Hinduism in Nepal

28th July 2012

Tourists are attracted to Nepal because of its rich and colorful tradition and culture. Besides Mount Everest and the Annapurna region, which proves to be an ever increasingly popular tourist and trekking destination, many people visit the Himalayas to enjoy all aspects of the country including its religion. Religion in Nepal is not just a set of beliefs or celebration practiced by people

Religion has deep roots in Nepal and the country is known to be the only Hindu Kingdom existing in the world. Although most people practice Hinduism, it is not the only religion existing in the country. Nepal also practices other types of religion such as Buddhism, Tantrism, Islam and Christianity.

 

Hinduism, as the most dominant religion in the country, actually started some 1,000 years BC and it revolved around three gods. Hinduism reveres the creator, known as Brahma, the destroyer known as Shiva, and the preserver known as Vishnu. People who practice Hinduism may worship all three gods but most of them pay reverence to either Vishnu or Shiva only. According to its teachings, people should believe in the existence of a rebirth or reincarnation that they need to undergo first before they reach salvation or what they call moksha. People practicing Hinduism also believe in Karma or the result of a person's action or decision.

 

Hinduism in Nepal values the caste system as it is believed that karma and reincarnation allows you to move positions in the caste system between past, current, and future lives and therefore the systemandis just and fair.  The main caste system in Nepal includes the priest caste or the Brahmans, a merchant caste or the Vaisyas, the warriors or the Kshatriya, and the workers known as the Sudras. There is another caste system referring to the untouchables known as the Harijans. Harijans eat beef and because Hinduism believes that cows are sacred, Harijans are frowned upon so some of them convert to a different religion such as Muslim to escape the labeling brought by the caste system. Of course, if they do not practice Hinduism, eating beef or cows would not cause offense.

 

Buddhism and Hinduism have a tight relationship inside the country. Although there is difference in beliefs, one person in Nepal can actually practice both religions. One might practice Hinduism, but he or she can celebrate festivals and practice traditions associated with Buddhism. This is the same for those who practice Buddhism. Because of this understanding, there is peace and unity among people as there is no strain between the two beliefs. The core of their values revolves around respect, thus, they respect another person's religion.

 

Since people in Nepal value their religion and treat it with respect, most of their cultural and societal symbols also revolve around Hinduism at most. One example is their national flag, which they strongly believe that Lord Vishnu gave it to the people of Nepal in the early days. The flag bears the sun and moon images, which is present in Hinduism. The people believe that as the Lord gave them the flag, it would help them battle and slay demons. Tourists can see this flag in the temples of Nepal since the design was retained ever since Hinduism became the core religion of the Kingdom. Although India once carried this design, they adopted a rectangular shape after they changed it for their country. However, Nepal still carries the same flag design up until today so they have the most uniquely designed and shaped flag in the whole world.

 

Besides their flag, Nepal also adopted Hindu names to signify the marker of different places in their country. For example, there is a town named Mahabharata in Nepal and it was derived from the Mahabharata or Kurukshetra war. Another example is the Vyasa Valley referring to the Kailash Lake Mansarovar and Kalapaani. Another city, the Janakpur, is named according to the father of Sita. Kali Maa, an icon in Hinduism is also used to name the Mahakali Zone and the Mahakali River. Lastly, Sage Kapila inspired the name for the Kapilyastu district.

 

Relationship between different religions in Nepal is generally peaceful and all of them live in harmony together. Their tolerance of the difference in beliefs makes Nepal unique compared to other countries. Tourists visiting the Himalayas can also witness this harmony among the locals and it would help if they know the different temples they can visit apart from the Mount Everest Base Camp where they can start their trekking trip. 

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