Buddhism in Nepal

Buddhism in Nepal

History: It is because of Prince Siddharta being born in Kapilavastu, in the Lumbini zone of Nepal, it would not be wrong to call the puerile land of Nepal as the womb of Buddhist traditions.

  • Origin:  Many of the Bodhisattvas and previous Buddhas visited and preached in Nepal. This land has witnessed great Buddhist practitioners, like Nagarjuna, who lived and taught here.
  • Repository: Several colophons and stone inscriptions are evidences of the existence of Mahasanghika Bhiksunis in Nepal. Buddhist Sanskrit literature and art flourished here. The Kathmandu Valley region enjoys the rich tradition of Buddhist art and unique wood architecture. Nepal became the only South Asian nation that produced Buddhist artworkafter thirteenth century.

Propagation:In ancient times, Nepal was considered as the meeting place of the Indian and Tibetan Buddhists. Thus, Nepal was a great site for the propagation of Buddhism.

  • Shakya Kingdom: After achieving enlightenment, Buddha is said to visit his father’s kingdom, and convert his family and clan to Buddhism. The Shakya clan later moved to Kathmandu valley and helped establishing the religion there.
  • Tolerant rulers: Though the rulers of Nepal have primarily been Hindus, but over the centuries they have supported the propagation of Buddhism. And today, Nepal is a secular state. It allows all the religions to propagate as per their beliefs. Consequently, many people in Nepal are lately adapting the Theravada Buddhism.
  • Sects and Schools: Mahayana, Vajrayana and Theravada are three sects of Buddhism practised in Nepal. While Mahayanists and Vajrayanists treat Buddha as God, Theravadas treat him as a preacher. At present, Newar Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism are the main Buddhist schools in Nepal.

Embracement: Buddhists account to about 10% of Nepal’s total population consisting of around 2,738,724 practitioners.

  • Mingled: Though Buddhism may appear to be practised by only a part of Nepalese, its boundaries are far beyond that. Many Buddhist faiths and beliefs have been accepted by the people, as a part of their own religion. In fact, Hinduism and Buddhism have been so homogeneously intermingled in Nepal, that they even share their pilgrimages at many places.
  • Density division: From all over Nepal, various ethnic groups like Hyolmo, Lepcha, Tamang, Yakkha, Chepang, Gurung, Magar, Chhattyal and Thami are followers of Buddhism. As per the census, conducted in 2001, the Hyolmo has the highest number of Buddhists, which is about ninety percent of the total population of the group. Newar has the least Buddhist population of about fifteen percent.
  • Monuments: Built in fifth century AD, Swayambhu is one of the most sacred Buddhist shrines which is situated upon a hilltop, in the beautiful Kathmandu Valley. It was built during the Licchavi period. The Bhaktapur Durbar is another great monument of Nepal representing the Buddhist traditions. Situated 13 km away from Kathmandu, indigenous and colourful Newari culture can be observed here. Among the shrines of Himalayan Kingdom, Boddhanath shrine is one of the largest. Like Swayambhu, it too has a three Mandala-style structure. Nepal has large number of such monuments which are indeed the reminiscences of the wonderful past of Buddhist culture.