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Religion in Nepal (2021)[1]

  Hinduism (81.19%)
  Buddhism (8.21%)
  Islam (5.09%)
  Kirat Mundhum (3.17%)
  Christianity (1.76%)
  Nature worship (0.35%)
  Bon (0.23%)
  Sikhism (0.01%)
  Jainism (0.01%)
  Others (0.00%)
Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu
Boudhanath Stupa, a Buddhist temple in Kathmandu Valley
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, gilded bronze. Nepal, 16th century A.D.
The Jain temple in Kathmandu, Nepal
Nepal Jama Mosque, one of the largest mosques in Nepal
Kirat (religion) Manghim or Mankhim of Kirat community in Lalitpur, Nepal

Religion in Nepal encompasses a wide diversity of groups and beliefs.[2] Nepal is a secular nation, and secularism in Nepal under the interim constitution (Part 1, Article 4) is defined as "religious and cultural freedom, along with the protection of religion and culture handed down from time immemorial." That is, "the state government is bound for protecting and fostering Hindu religion" while maintaining "religious" and "cultural" freedom throughout the nation as fundamental rights.[3][4][5]

Hinduism and Buddhism are the two religions with the largest number of adherents in Nepal. In 2011, these two religions represented 81.3% and 9.04% of the national population, respectively. Outside of India, Nepal is home to the greatest number of Hindus in the world.[6][7]

The majority of prominent Hindu pilgrimage sites are located in this nation. Shiva is widely regarded as the guardian deity of Nepal.[8] Nepal is home to the world-famous Pashupatinath Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where Hindus from around the world come for pilgrimage purposes. According to the Hindu epic Ramayana, the goddess Sita was born in the Mithila Kingdom of King Janaka.[9] The national animal of Nepal is the cow,[10] which is considered a sacred animal in Hinduism.[11] Because of this, the slaughter of cows is illegal in Nepal.[12]

Nepal is the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha). As such, Buddhism has a special place in the country and is often intertwined with Hinduism among some communities.[7][13] Nepal is a multicultural, multi-ethnic, multilingual, and multi-religious nation through democracy.[14][15]

The Nepali constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Forced conversion from Hinduism to other religions is against the law, especially when money is used as a direct or indirect incentive to convert. However, anyone can choose to change their religion on their own. Nationalists have sometimes protested against secularism, and many citizens wish to see Nepal as a Hindu-Democratic state.[16] Prior to the movement for democracy in early 2006 and the sacking of King Gyanendra in 2008, the country was officially a Hindu kingdom, and the constitution still protects and fosters the Hindu religion. Recently, Nepal's senior minister, Prem Ale, has advocated for declaring Nepal a Hindu state constitutionally.[17] Hinduism is the majority religion in Nepal and profoundly influences its social structure and politics, while Buddhism (Tibetan Buddhism) is practiced by some ethnic groups (such as the Newar people) in forms that are strongly influenced by Hinduism. Kiratism is the indigenous religion of the population belonging to the Kirati ethnicity. Small populations, especially in eastern Nepal, adhere to Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism, Bön, and the Bahá’í Faith.


Nepali bride and bridegroom

Hinduism have been present in Nepal since the beginning of recorded history in the area. Muslims came to the country around the 11th century and brought Islam with them. Sikhism came to Nepal during the 18th century and spread throughout Nepal, and Jainism came to Nepal during the 19th century but spread only to Kathmandu and some districts of Nepal.

Religious tolerance can be found in royal orders dated Falgun Sudi 12, 1884 V.S. issued by the Hindu Shah monarch Rajendra Bikram Shah under the premiership of Bhimsen Thapa to Buddhist monks in the Kingdom of Nepal:

Our father (i.e. King Girban) has issued a copper plate inscription declaring that nobody shall harass you so long as you observe traditional religious practices (dharma). We hereby reconfirm that order.

— Royal Order to Jhimuryas of Tukucha-Gumba[18]

According to the 2011 census, 81.3% of the Nepalese population is Hindu, 9.0% are Buddhist, 4.4% are Muslim, 3.0% are Kiratist (indigenous ethnic religion), 1.4% are Christian, 0.1% are Sikhs, 0.1% are Jains and 0.7% follow other religions or no religion.[1] This varies from the 2001 census, where 80.62% of Nepalese were Hindu, 10.74% were Buddhist, 4.20% were Muslim,[19] 3.60% were Kirant (an indigenous religion), 0.45% were Christian, and 0.4% were classified as other groups such as Bön.

In 1971, Hindus made up 89.4% of the population, Buddhists 7.5%, and Kirants statistically, 0%. However, the prevalence of dual-faith practices - particularly among Hindus and Buddhists - complicates statistics on religious groups.

At the beginning of the 1990s, Hindus made up at least 87% of the population in every region. The largest concentrations of Buddhists were found in the eastern hills, the Kathmandu Valley, and the central Tarai; in each area, about 10% of the people were Buddhist. Buddhism was more common among the Newar and Tibeto-Nepalese groups. Among the Tibeto-Nepalese, those most influenced by Hinduism were the Magar, Sunuwar, and Rai peoples. Hindu influence was less prominent among the Gurung, Limbu, Bhote, Tamang, and Thakali groups, who continued to employ Buddhist monks for their religious ceremonies. Since Hinduism and Buddhism are both Dharmic religions, their practices usually complement each other, and many people practice a combination of both. In 2015, a new constitution was adopted, and equal rights were granted to all religions in Nepal. However, influencing others to change their religion is prohibited.[20]

Nepal's constitution does not give anyone the right to evangelise or convert anyone to another religion. Nepal also passed a more stringent anti-conversion law in 2017.[21]


Main article: freedom of religion in Nepal

Nepal was declared a secular state in 2015 after the success of the Constitution of Nepal 2072 bs that saw the abolition of hinduisim and the formation of democracy as a criterion for running the nation on the path of equality, fraternity, freedom, justice, and liberty.[22]

In 2023, the country was scored 2 out of 4 for religious freedom.[23]

The five main provisions of secularism in Nepal are as follows:[24]

1) A clause that says, "Religious and cultural freedom, with the protection of religion and culture practiced since ancient times," This has been questioned by some people, who say that it indirectly favours "Hinduism" as a state-sponsored religion.[25]

2) Proselytizing remains illegal.

3) Critics say that the constitution discriminates against women in terms of passing on citizenship rights, and the citizenship policy was hotly debated during the drafting of the constitution.[26]

4) It is against the law for the state and the courts to treat people differently because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The constitution of Nepal has been an inspiration for Asia and beyond the world to specifically protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.[27]

5) The rhododendron is the national flower, and the cow, which is a holy animal in Hinduism, is the national animal.[28]


Population trends for major religious groups in Nepal[29][30]
Religion Population

% 1952/1954


% 1961


% 1971


% 1981


% 1991


% 2001


% 2011


% 2021

Hinduism 88.87% 87.69% 89.39% 89.50% 86.51% 80.62% 81.34% 81.19%
Buddhism 8.59% 9.25% 7.50% 5.32% 7.78% 10.74% 9.04% 8.21%
Islam 2.54% 2.98% 3.04% 2.66% 3.53% 4.20% 4.39% 5.09%
Kirat N/A N/A N/A N/A 1.72% 3.60% 3.04% 3.17%
Christianity N/A N/A 0.02% 0.03% 0.17% 0.45% 1.41% 1.76%
Others/Unspecified 0.01% 0.07% 0.05% 2.49% 0.28% 0.39% 0.78% 0.58%
Religion in Nepal (2021 Census)[31]
Religion Population Percentage
Hinduism 23,677,744 81.19%
Buddhism 2,393,549 8.2%
Islam 1,483,054 5.03%
Kirat 924,204 3.17%
Christianity 512,313 1.76%
Others 173702 0.65%
Total 29,164,578 100%

Hinduism in Nepalese culture

Main article: Hinduism in Nepal

Procession of Nepali Hindu wedding; groom puts Sindoor (vermilion powder) on bride's head
Procession of Nepali Hindu wedding; groom being carried by a helper

According to Nepalese theology, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva came to Nepal in the form of deer.[32]

Establishment of Nepal by Ne Muni

King Muni used to perform religious ceremonies at Teku, the confluence of the Bagmati and Bishnumati rivers.[33] He selected Bhuktaman to be the first king in the line of the Gopal (Cowherd) Dynasty.[33] The Gopal dynasty ruled for 300 years. Yakshya Yadav was the last king of this dynasty. The Kirat Dynasty ruled for 550 - 800 years. The first king of Kirat Yalambar and Gasti was the last king of this dynasty. The Licchavi dynasty ruled for 200 - 350 years. The Malla dynasty ruled for 400 - 600 years. The Shah dynasty ruled for 300 years.

Flag of Nepal

The current flag of Nepal was established in 1962. It depicts a white moon and crescent shape emitting eight rays above a white sun which emits 12 rays.[34]

See also


  1. ^ a b "नेपालमा ८१ प्रतिशत हिन्दु, क्रिश्चियन २ प्रतिशत भन्दा कम".
  2. ^ Interim Constitution of Nepal - Equal Rights Trust
  3. ^ "The Interim constitution of Nepal (2015), privileges Hinduism as the state sponsored religion". Scroll In. 20 September 2015. Archived from the original on 2021-07-19. Retrieved 2021-05-06.
  4. ^ "Constitution of Nepal". Nepal Law Commission. Archived from the original on 2021-07-14. Retrieved 2021-07-21.
  5. ^ "A history of religion in Nepal". Archived from the original on 2021-07-09. Retrieved 2021-07-21.
  6. ^ World Atlas, 2019 report, Retrieved 2023-04-26
  7. ^ a b "South Asia : Nepal". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Archived from the original on 2021-01-09. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  8. ^ "Visit the "Guardian Deity of the Himalayan Country" Pashupatinath". The Sun Tribune. Retrieved 2024-01-05.
  9. ^ "10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Nepal". Adventure Holidays in Nepal. 2017-06-29. Archived from the original on 2019-07-01. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  10. ^ "Cow becomes national animal of Nepal". News18. 21 September 2015. Archived from the original on 2019-07-01. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  11. ^ "Sanctity of the cow: Hinduism". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 2019-07-01. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  12. ^ Ojo, Kehinde (2 November 2018). "Nepal's Cattle Slaughter Ban: Impacts on Dairy Producers' Profit". Agrilinks. Archived from the original on 1 July 2019. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  13. ^ "Same Same But Different: Religion in Nepal". Inside Himalayas. 2018-06-20. Archived from the original on 2021-02-01. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  14. ^ "Is Nepal a Hindu state or secular?". Archived from the original on 2019-07-01. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  15. ^ "Nepal Adopts New Constitution, Becomes a Secular State: 5 Facts". NDTV. Archived from the original on 2020-11-12. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  16. ^ "Religious freedom in Nepal 'teetering on the edge'". World Watch Monitor. 23 October 2017. Archived from the original on 2021-02-04. Retrieved 2019-07-31.
  17. ^ "Nepal minister supports demand to declare country a Hindu state". The print. 31 March 2022.
  18. ^ Regmi 1987, p. 18.
  19. ^ "MUSLIMS of NEPAL: Becoming an assertive minority". October 13, 2007. Archived from the original on August 3, 2019. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  20. ^ Ochab, Ewelina U. "Nepal's Protection Of Religious Freedom On Downward Spiral". Forbes. Archived from the original on 2018-03-24. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
  21. ^ Christian Solidarity Worldwide, 2022 report
  22. ^ "Nepal party demands government to declare country as Hindu state, revoke secularism". Outlook India. Archived from the original on 2021-05-06. Retrieved 2021-05-06.
  23. ^ Freedom House, retrieved 2023-08-08
  24. ^ "Nepal Adopts New Constitution, Becomes a Secular State: 5 Facts". ND TV. Archived from the original on 2020-11-12. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  25. ^ "Nepal's new constitution comes into force on Sunday, but minorities say it privileges Hindus". Scroll. 20 September 2015. Archived from the original on 2021-07-19. Retrieved 2021-05-06.
  26. ^ "Nepal's unequal Citizenship Law". Nepali times. 19 December 2020. Archived from the original on 2021-05-06. Retrieved 2021-05-06.
  27. ^ "How Did Nepal Become a Global LGBT Rights Beacon?". HRW. 11 August 2017. Archived from the original on 2 May 2021. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  28. ^ "In Nepal, the rhino evokes national pride". Monga bay. August 2017. Archived from the original on 2021-05-06. Retrieved 2021-05-06.
  29. ^ "Population Monograph of Nepal Volume II (Social Demography)" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-11-26. Retrieved 2020-11-25.
  30. ^ "नेपालमा ८१ प्रतिशत हिन्दु, क्रिश्चियन २ प्रतिशत भन्दा कम". Online Khabar. Retrieved 2023-06-02.
  31. ^ National Statistics Office.
  32. ^ History of Nepal: With an Introductory Sketch of the Country and People of Nepal, Daniel Wright
  33. ^ a b "The Ancient Period", Nepal, Info club, archived from the original on 2008-05-24, retrieved 2008-07-08
  34. ^ "Flag of Nepal". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 2020-11-18. Retrieved 2019-07-31.