Religious Beliefs and Spirituality in Nepal
Prior to 2006, Nepal was formerly the world’s only constitutionally declared Hindu state. The Nepali parliament in amending their constitution made Nepal into a secular state. Statistically in 2001, a great majority or 80.6% of the population are Hindu, 10.7% are Buddhist, 10% are Muslim, 3.6% are Kirat, 0.5% is Christian, and 0.4% is classified as other groups.
Through the years, religion in Nepal has transcended from being a mere set of dogmatic rituals and beliefs handed down from generation to generation to an intermingling of faith, tradition, doctrines, and festivals deeply engrained in the heart of the Nepalese society. Uniquely interwoven and co-existing harmoniously, the religions in Nepal are: Hinduism, Buddhism, Tantrism, Christianity and Islam.
Hinduism. Apparently, the Aryans were the first people to set foot in Nepal. Believed to be the cornerstone of Hinduism, the Vedas (a collection of more than a thousand religious hymns) provided for a basic belief system for the Aryans.
Buddhism. Prince Siddhartha Gautam of the Terai region is known as the founder of Buddhism. From the teachings of Gautam, Buddhism found itself to be later on divided into two (2) main schools of thought, namely: Hnayana and Mahayana. Only a few Nepalese Buddhists readily adopt the Hinayana doctrines, choosing to follow the Mahayana teachings instead.
Tantrism. Coming from the Sanskrit word “Tantra” which refers to a basic wrap of threads in weaving, Tantrism has been known to have greatly influenced the Nepalese Buddhism by creating the path of Vajrayana, or the “Path of the Thunderbolt”. A Vajra or a large thunderbolt can be seen at the entrance of Swayambhu temple at Katmandu on the top of a long flight steps.
Islam and Christianity. To this date, a very small minority of the Nepalese adhere to Islam and Christianity.