RELIGIONS IN NEPAL

Nepal was formerly the world's only constitutionally declared Hindu state, but following the movement for democracy in early 2006 and the breaking of King Gyanendra's power, the Nepali Parliament amended the constitution to make Nepal a secular state.
According to the 2001 census, 80.6 percent of Nepalese are Hindu, 10.7 percent are Buddhist, 4.4% are Muslim, 3.6 percent are Kirat (an indigenous religion with Hindu influence), 0.5 percent are Christian, and 0.4 percent are classified as other groups such as Bön religion. Although the population is mostly Hindu, since the 1971 census Hindus have shown the greatest decline as a proportion of the population, and Buddhists and Kirats have increased the most: in 1971 Hindus were 89.4 percent of the population, Buddhists 7.5 percent, and Kirats statistically 0 percent. However, statistics on religious groups are complicated by the ubiquity of dual faith practices, particularly among Hindus and Buddhists. Moreover, shifts in the population's religious composition also reflect political changes.

The geographical distribution of religious groups in the early 1990s revealed a preponderance of Hindus, accounting for at least 87 percent of the population in every region. The largest concentrations of Buddhists were found in the eastern hills, the Kathmandu Valley, and the central Tarai; in each area about 10 percent of the people were Buddhist. Buddhism was more common among the Newar and Tibeto-Nepalese groups. Among the Tibeto-Nepalese, those most influenced by Hinduism were the Magar, Sunwar, and Rai peoples. Hindu influence was less prominent among the Gurung, Limbu, Bhote, and Thakali groups, who continued to employ Buddhist monks for their religious ceremonies. Since both Hinduism as well as Buddhism are Dharmic religions, they usually accept each others practices and many people practice a combination of both.

Establishment of Nepal by Ne Muni
He used to perform religious ceremonies at Teku, the confluence of the Bagmati and Bishnumati rivers. He is said by legend to have selected a pious cowherd to be the first of the many kings of the Gopala Dynasty. These rulers are said to have ruled Nepal for over 500 years. He selected Bhuktaman to be the first king in the line of the Gopal (Cowherd) Dynasty. The Gopal dynasty ruled for 621 years. Yakshya Gupta was the last king of this dynasty.However,this mythology can be challenged as no such name as Ne exists in Nepali or other Sanskrit-derived languages.

Flag of Nepal
It is believed that Lord Vishnu had organized the Nepali people and given them this flag, with the sun and moon as emblems on it. In a Hindu Purana, it is written that it was Lord Shiva who handed the flag to Lord Vishnu, and then Lord Vishnu to Lord Indra, for the purpose for battling demons.

Gorakhnath and Gurkhas
It is said that Gorakhnath came to Nepal in the reign of the 8th Thakuri King. The Gurkhas of Nepal are the descendants of Gorakhnath of the Nath sect. Gorakhnath was a disciple of Machendranath, a backward-caste saint. Machendrajatra is a national festival in Nepal to celebrate the birth of the saint. The Gurkha war-cry to this day is "Guru Gorakhnath ki jai". According to a Terai myth, when the Pandavas were ascending to heaven, they all fell, but Bhima from the Pandava brothers was rescued by Gorakhnath. One Nepalese myth says that as Gorakhnath arrived in Nepal, the terrible dought in occurring in the period halted!

Buddhism in Nepal
Buddha was born in Shakya kingdom which lies in Rupandehi district, Lumbini zone of Nepal. 10.74% of Nepal's population practice Buddhism, consisting mainly of groups of Tibeto-Burman origin.
Buddhist influences are evident in the culture of Nepal because Buddha was born in Nepal. It has strong Buddhist background and has played role in spread of Buddhism to Tibet. Nepalese princess Bhrikuti played a significant role in development of Buddhism in Tibet and Far East. Tibetan Buddhist architecture has long been influenced by Nepalese artists and sculptors like Araniko. The sacred Buddhist texts in Mahayana Buddhism are mainly written in Ranjana script (the script of Newars) or scripts like Lantsa which are derived from Ranjana.

In traditional Nepalese Buddhism, there are nine special texts which are called the "Nine Dharma Jewels", and these are considered the nine books of Buddhism par excellence:


  • Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra
  • Gaṇḍavyūha Sūtra
  • Daśabhūmika Sūtra
  • Samādhirāja Sūtra
  • Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra
  • Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra
  • Tathāgataguhya Sūtra
  • Lalitavistara Sūtra
  • Suvarṇaprabhāsa Sūtra

Among the Tibeto-Burman tribes, Tibetan Buddhism is the most widely practised form. Newar practice Newar variant of Vajrayana Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism. Many Buddhist groups are also influenced by Hinduism.

Buddhism is the dominant religion of the thinly-populated northern areas, which are inhabited by Tibetan-related peoples, namely the Sherpa, Lopa, Manangi, Thakali, Lhomi, Dolpa and Nyimba. They constitute a small minority of the country's population.

Ethnic groups that live in central Nepal, such as Gurung, Lepcha, Tamang, Magar, Newar, Yakkha, Thami, Chhantyal and Chepang, are also followers of Buddhism. These ethnic groups have larger populations compared to their northern neighbours. They came under the influence of Hinduism due to their close contacts with the Hindu castes. In turn, many of them eventually adopted Hinduism and have been largely integrated into the caste system.

The Kirant tribes, especially the Limbu and the Rai, have also adopted Tibetan Buddhist practises from their Buddhist neighbours. The Jirel, which is considered a Kirata tribe, have also adopted Tibetan Buddhism.

Christianity in Nepal
Protestant Christians came to Nepal primarily through the Nepalese who were living outside of Nepal during and prior to the Rana Regime. After the collapse of Ranas rule in Nepal in 1950, Nepali Christians living in India came in and along with them some western missionaries also came in. United Mission to Nepal, International Nepal Fellowship and others are a few earliest western mission agencies that came in and brought the protestant influence. Till today Protestantism accounts for about 0.45% of the population.


  •  In 1960s, only a handful of Christians were reported to be in Nepal.
  •  In 1970s, the number of Christians was reported to be over three thousand.
  •  In 1980s, this was the period of severe persecution of Christians by the State, but this was also the period of rapid growth.
  •  In 1990s, the democratic revolution of the 1990 also brought relief to the persecuted Church and along with it the unprecedented growth. The number of Christians was reported to be near half a million towards the end of that decade.
  •  In 2000s, the number is somewhere between half a million to one million Christians. Christianity is still growing, but often times infighting among the Christians and the competition for foreign donations have hampered the healthy growth.
Bahá'í Faith in Nepal
The Bahá'í Faith in Nepal begins after a Nepalese leader encountered the religion in his travels before World War II. Following World War II, the first known Bahá'í to entire Nepal was about 1952 in the person N. P. Sinha who moved to Birganj and the first Nepalese Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly elected in 1959, and its National Assembly in 1972. For a period of time, between 1976 and 1981, all assemblies were dissolved due to legal restrictions. The 2001 census reported 1211 Bahá'ís, and since the 1990s the Bahá'í community of Nepal has been involved in a number of interfaith organizations including the Inter-religious Council of Nepal promoting peace in the country.

In the 1920-1940 period Col. Raja Jai Prithvi Bahadur Singh, Raja Of Bajang, traveled to Europe and the Americas and heard of the Bahá'í Faith through contact with individuals like Lady Blomfield.

The first known entry of members of the Bahá'í Faith to Nepal was about 1952 by N. P. Sinha, an Indian Bahá'í, to Birganj soon followed by Kedarnath Pradhan who was from Sikkim before moving to Kathmandu along with his family. News of the religion also arrived following a United Nations conference in Colombo at which Nepalese delegates expressed interest in the religion. Following conversions and further pioneers the first Local Spiritual Assembly in Nepal was that of Kathmandu city which was elected in 1959. In 1960 there assemblies in Kathmandu, Dohlka Shahr, and Bhaktapur and smaller groups of Bahá'ís in Dharan, Baklong, Pokhara, and Biratnagar; and over one hundred members of the religion.

By 1963 the local assemblies of Nepal included: Bhaktapur, Biratnagar, Dharan, Kathmandu, and Pokhara, with small groups of Bahá'ís in Bodegaon, Dabeha, Nalar, and Dolkhashahr. Isolated Bahá'ís were in Bakloong, Damdame, Rakhughati, and Rakheshwav and Hand of the Cause John Esslemont's Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era was translated into Nepalese. Perhaps the first Hand of the Cause to visit Nepal was Rúhíyyih Khanum in 1964. In 1967 ambassador Ram Prasad Manandhar visited the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, USA. In 1969 Hand of the Cause Adelbert Mühlschlegel visited a number of central Asian countries including Nepal at the request of the Universal House of Justice. In August 1971 youth from Nepal were among the attendees at a western Asian Bahá'í youth conference in India.

With Hand of the Cause Ali-Akbar Furutan representing the Universal House of Justice, the Bahá'ís of Nepal held their first national convention to elect their National Spiritual Assembly in 1972 during the reign of King Mahendra. The convention had forty delegates. The members of the first national assembly were: Amar Pradhan, Shyam Maherjan, Jujubhai Sakya, Aranda Lal Shrestha, Dinesh Verma, Keith de Folo, W. F. Chaittonalla, P. N. Rai, D. K. Malla - from Buddhist, Hindu, Christian backgrounds. In November 1972 delegates from the local assemblies of the Narayani Zone gathered for a local conference on the progress of the religion to study Bahá'í history, Bahá'í administration in general and specifically electing local assemblies, and Bahá'í teachings.

The national and local assemblies were all dissolved between 1976 and 1981 due to legal restrictions. However Bahá'ís from Nepal were able to attend the October 1977 Asian Bahá'í Women's Conference with Hand of the Cause Rúhíyyih Khanum after which she toured in Nepal including addressing some 700 students at the Padma Kanya Women's College. In May 1981 45 Nepalese Bahá'ís from various localities attended a conference at the national center in Kathmandu. A highlight of the weekend conference was the first showing in Nepal of the film The Green Light Expedition about Rúhíyyih Khanum's trip up the Amazon River. The local and national assemblies were reelected in and since 1982 - this dissolution and reformation was during the reign of King Birendra. When the national convention gathered there were 25 delegates. In 1983 there is comment that a distinguishing effect of pioneers was that they "not only took an interest in our troubles, they also looked on conditions in Nepal as their own and talked about our problems as their problems." Hand of the Cause Collis Featherstone attended the 1983 national convention. In 1984 the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Nepal printed "Selected Writings on Baha'i Administration" in parallel English and Nepali scripts.[26] Later in 1984 Nepalese Bahá'ís attended the conference at the almost completed Lotus Temple. By 1985 the Bahá'ís assembly of Malangwa has established a school that has about 30 students, several of whom receive scholarships. Low and high caste children eat and drink together, and the villagers have accepted that Bahá'í schools do not observe customs concerning caste. In 1988 the national assembly had expanded and improved its adult literacy program. In 1989 representatives of the national Assemblies of Nepal along with the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Bangladesh, India, Sikkim and Sri Lanka along with Continental Counselors and members of sub-regional councils in India met in Pune, India to discuss creating a unified vision of the religion and its progress across the sub-continent.

On 29 September 1990 Hand of the Cause Collis Featherstone died and is buried in Kathmandu.

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