Society

Religious Beliefs In Nepal

A Hindu kingdom until fairly recently, the majority of people in the modern, secular republic remain Hindu.

Hinduism

According to local traditions and many historians in Nepal, the country was founded by a Hindu sage who was named Ne during prehistoric times. Ne had moved to the valley of Kathmandu and was the one who name the country Nepal and he was the person who chose the first king of the Gopala Dynasty. Since then Nepal has had various Hindu Kingdoms over the centuries, with the last one being the Kingdom of Nepal (1769-2008), which founded by Prithvi Narayan Shah (1723-1775) who had unified what is now modern day Nepal. In 1990 after the Jana Andolan movement the country became a Constitutional Monarchy and then in 2008 the monarchy was completely abolished and the last king, Gyanendra of Nepal, was exiled to India. This officially marked the end of the Hindu kingdom of Nepal, which was the only one left on the planet. The vast majority of people in Nepal identify as being Hindu. The majority of districts and ethnic groups in the country are also at least 50% Hindu.

Buddhism

Prince Siddhartha, the man who would become Gautama Buddha (563-483 B.C.), is believed to have been born in the Shakya Kingdom's (1750-500 B.C.) capital city of Kapilavastu, which was located in what is now Nepal. Buddhism has been in Nepal for millennial and Buddhism and Hinduism have become so entwined to such an extent that in many locations both religions share the same place of worship and shared the same deities. In the early 600s, the Nepali princess Bhrikuti is believed that have had a major role in spreading Buddhism to neighboring Tibet. Tibetan Buddhism is the most practiced form of Buddhism in the country, with Newar Buddhism has being practiced. In the sparsely populated northern parts of Nepal, Buddhism is the dominant religion among the ethnic groups there, including the Sherpa, Dolpa, and Lopa, among others.

Islam

In the 1350s the Sultan of Bengal, Shamsuddin llyas Shah, attacked Nepal, and during the attack Bengali Muslims occupied villages in the former Newar Kingdom of the Nepal Mandala. After this time, the King of the Malla Dynasty granted the Muslims a portion of land to live on and over the centuries a new unique group formed called Newar Islam. At some point in the late 1400s or early 1500s Kashmiri Muslims came to Nepal and settled in the capital of Kathmandu. Today, the descendants of these migrants still live in the capital city, but there are only around 2,000 of them. Some newer Kashmiri Muslims have arrived since the 1970's but they have basically no interaction with the older Kashmiri Muslims who have been living in Nepal. During the 1500 and 1600s Miyan Muslims originally were invited to Nepal from northern India to help in the manufacturing of military arms.Today most Miyan Muslims live in the central and western areas of Nepal, with most of them today working as farmers and having been influenced over the centuries by the Hindu hill milieu. The largest group of Muslims in Nepal are the Madhesh Muslims, who made up around 74% of the country's Muslim population. No one knows exactly when the Madhesh Muslims arrived in Nepal but they have been in the country since Nepal was unified in 1769, while other Madhesh Muslims arrived since the 1800s from the Middle East and Egypt. Most Madhesh Muslims today work as farmers or in agriculture and as since as leaders in the reform and revival of Islam. Tibetan Muslims mostly arrived into Nepal from Tibet following China taking over there country in the 1950s, while some have come from the region of Ladakh in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Today most Tibetan Muslims work as traders and merchants and are on average the most wealthy of all the Muslims groups in Nepal.

Kirat Mundhum

Kirat Mundham is a religion that is practiced by the Kirati people, who live primarily in Nepal, India, and Myanmar. All four groups of the Kirati, the Limbu, Rai, Sunuwar and Yakkha, are mostly located in Nepal. The religion is believed to be a mix of animism, Saivism and Buddhism. The Mundhum is the religious scripture, folk literature and guide for the religion and all of the different Kirati groups have a slightly different version of it. The Kirats also have a nakchong (tribal priest) who performed sacred rituals for the worship of the sun, moon, wind, fire, nature and ones ancestors. Three of the major festivals that all of the Kirati groups celebrate are the Udhauli festivals, one is for full moon day in the month of Baisakh and the other is in the month of Mangh, and the new year festival of Yele Sambat.

Christianity

The first known contact that Nepal had with Christianity came in 1628 when the Portuguese Jesuit missionary Father Juan Cabral met with the King of Nepal, Lakshminarasimha Malla. The King of Nepal proffered him the authority of Tamara Patra, which allowed him to preach to the people of Nepal. The next visit by missionaries to the country was a short visit in 1661 by Austrian Johann Grueber and Belgian Albert d'Orville. The last two missionaries were Capuchin Fathers who came from Rome and in 1707 arrived in Kathmandu, where they lived until 1769 when they exiled to India after the conquest of Nepal by Prithvi Narayan Shah. In 1932 the first Nepali Christian Pastor, Ganga Prasad Pradhan (1851-1932), along with the help of Scottish missionaries translated the Bible into Nepali. In 1950 missionaries were once again allowed to legally come to Nepal for the first time in 181 years, but could not preach with the goal of trying to convert people as it was still illegal to do, so they instead focused on helping the people of Nepal in terms of social services, health care and education. Since 2008 when Nepal became a secular state, Christmas has became a government holiday and missionary activities with the goal of converting people has greatly increased.

Bahá'i

The Bahá'í Faith first entered Nepal in 1952, and by 1959 the first Nepalese Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly had been formed and had members elected. In 1972 the Bahá'í National Assembly in Nepal was elected, but all Bahá'í assembly were dissolved from 1976 until 1981 due to legal restrictions, and then brought back again in 1982. The Bahá'í community of Nepall has been very involved in socioeconomic development and in interfaith organizations in Nepal. The number of Bahá'í in Nepal is estimate to only be between 1,000 to 5,000 people.

Judaism

In 1986, the Israeli embassy in the capital of Nepal decided to organize a Passover celebration for the thousands of Israelis who made yearly visits to the country. This was the first organized practice of the religion in Nepal's history. This Passover celebration has been going on every year since then, though in 1999 the Chabad movement in Nepal took over the responsibilities of hosting the event, with the Chabad house opening in the capital of Kathmandu in 2000. Since then two more houses have opened in the cities of Pokhara and Manang.

Religious Beliefs In Nepal

RankBelief SystemShare of Nepalese Population
1Hinduism81.3%
2Buddhism9.0%
3Islam4.4%
4Kirat Mundhum
3.0%
5Christianity1.4%

Other Beliefs0.9%

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