Nepal's religions
Nepal's Religion
Religion in Nepal: An introduction
Religions in Nepal: An introduction
Nepal is one of the most peaceful multi-religious country in the world where more than 60 different ethnic-groups with their own religions, cultures and languages live respecting each other in perfect harmony. It must be remembered here that Nepal in her long cultural history never saw any ethnic violence or a war caused by religious motivations.

The king in Nepal is traditionally regarded as a living symbol of religious harmony. Hindu tradition honours him as the incarnation of Vishnu, the Hindu god of preservationand the Buddhist tradition honours him as the Buddhist god of coMapssion and public welfare. Hinduism and Buddhism, the two main religions of this country from time immemorial have been intermingled with each other so much that it is almost impossible now toseparate one from another.

Hinduism, which is one of the oldest faiths in the world, is deeply rooted in the Vedas (the holiest Hindu scriptures) whose antiquity goes way back to 2000 B.C. Accordingto Hindu philosophy the ultimate goal of one's life is liberation or Mokshya. There are three different paths recommended to reach for this goal such as- Artha- (economic efficiency) Dharma - (righteousness) and Kama - (Devotion to family) which are basically designed to gradually lead one from Bhakti or material world (attachment) to Muktior Mokshya, the state of supreme bliss (detachment) at the end. This is the philosophical aspect of religion.

Another aspect of this religion that is very common, is the ritual aspect. The ritual aspect takes care of the routine work of people's everyday life. Majority in Nepal are still very religious minded. They get up early in the mornings and go to temples for prayer. Some finish their prayer or puja rituals very quickly. Some stay longer and perform it in much greater details and make themselves feel very good.

Nepal being a land of temples, the number of temples here counts in thousands. Some are dedicated to the Hindu gods and some to the Buddhist gods. Quite a number of them stand very close to each other - indicating Nepalese respect for various faiths.

The recorded history of Buddhism in Nepal beings with Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha where the Indian Emperor erected a stone pillar to commemorate his pilgrimage to that place. Besides this many other archeological ruins found in Kapilvastu and in the vicinity also indicate that many historical buildings were built there some 600 yearsbefore Christ. Buddhism later with the passage of time underwent many socio-religious upheavals making Buddha, the founder of Buddhism himself a mysterious figure ofthe mixed religion.

Some of the images you see in the old Hindu temples here may look very complicated to you. The icons of the multi-armed deities holding various attributives indicate that they belong to the tantric sect of Hinduism. The worship with the animal sacrifice in such temple is very common in Nepal.
Now we discuss a bit about the significance of sacrifice in Hindu religion.

The tantric elements

There are many kinds of sacrifices. To give away food and clothes to the needy and poor is also a kind of sacrifice. Offering rice, flowers and fruits to the temple deities also signify the devotees' sacrifice. This certainly makes some sense. However the animal sacrifice which is very common in Nepal has a different story to tell. According to some tantric priests - animal sacrifice in the temple - represents the worshipper's willingness to sacrifice everything valuable he owns for the sake of religion. Many still seem to respect this tantric tradition.

Here is a very interesting symbolism story associated with the animal sacrifice. A custom has it that animals chosen for this purpose always be the male never female.

There are five kinds of animals - accepted for the sacrificial ritual. They are water buffaloes, goats, sheep, chicken and duck. The tantric symbolism story has it that the water buffaloes stand for stupidity and apathy respectively. The animal sacrifice is quite frequently practiced in the tantric temples of Nepal. Another interesting aspect of religion is the folk belief, which still works here in many parts of Nepal.

When you you have lost a key to your room and never found it. What to do? Don't you worry any way? Nepal has a very special god for this problem to solve. He is known as Cho-po Ganesh, the god of lost and found. Very easy to please. All you have to do is to buy him sweet laddus (his favorite) as much as you can. Your lost key is found in no time.

Besides this Nepal has also many other gods for different problems such as a god for toothache, a god for stomach pain and so on. All of them are believed to provide the immediate relief to their suffering devotees.