red and purple roses on the sides of the paths of the garden’s maze.
Sculptures of eagles and babies sitting on a fountain in between the roses.
Flowers designed in shapes of stars, dropped down one level, so when you walked over you would look a few feet down and see a beautifully carved star in the grass with yellow and orange flowers coloring it in.
I could smell the fresh scents of the many different kinds of flowers, whether red, purple, yellow, or organge. They all mixed together to create a unique scent.
Tall and thin trees stood mightily on the far sides. I found myself in the middle of a huge garden with these tall trees towering above me from perhaps 100 feet away. It was an incredibly overwhelming feeling.
Down at the end, was the Shrine of the Baha’ullah, where is laid to rest, and to it’s left the Bahji, a Mansion where the Baha’ullah lived the last 12 years of his life (1879-1891). It was a huge mansion with blue colored on the doors up on it’s balcony.
We were all instructed to take off our shoes before entering the shrine, to respect the religious integrity of the Baha’i Faith’s holy site. And again, just like Haifa, the very moment I stepped foot onto the first of many Persian rugs laid down on the ground, I heard the most powerful sound again: silence.
I was taken into a different world. I could sense the entire group’s awe as we walked around small square room with Persian carpets laid down on a path circling a small garden in the middle of the room.
Lamps lit around the inside garden.
Rooms for prayer were on the sides with carpets hanging as curtains.
And then, there was the memorial site. In the corner of the room, people lined up to peak through a small squared cage on the wall. Above it was a golden colored clock with the word “Baha’ullah” written inside of it in Arabic script. (Baha’i scriptures were originally written in Persian, but are usually written in Arabic these days).
It was damp inside with lamps inside lit along with many glowing candles, some with fire, some with electricity, around a chandelier on a carpet where the Baha’ullah is laid to rest.
I couldn’t describe the emotions running through my mind. I was in the presence of the resting place of the Baha’ullah, the most important figure of the newest Persian religion. It was only over a century ago when he lived next door.
The Baha’ullah settled in Akko, Israel in 1879 where he lived the last 12 years of his life. Back then, he would embrace Baha’i pilgrims to come, pray, and preach and teach them god’s messages. Baha’is to this day come to meditate in the rooms covered with the carpet curtains to connect with god and the holy messengers.
May 29th is the day most Baha’is around the world come to the Shrine of the Baha’ullah because that was when he passed away. This May will mark the 124th year anniversary of his passing and I hope to observe the commemoration.