Buddhism is the second-largest religion in Nepal. Hinduism has absorbed Buddhism to a considerable extent in several regions, although the two religions share many deities and temples. The Lord Buddha, founder of Buddhism was born in Nepal. He was born in the Shakya Kingdom of Kapilvastu, which has been part of the Rupandehi district in Nepal’s Lumbini zone. No one knows precisely when Prince Siddhartha was born, although it was most likely about 623 B.C. Approximately 11% of Nepali practice Buddhism, mostly from Tibeto-Burman ethnic groups such as Sherpas, Tamangs, and Bhotias who live in the mountainous highlands near Tibet’s border.
Despite the fact that the majority of Nepali’s are Hindus, Buddhist influences can be found in almost every element of Nepali society. The most frequently practiced Buddhism is Tibetan Buddhism, and Newar Buddhists follow a Newar form of Vajrayana Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism. However, Buddhism was not extensively practiced in Nepal for a long time. The government of Nepal even expelled a few Buddhist monks from the nation in the early part of the twentieth century in order to prevent the rise of Theravada Buddhism in the country.
Nepal is home to approximately 1,200 Buddhist temples, some of which date back over 2,000 years. Monasteries may be found in several of the mountain regions that border Tibet to the north and India to the east, in addition to the Kathmandu Valley. Another major aspect in spreading Nepali Buddhism across the world is tourism. Every year, more than 10,000 visitors come to Kathmandu from all over the world to see the stupas of Boudhanath and Swayambhunath. These are some of Kathmandu’s most notable and noteworthy architectural sites.
Famous Buddhist Sites in Nepal
- Bouddhanath Monastery: The largest monastery in Nepal is Boudhanath Monastery, which is located east of Kathmandu. It is one of the world’s most significant pilgrimage locations. The Buddhist faith considers BoudhanathStupa to be one of Nepal’s holiest places. UNESCO has put this stupa, a well-known Buddhist pilgrimage destination, on its list of World Heritage Cultural Sites. Thousands of Tibetans flocked to this famous Buddhist Chaitya after the Chinese invasion in 1959, energizing the Stupa.
- Swoyambunath Monastery: The Swayambhunath Monastery is a renowned Buddhist monastery located on a mountaintop overlooking Kathmandu Valley. It is considered one of the world’s oldest monasteries. In English, the name Swayambhunath means “the self-existent.” The temple is also known as the monkey temple because huge groups of monkeys frequent there. The Buddha eyes that stare out across the valley from Swayambhunath Monastery are an iconic landmark.
- Kopan Monastery: Kopan is a Buddhist monastery located behind the BouddhanathStupa on a hill. The monastery, which is located at the summit of Kopan Hill, is home to around 300 Tibetan Buddhist monks. It was originally the house of the astrologer to the King of Nepal, and is now dominated by a beautiful Bodhi tree. The Kopan Monastery also provides a panoramic view of Boudha and the magnificent Himalayan mountain range below.
- Namobuddha Monastery: Namo Buddha is around 38 kilometers east of Kathmandu. Namo Buddha is a major Buddhist pilgrimage destination in the valley, especially for Tibetan Buddhists. It was here that the Buddha, in one of his former lifetimes as a prince, gave up his body out of kindness for a hungry tigress and her cubs. It contains a fascinating narrative of the Buddha, which is memorialized by an old stone slab and a Stupa with Lord Buddha’s all-seeing eyes. Thrangu Rinpoche created Namo Buddha Temple as a depiction of the three yanas or pathways.
- Kapilvastu, Lumbini: In the history of Gautama Buddha and Buddhism, Kapilvastu and Lumbini are significant and very important. Lumbini is regarded as one of the world’s four most significant Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Lord Buddha was born at Kapilvastu, and one of the ten great disciples, Rahula, became a disciple of Lord Buddha there.Lumbini’s primary attractions include the Sacred Maya Devi shrine, Ashoka Pillar, sacred pond, and China Temple.
Although the Buddha was born in Nepal and only around 10% of the population is Buddhist, many more people have a strong attachment to the faith and are upset when foreigners claim that the Buddha was an Indian. Nepali Buddhists typically perceive themselves as a marginalized group, split by tradition, caste, location, and language. One of the most convincing reasons for our country to replace or at least add the name “Buddhdesh” to its official identity is to gain from the “soft power” that comes with being associated with Buddha.And if you look at Nepal’s cultural and aesthetic legacy, you’ll see that Buddhism accounts for more than a little fraction. You can experience how the ideals, symbols, and meanings of Buddhism and Hinduism blended peacefully by studying and teaching traditional thangka painting in Nepal.
-By: Saru Niraula for Land Nepal