Religion is a complex and multifaceted concept that refers to a wide range of beliefs, practices, and cultural expressions related to the divine, supernatural, or transcendent aspects of life. Although there is no single definition of religion that is universally accepted, most scholars and religious practitioners would agree that religion involves some or all of the following elements:
- Belief in the existence of supernatural or divine entities, such as gods, spirits, or otherworldly forces.
- Worship or veneration of these entities through various rituals, ceremonies, prayers, or other forms of devotion.
- Moral and ethical values and principles that guide individual and collective behavior and provide a sense of meaning and purpose in life.
- Community or social structures that facilitate religious practices, interactions, and support, such as churches, mosques, temples, or other religious institutions.
- Sacred texts, teachings, or traditions that convey religious knowledge, wisdom, and guidance.
Religion is often seen as a fundamental aspect of human culture and society, shaping people’s beliefs, values, and behaviors across different historical periods and geographical locations.
Religion can play a role in personal identity and spiritual fulfillment, as well as social cohesion, conflict, and change. However, religion can also be a source of controversy, division, and oppression, especially when it is used to justify discrimination, violence, or intolerance.
How many religions are in the world ?
There is no definitive answer to how many religions are in the world, as different sources and scholars may use different criteria to define and categorize religious traditions. However, some estimates suggest that there are thousands of different religions and belief systems practiced globally, ranging from ancient tribal and animistic traditions to modern and newly emerging movements.
Some of the largest and most influential religions in the world include:
- Baha’i Faith
In addition to these major religions, there are numerous other spiritual and philosophical traditions, including indigenous religions, New Age movements, and various forms of syncretism and hybridization.
Nepal is a country known for its diverse religious traditions and beliefs. According to the Nepal Census of 2011, the major religions in Nepal are Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity. However, there are also followers of other religions and belief systems such as Kiratism, Bön, Jainism, Sikhism, and various indigenous or tribal religions.
Hinduism is the most widely practiced religion in Nepal, with around 81% of the population identifying as Hindus. Buddhism is the second-largest religion in Nepal, with around 9% of the population identifying as Buddhists. Islam is the third-largest religion in Nepal, with around 4% of the population identifying as Muslims. Christianity is a minority religion in Nepal, with around 1.5% of the population identifying as Christians.
Kiratism is a religion that is mainly practiced by the Kirati people of eastern Nepal, while Bön is an ancient religion that has roots in Tibet and is practiced by some people in Nepal, mainly in the Mustang district. Jainism, Sikhism, and other religions have small numbers of followers in Nepal.
It is worth noting that many Nepalis practice a syncretic form of religion, which involves blending elements of different religious traditions. For example, some Nepalis practice a combination of Hinduism and Buddhism, which is known as “Hindu-Buddhism”. Additionally, many Nepalis also practice animism, which involves the belief in spirits and the worship of natural elements such as rocks, trees, and mountains.
Here’s a list of some of the major religions and belief systems in Nepal, along with their approximate percentage of the population:
- Hinduism (81%)
- Buddhism (9%)
- Islam (4%)
- Kiratism (2%)
- Christianity (1.5%)
- Bön (0.5%)
- Jainism (0.1%)
- Sikhism (0.1%)
- Animism (varies)
Hinduism: The Dominant Religion
Hinduism is the dominant religion in Nepal, with around 81% of the population identifying as Hindus. Hinduism has deep roots in Nepal’s history, with many ancient temples, shrines, and holy sites dotting the country. Hinduism in Nepal is characterized by a rich pantheon of deities, each with their own myths, legends, and rituals. Some of the most famous Hindu sites in Nepal include the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, the Muktinath Temple in Mustang, and the Janaki Temple in Janakpur.
Buddhism: The Second-Largest Religion
Buddhism is the second-largest religion in Nepal, with around 9% of the population identifying as Buddhists. Buddhism arrived in Nepal around the 6th century BCE, and has had a significant impact on Nepali culture and society ever since. Buddhism in Nepal is characterized by a focus on meditation, compassion, and the pursuit of enlightenment. Some of the most famous Buddhist sites in Nepal include the Swayambhunath Stupa in Kathmandu, the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, and the Lumbini Sacred Garden, which is the birthplace of the Buddha.
Islam: A Minority Religion
Islam is a minority religion in Nepal, with around 4% of the population identifying as Muslims. Islam arrived in Nepal in the 14th century, and has since become an integral part of Nepali culture and society. Muslim communities in Nepal are characterized by a strong sense of community, with many mosques and Islamic centers throughout the country. Some of the most famous Muslim sites in Nepal include the Jama Masjid in Kathmandu, the Mohamadi Mosque in Biratnagar, and the Akashedhara Mosque in Patan.
Kiratism: An Indigenous Religion
Kiratism is an indigenous religion that is mainly practiced by the Kirati people of eastern Nepal. Kiratism has deep roots in Nepal’s pre-Buddhist history, and is characterized by a focus on animism, ancestor worship, and the worship of nature spirits. Kiratism in Nepal is often associated with the worship of the goddess Tagera Ningwaphumma, who is believed to be the mother of all Kirati people. Some of the most famous Kirati sites in Nepal include the Pathivara Temple in Taplejung and the Sakela Festivals in various parts of eastern Nepal.
Christianity: A Growing Minority
Christianity is a minority religion in Nepal, with around 1.5% of the population identifying as Christians. Christianity arrived in Nepal in the 18th century, and has since grown into a vibrant and diverse community. Christian communities in Nepal are characterized by a focus on service, evangelism, and outreach. Some of the most famous Christian sites in Nepal include the Godavari Ashram in Lalitpur, the United Mission Hospital in Tansen, and the Green Pastures Hospital in Pokhara.
It’s important to note that these figures are approximate and may vary depending on the source. Also, as I mentioned earlier, many Nepalis practice a syncretic form of religion that combines elements of multiple traditions, so these categories are not always clear-cut.
Here are some of the most important Hindu gods and goddesses and their characteristics:
- Brahma: Brahma is the creator of the universe and is typically depicted with four faces and four arms. He is associated with knowledge and wisdom, and his consort is Saraswati, the goddess of learning and the arts.
- Vishnu: Vishnu is the preserver of the universe and is often depicted with four arms holding a conch shell, a discus, a mace, and a lotus flower. He is known for his compassion and his willingness to intervene in the world to maintain balance and order.
- Shiva: Shiva is the destroyer of the universe and is often depicted with a trident, a drum, and a serpent around his neck. He is associated with asceticism and meditation, and is sometimes depicted in a meditative pose.
- Devi: Devi is the goddess of power and is also known as Shakti. She is often depicted with multiple arms and weapons, symbolizing her strength and ability to protect her followers. Devi has many forms and is worshipped in various incarnations, such as Durga, Kali, and Parvati.
- Ganesh: Ganesh is the son of Shiva and Parvati and is known as the remover of obstacles. He is often depicted with the head of an elephant and a rotund body. Ganesh is worshipped before any important endeavor or event, and his blessings are sought for success and good fortune.
- Hanuman: Hanuman is a monkey god who is known for his devotion and strength. He is often depicted carrying a mace and a mountain, symbolizing his power and ability to overcome any obstacle. Hanuman is worshipped for courage, strength, and protection.
- Surya: Surya is the sun god and is often depicted riding a chariot pulled by seven horses. He is associated with power, vitality, and prosperity. Surya is worshipped for health and prosperity, and his blessings are sought for success and abundance.
- Indra: Indra is the god of thunder and lightning and is often depicted riding an elephant. He is associated with power, courage, and victory. Indra is worshipped for protection and success in battle, and his blessings are sought for victory and triumph.
These are just a few examples of the many Hindu gods and goddesses, each with their unique characteristics and symbolism. Hinduism is a diverse religion with a rich tradition of mythology and symbolism, and the study of Hindu deities is a vast and fascinating field.