According to local traditions and many historians in Nepal, the country was founded by a Hindu sage who was called Ne in prehistoric times. Ne had moved to Kathmandu valley and it was he who named the country Nepal and it was he who chose the first king of the Gopala dynasty. Since then, Nepal has had several Hindu kingdoms over the centuries, the last being the Kingdom of Nepal (1769-2008), founded by Prithvi Narayan Shah (1723-1775) who united what is now modern Nepal . In 1990, after the Jana Andolan movement, the country became a constitutional monarchy, then in 2008 the monarchy was completely abolished and the last king, Gyanendra of Nepal, was exiled to India. This officially marked the end of the Hindu kingdom of Nepal, which was the only one left on the planet. The vast majority of Nepalese identify as Hindus. The majority of districts and ethnic groups in the country are also at least 50% Hindu.
Prince Siddhartha, the man who would become Gautama Buddha (563-483 BC), is said to have been born in the capital of the Kingdom of Shakya (1750-500 BC), Kapilavastu, which was located in what is now Nepal. Buddhism has been in Nepal for millennia and Buddhism and Hinduism have become so intertwined that in many places the two religions share the same place of worship and share the same deities. In the early 600s, the Nepalese princess Bhrikuti is believed to have played a major role in spreading Buddhism to neighboring Tibet. Tibetan Buddhism is the most widely practiced form of Buddhism in the country, with Newar Buddhism being practiced. In the sparsely populated northern parts of Nepal, Buddhism is the dominant religion among the ethnic groups including the Sherpa, Dolpa and Lopa among others.
In the 1350s, the Sultan of Bengal, Shamsuddin llyas Shah, attacked Nepal, and during the attack Bengali Muslims occupied villages of the ancient Newar Kingdom of Nepal Mandala. After this period, the king of the Malla dynasty granted the Muslims a portion of land to live on and over the centuries a unique new group was formed called Newar Islam. Sometime in the late 1400s or early 1500s, Kashmiri Muslims came to Nepal and settled in the capital city of Kathmandu. Today, the descendants of these migrants still live in the capital, but there are only about 2,000 left. Some new Muslims from Kashmir have arrived since the 1970s, but they have virtually no interaction with Muslims from Older Kashmir who live in Nepal. During the 1500s and 1600s, Miyan Muslims were initially invited to Nepal from northern India to assist in the manufacture of military weapons. Today, most Miyan Muslims live in the central and western regions of Nepal, most of them working today as farmers and having been influenced over the centuries by the Hindu mountain environment. The largest group of Muslims in Nepal are the Madhesh Muslims, who made up about 74% of the country’s Muslim population. No one knows exactly when Madhesh Muslims arrived in Nepal, but they have been in the country since the unification of Nepal in 1769, while other Madhesh Muslims have arrived since the 1800s from the Middle East and Egypt. Most Madhesh Muslims today work as farmers or in agriculture and since then as leaders in the reform and revival of Islam. Tibetan Muslims mostly came to Nepal from Tibet after China took over the country in the 1950s, while some came from the Ladakh region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. . Today, most Tibetan Muslims work as traders and merchants and are on average the wealthiest of all Muslim groups in Nepal.
Kirat Mundham is a religion practiced by the Kirati people, who live mainly in Nepal, India and Myanmar. The four groups of Kirati, Limbu, Rai, Sunuwar and Yakkha, are mainly located in Nepal. The religion is believed to be a mixture of Animism, Saivism and Buddhism. The Mundhum is the religious scripture, folk literature and guide to religion and all the different Kirati groups have a slightly different version of it. The Kirats also have a nakchong (tribal priest) who performed sacred rituals for the worship of the sun, moon, wind, fire, nature and his ancestors. Three of the main festivals that all Kirati groups celebrate are the Udhauli festivals, one for the full moon day of the month of Baisakh and the other for the month of Mangh, and the New Year festival of Yele Sambat.
Nepal’s first known contact with Christianity dates back to 1628 when the Portuguese Jesuit missionary, Father Juan Cabral, met the King of Nepal, Lakshminarasimha Malla. The King of Nepal bestowed on him the authority of Tamara Patra, which enabled him to preach to the people of Nepal. The next visit of the missionaries to the country was a short visit in 1661 by the Austrian Johann Grueber and the Belgian Albert d’Orville. The last two missionaries were Capuchin priests from Rome who arrived in Kathmandu in 1707, where they lived until 1769 when they went into exile in India after the conquest of Nepal by Prithvi Narayan Shah. In 1932, Nepal’s first Christian pastor, Ganga Prasad Pradhan (1851-1932), with the help of Scottish missionaries, translated the Bible into Nepali. In 1950 missionaries were again allowed to come to Nepal legally for the first time in 181 years but could not preach for the purpose of trying to convert people as it was still illegal to do so so they are instead focused on helping the people of Nepal. in social services, health care and education. Since 2008, when Nepal became a secular state, Christmas has become a government holiday and missionary activities to convert people have increased dramatically.
The Bahá’í Faith first entered Nepal in 1952, and by 1959 the first Nepalese Bahá’í Local Spiritual Assembly had been formed and had elected members. In 1972, the National Bahá’í Assembly of Nepal was elected, but all Bahá’í assemblies were dissolved from 1976 to 1981 due to legal restrictions, then brought back again in 1982. The Bahá’í Community of Nepal has been very involved in socio-economic development and interfaith organizations in Nepal. The number of Baha’is in Nepal is estimated at only between 1,000 and 5,000 people.
In 1986, the Israeli embassy in the capital of Nepal decided to hold a Passover celebration for the thousands of Israelis who traveled to the country each year. It was the first organized practice of the religion in the history of Nepal. This celebration of Passover has continued every year since then, although in 1999 the Chabad movement in Nepal took on the responsibility of hosting the event, with the opening of Chabad house in the capital city of Kathmandu in 2000. Since then, two more houses have opened in the cities of Pokhara and Manang.
Religious beliefs in Nepal
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