Religious practices are an important part of the lives of the Nepalese people. Mythologies of various Hindu gods and goddesses abound in this country and cultural values are based on the philosophies of holy books like the Gita, Ramayana, etc.
Women and children visit neighborhood shrines at dawn to offer worship to the gods. Holding plates of rice, flowers, and vermilion powder, they perform puja by lighting incense, ringing the temple bell, and applying ‘ tika’, a red paste, on their foreheads. Passers-by stop at temples and show their reverence to the gods by spending a few minutes praying. Occasionally, groups of’ men sit near temples playing music and singing rhyms until late night.
In Nepal, Hinduism and Buddhism are the two main religions. The two have co-existed down the ages and many Hindu temples share the same complex as, Buddhist shrines. Hindu and Buddhist worshippers may regard the same god with different names while performing religious rites.
Though Nepal is the only Hindu Kingdom in the world, many other religions like Islam, Christianity, and Bon are practiced here. Some of the earliest inhabitants like the Kirats practice their own kind of religion based on ancestor worship and the Tharus practice animism. Over the years, Hinduism and Buddhism have been influenced by these practices which have been modified to form a synthesis of newer beliefs.
As a result, visitors to this country may often find the religious practices in Nepal difficult to follow and understand. But this does not prevent one from enjoying the -different traditional ceremonies and rituals of Nepalese culture. It is indeed a totally new experience of religious fervor.
Thousands of gods and goddesses make up the Hindu pantheon. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are the three major Hindu gods who have their own characteristics and incarnations. Each god has his own steed which is often seen kneeling faithfully at the feet of the deity or sometimes outside that god’s temple. Symbolic objects are carried by the multiple hands of each deity which empowers them to perform great feats.
Sakyamuni Buddha is the founder of Buddhism who lived and taught in this part of the world during the sixth century BC. The great stupas of Swayambhunath and Bouddhanath are among the oldest and most beautiful worship sites in the Kathmandu Valley.
The spinning of prayer wheels, prostrating pilgrims, collective chants and burning butter lamps are some Buddhist practices often encountered by tourists. A slip of paper bearing a mantra is kept inside the wheels so that prayers are sent to the gods when the wheel is spun. Scenes from the Buddha’s life and Buddhist realms are depicted on thangka scroll paintings which are used during meditation and prayer ceremonies. Many Buddhist followers are seen performing these practices in Swayambhunath, Bouddhanath and at other Buddhist sites around the Valley.