The majority of people in Nepal practice Hinduism. There are also a large number of Buddhists in Nepal. Hinduism and Buddhism mingle together and share some festivals and the worship of Buddha. The Hindu people worship some 3.2million gods, all of which have their own purpose. It seems there is a god covering everything from luck and fortune to crops and harvest. Hindus celebrate their beliefs in a number of colorful festivals, daily worship at various temples, making offerings to the gods and sometimes animal sacrifice. Hindus believe that all people will go through a series of rebirths and reincarnations. The level at which a person will be reborn depends upon how they lived in their pervious life, i.e. if they were good or bad people.
Hinduism is one of the oldest practiced religions, with firm roots extending back 1000 years BCE. It is based on a number of holy books, most important of these is The Four Vedas, or books of “Divine Knowledge” which create foundations of Hindu philosophy. Dharma, Artha and Karma are the three aims in the life of Hindu.
i) For filling ones duty to family and caste and gaining religious merit through having a wholesome life.
(ii) The lawful making of wealth.
(iii) Desire and satisfaction. A Hindu links these goals with the four stages they progress through in a full life.
(i)Child and student-this time is devoted to learning about life and education and correct social behavior from their parents and guru.
(ii) the house holder-at this time a person proves themselves by being able to manage a household and raise children, most importantly to bare a son.
(iii) meditation and solitude-once proven as a householder, a person is free to take up a life of celibacy and meditation.
(iv) finally in the latter stages of life a person renounces all possessions and ties in hope to achieve Moksha.
The main concern for most Hindus is to reduce bad karma and to hopefully gain points to be born with a higher status in their next life. This is achieved by worship and honest and charitable living within the restrictions imposed by a person’s caste. Most Hindus have a shrine in their homes dedicated to a chosen a Deity to which they perform a puja to everyday. Puja is an act of prayer and offerings to a god.
The main gods in Hindu are:
Vishnu- the preserver, restorer and protector. His job is to keep the world in order. Vishnu is a blue skinned, four armed deity normally found resting on a serpent or floating in the ocean. His vehicle is the half man half eagle Garuda.
Krishna- has many guises but normally he appears as a playful cow herder who seduces and dances with cow girls. Krishna possess the three routes to salvation, selflessness of action, knowledge and devotion to god.
Shiva- is revered as the source of the universe and as the destroyer, also know as the divine lord, the lord of dance, the source of all knowledge and the great god. In appearance he has 4-5 faces and holds a trident, is draped with a serpent and he has a third eye on his fore head. His animal vehicle is Nandi the bull.
Ganesh- the god of learning, success, prosperity and peace. He is the smiling elephant headed god.
Lakshmi- Is the embodiment of loveliness, grace and charm. She is the goddess of prosperity and wealth.
Durga- the great goddess with ten arms. She holds the head of a demon, a spear and other weapons. She is known as the demon slayer.
The religion is broken up into a system of Castes. The extent and way in which a person practices Hinduism depends upon which caste a person belongs.
There are four main castes in Hindu religion are:
- The Brahman
- The Chhetris
- The Vaisyas
- The Sudras
Buddhism is the other main religion in Nepal, chiefly practiced by Tamang and lama people and those people with a Tibetan back ground. Though nowadays, people form all over the world come to Nepal to learn and practice Buddhism.
The Buddhist religion was founded in northern India around about 500 BCE, by Siddhartha Gautama who was known as Gautama Buddha. Siddhartha Gautame was born in Limbini, Nepal to a very wealthy family and grew up as a prince. At the age of 30, unsatisfied by the explanation of worldly suffering by his Hindu gurus and convinced that asceticism did not lead to spiritual enlightenments, he renounced his family, riches and life style too pursue a life of mediation and wondering. During his mediation, in a place called Bodhgaya in India, he reached a state of enlightenment. After this he spent the rest of his life teaching Dharma, the true nature of life, the world and spiritual attainment. Prior to his death, Buddha established a community of monks and nuns who took over his teachings. Most Buddhists, don’t consider Buddhism as a religion and they don’t consider Buddha to be a god. Buddhist consider Buddhism as a guide to living a good life, like a science for the mind and the deities found in the monasteries are there as symbols to aid deepened spiritual awareness. The Buddha’s view of life includes the Hindu concepts of samsara and Karma, but the ultimate goal of the religion is Nirvana a state of clarity of mind, pure understanding and unimaginable bliss. Buddhism prohibits any form of killing. There are two main schools of Buddhism which are Hinayana and Mahayana. Where Hindus worship many gods, Buddhist chiefly worship Buddha, though some Buddhist also worship Shiva and other Hindu gods.
Buddhism was introduced to Tibet in the Seventh century, and integrated to a certain extent with the indigenous Bon culture before emerging as a faith considered incorporating all three vehicles: Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Tibetan Buddhism recognizes a historical Buddha, known as Sakyamuni, alongside previous Buddha’s and a host of Bodhisattvas and protector deities. The Dalai Lama, the head of Tibetan Buddhism, is the fourteenth in a succession of incarnate bodhisattvas. For Buddhist monks and nuns, and some members, meditation is an integral part of religious life. Most Buddhist concentrates on Dana and sila and on the auspicious day of Buddha’s birth day. Many Buddhists devotees gather together in silent meditation or join in chants taken from early Buddhist texts. Among Tibetan communities, devotees hang prayer flags, turn prayer wheels and set stones carved with mantras in rivers in hope that they are sending the word of Buddha with the wind and water to all corners of the world.
Nepal boasts Lumbini the birth place of Buddha and on a trip to Nepal you can visit this place.
Nepal also has a small population of Muslims with a main Mosque in Kathmandu and smaller ones throughout Nepal. Also there are isolated pockets of Christians living in Nepal. In remoter areas, some ethic group such as the Tharus and the Rais, have their own form of religion.