Religion in Nepal

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Religion in Nepal (2011)[1]

  Hinduism (81.3%)
  Buddhism (9.0%)
  Islam (4.4%)
  Kiratism (3.0%)
  Christianity (1.4%)
  Other (0.8%)
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, gilded bronze. Nepal, 16th century CE

Religion in Nepal encompasses a wide diversity of groups and beliefs; however, Nepal's major religion is Hinduism which accounts for 81.3% of the overall population as of 2011. According to a survey, Nepal is the most religious Hindu country throughout the world, with most of the important Hindu pilgrimage centers concentrated in this country.[2][3] It is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious nation through democracy.[4][5] Shiva is widely regarded as the guardian deity of Nepal.[6] Nepal is home to the world-famous Pashupatinath Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where Hindus throughout the world come for pilgrimage purposes. According to Hindu mythology, the goddess Sita of the epic Ramayana was born in the Mithila Kingdom of King Janaka Raja.[7] The national animal of Nepal is the cow,[8] which is considered a sacred animal in Hinduism.[9] Because of this, the slaughter of cows is illegal in Nepal.[10]

Freedom of religion is also guaranteed by the Nepali constitution, but forced conversion (direct or indirect use of money for conversion) to other religions from Hinduism is prohibited by law but anyone can convert their religion under their own discretion. Nationalists have recently protested against secularism and want to return to Hindu theocratic state.[11] Prior to the movement for democracy in early 2006 and the sacking of King Gyanendra in 2008, the country was officially a Hindu kingdom, but the constitution still protects and fosters the Hindu religion observed by Nepali Hindus throughout the country. Hinduism is the majority religion in the state and profoundly influences its social structure and politics, while Buddhism (Tibetan Buddhism) is practiced by some ethnic groups (for example Newar) in forms which are strongly influenced by Hinduism; Kiratism is the grassroots native religion of the population belonging to the Kirati ethnicity. Small populations, especially in eastern Nepal, adhere to Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and Jainism.


Nepali bride & bridegroom

Nepal has had Hindu dharma and Buddhist dharma from the beginning of recorded history in the area, though it originally had only Kiratism and other tribal religions; Islam was introduced to the nation around the 11th century with the arrival of Muslim Indians. Christianity was introduced to the country in the 1700s when Catholic friars entered the Kathmandu valley and Christian missionaries are active throughout the country. Sikhism came to Nepal during the 18th century and spread throughout Nepal, and Jainism came to Nepal during the 19th century but spread only to Kathmandu and some districts of Nepal. Both Sikhism and Jainism are an integral part of Nepal now and both constitute a significant role in Nepalese identity and culture, though they are Indian-born Dharmic religions.

Religious tolerance can be found in royal orders dated Falgun Sudi 12, 1884 V.S. issued by the Hindu Shah monarch Rajendra Bikram Shah under the premiership of Bhimsen Thapa to Buddhist monks in the Kingdom of Nepal:

Our father (i.e. King Girban) has issued a copper plate inscription declaring that nobody shall harass you so long as you observe traditional religious practices (dharma). We hereby reconfirm that order.

— Royal Order to Jhimuryas of Tukucha-Gumba[12]

According to the 2011 census, 81.3% of the Nepalese population is Hindu, 9.0% are Buddhist, 4.4% are Muslim, 3.0% are Kiratist (indigenous ethnic religion), 1.4% are Christian, 0.1% are Sikhs, 0.1% are Jains and 0.7% follow other religions or no religion.[1] This varies from the 2001 census, where 80.62% percent of Nepalese were Hindu, 10.74% were Buddhist, 4.20% Muslim,[13] 3.60% Kirant (an indigenous religion), 0.45% Christian, and 0.4% were classified as other groups such as Bön. In 1971 Hindus were 89.4% of the population, Buddhists 7.5%, and Kirants statistically 0%. However, statistics on religious groups are complicated by the ubiquity of dual-faith practices, particularly among Hindus and Buddhists.

The geographical distribution of religious groups in the early 1990s revealed a preponderance of Hindus, accounting for at least 87% 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% 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, Sunuwar, and Rai peoples. Hindu influence was less prominent among the Gurung, Limbu, Bhote, Tamang 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 other's practices and many people practice a combination of both. In 2015, a new constitution was adopted and granted equal rights to all religions in Nepal. However, influencing others to change their religion is prohibited.[14] There has been political pressure from India's Hindu party that it should become a Hindu government again but it has received a negative response from the Nepalese government.

Nepal's constitution doesn't give anyone the right to convert any person to another religion. Nepal also passed a more stringent anti-conversion law in 2017.[15][16] The ban on evangelism has been protested by Christian groups in the country.[17]


Population trends for major religious groups in Nepal[18]
Religion Population

% 1952/1954


% 1961


% 1971


% 1981


% 1991


% 2001


% 2011

Hinduism 88.87% 87.69% 89.39% 89.50% 86.51% 80.62% 81.34%
Buddhism 8.59% 9.25% 7.50% 5.32% 7.78% 10.74% 9.04%
Islam 2.54% 2.98% 3.04% 2.66% 3.53% 4.20% 4.39%
Kirat N/A N/A N/A N/A 1.72% 3.60% 3.04%
Christianity N/A N/A 0.02% 0.03% 0.17% 0.45% 1.41%
Others/Unspecified 0.01% 0.07% 0.05% 2.49% 0.28% 0.39% 0.78%
Religion in Nepal (2011 Census)[19]
Religion Population Percentage
Hinduism 21,551,492 81.34%
Buddhism 2,396,099 9.04%
Islam 1,162,370 4.39%
Kirat 807,169 3.04%
Christianity 375,699 1.41%
Prakriti (Nature Worship) 121,982 0.46%
Bon 13,006 0.04%
Jainism 3,214 0.01%
Bahá'í 1,283 0.01%
Sikhism 609 0.01%
Others/Unspecified 61,581 0.23%
Total 26,494,504 100%

Hinduism in Nepalese culture[edit]

Procession of Nepali Hindu wedding; groom puts Sindoor (vermilion powder) on bride's head
Procession of Nepali Hindu wedding; groom being carried by a helper

According to Nepalese theology Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva had come to Nepal in the form of deer.[20]

Establishment of Nepal by Ne Muni[edit]

King Muni used to perform religious ceremonies at Teku, the confluence of the Bagmati and Bishnumati rivers.[21] He selected Bhuktaman to be the first king in the line of the Gopal (Cowherd) Dynasty.[21] The Gopal dynasty ruled for 300 years. Yakshya Yadav was the last king of this dynasty. The Kirat Dynasty ruled for 550–800 years. The first king of Kirat Yalambar and Gasti was the last king of this dynasty. The Licchavi dynasty ruled for 200–350 years. The Malla Dynasty ruled for 400–600 years. The Shah dynasty ruled for 300 years. However, this mythology can be challenged as no such name as Ne exists in Nepali or other Sanskrit-derived languages.

Flag of Nepal[edit]

The current flag was established in 1962 and depicts a white moon and crescent shape emitting eight rays above a white sun emitting 12 rays.[22] Some believe that Lord Vishnu had organized the Nepali people and gave them the flag, with the sun and moon as emblems on it.[23] Some also claim the sun and the moon to be representative of Nepal's two most important religions in Hinduism and Buddhism, both of whom plays a fundamental part within the Nepali culture and traditions.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Statistical Yearbook of Nepal - 2013. Kathmandu: Central Bureau of Statistics. 2013. p. 23. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  2. ^ "South Asia :: Nepal — The World Factbook - Central Intelligence Agency". Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  3. ^ "Same Same But Different: Religion in Nepal". Inside Himalayas. 2018-06-20. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  4. ^ "Is Nepal a Hindu state or secular?". Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  5. ^ "Nepal Adopts New Constitution, Becomes a Secular State: 5 Facts". Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  6. ^ "Visit the "Guardian Deity of the Himalayan Country" Pashupatinath". Advice, Blogs & Stories. Retrieved 2019-10-09.
  7. ^ mountainmartpr (2017-06-29). "10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Nepal". Adventure Holidays in Nepal. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  8. ^ "Cow becomes national animal of Nepal". News18. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  9. ^ "Sanctity of the cow | Hinduism". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  10. ^ Ojo, Kehinde (2 November 2018). "Nepal's Cattle Slaughter Ban: Impacts on Dairy Producers' Profit". AGRILINKS. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  11. ^ "Religious freedom in Nepal 'teetering on the edge'". World Watch Monitor. Retrieved 2019-07-31.
  12. ^ Regmi 1987, p. 18.
  13. ^ "MUSLIMS of NEPAL: Becoming an assertive minority". October 13, 2007.
  14. ^ Ochab, Ewelina U. "Nepal's Protection Of Religious Freedom On Downward Spiral". Forbes.
  15. ^ "Nepal's new law puts squeeze on Christians - UCA News". Retrieved 2020-12-12.
  16. ^ "Nepal: Nepal: Bill criminalises religious conversion". Retrieved 2020-12-13.
  17. ^ Shellnut, Kate (25 October 2017). "Nepal Criminalizes Christian Conversion and Evangelism". Christianity Today. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  18. ^ "Population Monograph of Nepal Volume II (Social Demography)" (PDF).
  19. ^ "Population Monograph of Nepal Volume II (Social Demography)" (PDF).
  20. ^ History of Nepal: With an Introductory Sketch of the Country and People of Nepal, Daniel Wright
  21. ^ a b The Ancient Period Archived 2008-05-24 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "Flag of Nepal". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-07-31.
  23. ^ Gorkhapatra Corp., The Nepalese Perspective