Top Ad 728x90

, ,

IN NEPAL: HINDUISM OR ANIMISM? || Article on Nepal Christianity

In Nepal: Hinduism or Animism?            
by: Pabitra M. Bhandari


It was a sock for an Indian visitor to see the “Animisted Hinduism” in Nepal who learned to be a Hindu as a vegetarian. After his visit to Nepal, One reflected like this.
I knew that Nepal was declared a Hindu state… visiting a temple, I observed all the chickens and goats people were bringing into the temple. I felt awkward taking the prasad that looked like it had touched animals' blood.[1]

The world knows that Nepal is the only Hindu kingdom that existed at present. But, when we see the practices and beliefs of Nepali people it is hard to find a single genuine Hindu. Hinduism in Nepal is different than it is in India; it is mixed with Buddhism which is originally atheism and other minor religious elements.[2] In Nepal, they have no “pillar of faith” to uphold. People are not Hindu on behalf of what they believe and what they do not, but simply as born into a Hindu family, a person is recognized as Hindu. It is no more a matter of faith but just a way of living. Hinduism is very much attached to their daily life in animistic form rather than a doctrinal basis.[3]Religion concerns every sphere of life and activity, social, economic, legal, and political. It has pragmatic functions like having material benefits, curing disease, avoiding the displeasure of deities, and bringing attainment of skills in crafts, occupations, or professions.[4] They have many different rituals, temples, and festivals which evolved from Hinduism in India.

A.    History and Current Status

Hindu mythology points their history around 4,000,000 years before when the Kathmandu valley was just a lake. Because different arrivals of the incarnations of Vishnu and his contribution to the land, it changed the present condition of Nepal. The last incarnation of Vishnu will happen at the end of this age and take over all the evil of this
world.[5] The importation of religious tradition was done by two radical migrations around the second millennium B.C. The first one is of the Aryans who entered Nepal valley with their cows and buffaloes and the next group is of the Magars and Gurungsfrom north who occupied the hills and mountains. They used to worship Shiva as well as serpents, trees, etc as gods. At that time they were not the Hindus as we understand them today.[6]But historically the Hindu character shows to the thirteenth century when Muslims conquered Northern India and displaced the Hindu rulers of Brahmin and Kshatriya, who moved to the hills of Nepal. They bought their doctrine and practices along with them.[7]
Today, 89.5 percent population is Hindu which does not indicate the status of orthodox Hindus.
“The socio-cultural condition of the nation is marked by ethnic mosaic and cultural plurality. The Special feature of Nepali Hinduism is seen in its power for synthesis and assimilation, such assimilation contained the elements of demonism, tantrism, and Buddhism.”[8]

Nepal stood as a community of multi-cultural and multi-racial peoples. Hinduism is a big covering that is trying to unify all the diversities into single identification.

B.    Dimensions of Nepalese Hinduism

According to Ninian Smart, by analyzing different dimensions of a religious society, one can have a balanced description of the movements which have animated the human spirit and taken a place in the shaping of society.[9]  Nepalese Hinduism has almost all the dimensions that Ninian Smart mentions in His book, but some of those dimensions, e.g. ritual dimension and the material dimensions, are much stronger than dimensions
like: doctrinal and experiential dimensions.
As their narrative dimensions, the Nepali people use the story of different gods and goddesses and their war and victory over evil. Especially life stories of Rama, KrishnaKali, etc, are more popular. Stories of the origin of different deities and sacred places are very much popular and meaningful to their worship and daily living. For example origin of Pashupati is one of the most ancient and important Shiva temples in Kathmandu. According to them:
Shiva was very fond of Sleshmantaka Jungle (to the immediate east of Pashupatinath temple); and so, he came down with his consort, Parvati, to roam around in this Jungle in the guise of a mriga (deer).   When Lord Shiva was found missing among the devagana(gods) for a long period, they became unhappy and went around looking for him.  After long search, they found Lord Shiva in Slesmantaka Jungle in the form of a single-horned triple-eyed deer.   Brahma, Vishnu and Indrarecognized him at once and tried get control over him holding his horn.  The deer hopped across the river Bagmati, but his horn broke into three pieces, falling into the hands of Brahma, Vishnu, and Indra.  Later, as commanded by Lord Shiva himself, the pieces of horns in the hands of Brahma, Vishnu, and Indra were respectively established in the south, Gokarneswor Linga on Saran (India) in the south, Gokarneswor Linga on the north Bank of Bagmati and as Sarvakaneswara Linga at Amaravati. After this Lord Shiva established himself on the western bank of Bagmati.[10]

This is just an example of the Mythical narration of one of the temples of Nepal. There are thousands of temples all over the country and they have different mythological narrations that are passed on to generations. Feasts, Festivals, and Observances are the most important dimensions of Hinduism in Nepal. In another sense, people think of themselves as religious only on the basis of their practices and observance of rituals and festivals. Of the Hindu Festivals, “Dassera” of “Durga Puja” is the most celebrated, and is a week of many functions in Nepal. It is done for the commemoration victory of Durga over the demon Mahishasur. This festival is celebrated by observing different rituals, sacrificing animals in the Durga temple, etc.[11] Same time there are many other festivals in Nepal, among these, Bhai tika(festival of brothers and sisters), Chhat (worship of sun god), Nag Panchami (worship of Snake God), Saraswati puja (worship of God of wisdom), and Laxmi puja (worship of the god of wealth), etc.[12] all these above-mentioned are festivals but all of these festivals have to do something with the Hindu Gods. In Nepal, if there is a public holiday, it has something to do with Hindu Rituals. Temples and Stupas can come under the material dimension.


Basic elements of Animism are “Sacred people,” “Sacred time”, “Sacred objects” and “Sacred Places.”[13] All these elements are clearly seen in Nepalese Hinduism.  In every aspect of it, we can see the animistic characteristics which are given below.

1.     Sacred people

The caste system is an important part of the Hindu social system. And the ritual and social life are based on his status in the caste system. Profession, economy, marriage and other religious ceremonies, conversation, and contact with other people all depend upon it. Brahman is the highest and holiest caste of all. He is considered to be sacred even in the Vedic culture.[14] Some of the priests of different families are responsible for performing the same kind of rites to the same gods. Not only Brahman, but the devotees, and sadhus are also considered holy men in Hinduism in Nepal. Only these Holy men can perform the rituals and worship in the various temples.[15]

2.     Sacred Time:

Hinduism has its own calendar of festivals. The time mentioned in the calendar is the
sacred one or can not be broken. Even in the most famous temple in Kathmandu, Pashupatinathonly opens from early morning till noon. After that, the door of the temple for special worship will be closed. People go to Pashupatinath on the occasion of Shivaratri, Ekadasi, Rakshabandhan, Grahana, and Poornima which is considered the sacred time to visit Pashupatinath.[16]

3.     Sacred Space

Nepal, the land itself, is considered sacred. Early in the morning, People worship the sun and the earth. The Temple area is taken as the Sacred land and foreigners and non-Hindus are not allowed to enter Hindu Temple areas. Muktinath (God of salvation) is one of the sacred places of Nepal, where selling meat is regarded as a crime.[17]

4.     Sacred Objects:

There are many sacred objects in Hinduism, which are often worshiped as they do to their gods. The cow is the holy animal in Nepal as well as the National Animal. The swastika is the symbol of auspiciousness and good fortune--literally "It is well." Sri Chakra yantra is central to Shakta reverence and meditation. Often rendered in three dimensions in rock or metal, its nine joining triangles symbolize Siva-Shakti'smultidimensional manifestations. Gaja is the elephant, king of animals, and a sign of royalty and power. Vata, the banyan tree, Ficus indicus, symbolizes Hinduism, which branches out in all orders, draws from many roots, spreads shade far and wide, yet stems from one great trunk. Siva as Silent Sage sits beneath it. Kalachakra, "wheel, or circle, of time," is the pictogram of perfect creation, of the cycles of continuation. Time and space are entwined, and eight spokes mark the directions, each ruled by a Deity and having a unique quality. Sivalinga is the ancient mark or mark of God. This oval stone is a formless form betokening Parasiva, which can never be described or described. The pitha, based, represents Siva'smanifest Parashakti.[18]


Christianity and Hinduism look totally different thoughts and beliefs. Often Christians criticize Hinduism saying that they believe in one many gods and worship everything. The origin, myths, and narration all are different from each other. Still, we can find some similar aspects in both religions which can be useful to make a bridge to preach the Gospel. Some of the similarities which are to be emphasized and some of the differences which should be cautioned are given below.

A.    Similarities and differences between Christianity and Hinduism

Elements of Faith
1.     One Supreme God
One Supreme God, Who is the Lord of Everything. But He revealed himself in three different personalities(Gen. 1; Mat 28:9; Deut. 6:4
Puranas, they have a monotheistic concept of God. sometimes term “absolute” being is used instead of Supreme God[19]
2.     Sources of Authority
God is the source of all authority and He has given us written his code Bible which is the sole authority of Christianity
(2 Tim. 3:16-17)
They have many scriptures written by ancient wise men like Vedas, Upanishads, Geeta, etc. [20]
3.     Incarnation
Jesus Christ is the one and only incarnated revelation of God, from outside of this cosmos. (John 1: 1-13)
Many incarnations but this cosmos, and can easily accept that Jesus is one of those incarnations. [21]
4.     Human being
Human is part of creation but created in the image of the one and only Triune God. Each person is unique and precious before God. (Gen 1:26-28)
Human is a part of God or the ultimate reality, the physical body has not much value. Every person has the essence of a deity.
5.     Human problems
Humans are sinners because they rejected God and disobeyed Him. (Rom 3:23)
The Present condition of human beings is an Illusion, and they're unaware of their oneness with God. Human is within the cycle of samsara (reincarnation)[22]
6.     Solution for the human problems
A human can be free from sin only by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Christ has already paid the ransom for the sin, and faith in Him can save a man from eternal punishment. (Eph. 2:8-9)
God of human life is to achieve liberation from the cycle of Karma and to be united in the ultimate reality which is also called Brahma. They usually practice Yoga (path of discipline) to achieve freedom from it. [23]
7.     Ethics
Ultimate values for humanity are based on God’s character,
(2 Cor. 5:14-21)
Deeds are right if they produce good conditions, deeds are wrong if they produce harm to one’s self or to the world in general.[24]
8.     Life after death
Eternal fellowship with God in Heaven or eternal separation from God in hell. (Rev. 20,22)
Cycles of reincarnation and the ultimate state of existence are

B.    Grounds for sharing the Gospel with them

When we look at the similarities and differences between Christianity and Hinduism, we can easily compare the things and points of the weakness of Hinduism. By the missionaries and the Evangelist, one thing that should be understood very well is that Evangelism is “Changing the Religion but not changing the culture.” If a Christian carries his doctrine and good news along with him, not a western culture, His effort will be fruitful.[26]
1.     The first thing we can find out is the concept of “One God” or the “absoluteness” in Hinduism. But they have been worshiping several gods actually which are not God. One can give them a call to the gospel through which there is access to the ultimate real God.[27]
2.     Human problems can be another bridge for the gospel to enter the Hindu kingdom. Both Christianity and Hinduism believe that there is a problem in humanity, and it has to be broken down. In Hinduism, the human himself is trying to break down the problem which is not possible because one can not cut the branch of a tree while he is hanging on it. Someone should be there to help him to get down. Christ can be the person who can help one to get rid of his problems.[28]
3.     The best ground for preaching the gospel can be the ethical ground. The Christian ethic is grounded on the goodness and perfection of God. Hinduism also prefers good works but they don’t have any standards or norms to measure goodness. Hindus are also to live a good life but they don’t have a proper definition of goodness. Christ can be preached as the best model to follow. [29]


Nepal is a small country, but it has many gods but none of them are useful. All its characters show that it is practicing animism, but it holds the doctrine of Indian Hinduism. People thirst for living water. In search of the water they have been digging well here and there, but they never got the water they are searching for because they do not know the real taste of water. Missionaries and evangelists do not have the task to give the water, but also teach them how the real water looks likes. The people are dying because of their ignorance, it is the responsibility of Christians to carry the appropriate sample of living water and distribute it to them.


Bista, Dhor Bahadur. People of Nepal. Kathmandu, Nepal: Ratna Pustak Bhandar, 1996.
Casino, Tereso C. World Religions, 2003 spring, Torch Trinity Graduate School of Theology, Seoul.
Mahter, George A. and Larry A. Nichols. Dictionary of cults, sects, Religions and the Occult. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993.
McDowell, Josh and Donstewart. Handbook of today’s religions. London: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983.
Mushi Shew Shunker Shing and Pandit Sri Gunanand, History of Nepal (Delhi, India: Low price Publications, 1977), 50.
Naidu, Sushil K. Nepal: Society and Culture. Delhi, India: Kalinga publication, 1999.
Sharma, Bal Krishna. The Origin of Caste System in Hinduism And its Relevance in the Present Context. Kathmandu, Nepal: Samdan Publishers, 1999.
Smart, Ninian. The World’s Religions, 2d ed. London: Cambridge University press, 1998.
Staffner, S.J. Hans. Jesus Christ and the Hindu community. Anand, India: GujaratSahitya Prakash, 1988.
Stephen, Anil. “The Church at the Top of the World.” Christianity Today Magazine, April 3, 2000, 56-59.
Vaidya, T.R. and B.R. Bajracharya. Nepal: People and Culture. New Delhi, India: Anmol Publication, 1996.


Bhat, Deepa.How I discovered a nonvegetarian Hinduism,” Google; available from; Internet, 23 April, 2003.
Sharma S. How Hindu is the Other Hindu-Stan?,”Google; available from http:://; Internet;
“Festivals in Nepal,” Google; available from http:// members.tripod.comnepalee/pashupatinath.html; internet; 23 April 2003.
“Pashupatinath”, Available from: .html
“Ancient Symbols of Hinduism,” Google; Available from; Internet; 9 May 2003.

[1] Deepa Bhat, “How I discovered a nonvegetarian Hinduism,” Google; available from; Internet, 23 April, 2003.
[2] T.R. Vaidya and B.R. Bajracharya, Nepal: People and Culture (New Delhi, India: Anmol Publication, 1996), 25.
[3]S. Sharma http, “How Hindu is the Other Hindu-Stan?,” Google; available from http:://; Internet;
[4] Sushil K. Naidu, Nepal: Society and Culture (Delhi, India: Kalinga publication, 1999), 115.
[5] Mushi Shew Shunker Shing and Pandit Sri Gunanand, History of Nepal (Delhi, India: Low price Publications, 1977), 50.
[6] Bal Krishna Sharma, The Origin of Caste System in Hinduism And its Relevance in the Present Context (Kathmandu, Nepal: Samdan Publishers, 1999),76.
[7]S. Sharma How Hindu is the Other Hindu-Stan?,” Google; available from, 23 April 2003.
[8] Bal Krishna Sharma, 104.
[9] Ninian Smart, The World’s Religions, 2d ed. (London: Cambridge University press, 1998), 21.
[10]“Festivals in Nepal,” Google; available from http:// /nepalee/pashupatinath. html; internet; 23 April 2003.
[11] T.R. Vaidya and B.R. Bajracharya, 81.
[12] Sushil K. Naidu, Nepal: Society and Culture, (Delhi, India: Kalinga publication, 1999), 104.
[13] Tereso C. Casino, World Religions, 2003 spring, Torch Trinity Graduate School of Theology, Seoul.
[14] Bal Krishna Sharma, The Origin of Caste System in Hinduism And its Relevance in the Present Context (Kathmandu, Nepal: Samdan Publishers, 1999),17.
[15] Dhor Bahadur Bista, People of Nepal (Kathmandu, Nepal: Ratna Pustak Bhandar, 1996), 123.
[17] Ibid.
[18]“Ancient Symbols of Hinduism,” Google; Available from http://www.hinduism; Internet; 9 May 2003.
[19] Josh McDowell and Donstewart, Handbook of today’s religions (London: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983), 287.
[20] Ibid, 284.
[21] George A. Mahter and Larry A. Nichols, Dictionary of cults, sects, Religions and the Occult (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993), 229.
[22] Josh McDowell and Donstewart, Handbook of today’s religions (London: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983), 289
[23] Ibid.
[24] Ibid.
[25] George A. Mahter and Larry A. Nichols, Dictionary of cults, sects, Religions and the Occult (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993), 186.
[26] Anil Stephen, “The Church at the Top of the World,” Christianity Today Magazine, April 3, 2000: 56.
[27] S.J. Hans Staffner, Jesus Christ and the Hindu community (Anand, India: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1988), 60.
[28] Ibid, 15.
[29] Ibid, 117.


Post a Comment

Top Ad 728x90