Faiths in Nepal

Nepal proclaimed its constitution in 2015 replacing the interim constitution of 2007 which established it as a federal republic and gave enough grounds for the mutual co-existence of all cultural and religious groups under the name of a secular state. However, the meaning of secularism in Nepal is ‘the end of Hindu favoritism’ rather than ‘an indifference to all religions at the state level of governance’. Interestingly, after the declaration of Secularism, a number of organized christian proselytization has increased in the country.

Prior to 2007, Nepal used to be a Hindu state. Hinduism is still the majority religion in the state and profoundly influences its social structure, while Buddhism  is practiced by some ethnic groups in forms which are strongly influenced by Hinduism. Kiratism is the grassroots native religion of populations belonging to the Kirati ethnicity. Islam and Christianity have made inroads and are the religious identity of small populations.

According to the 2011 census, 81.3% of the Nepalese population was Hindu, 9.0% was Buddhist, 4.4% was Muslim, 3.0% was Kiratist (indigenous ethnic religion), 1.42% was Christian, and 0.9% follow other religions or no religion.

According to the 2001 census, 80.62 percent of Nepalese were Hindu, 10.74 percent Buddhist, 4.20 percent Muslim, 3.60 percent Kirant (an indigenous religion), 0.45 percent Christian, and 0.4 percent were classified as other religious groups. In 1971 Hindus were 89.4 percent of the population, Buddhists 7.5 percent, and Kirants statistically 0 percent. However, statistics on religious groups are complicated by the ubiquity of dual faith practices, particularly among Hindus and Buddhists.

The geographical distribution of religious groups in the early 1990s revealed a preponderance of Hindus, accounting for at least 87 percent of the population in every region. The largest concentrations of Buddhists were found in the eastern hills, the Kathmandu Valley, and the central Tarai. 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 both Hinduism as well as Buddhism are Dharmic religions, they usually accept each other’s practices and many people practice a combination of both.


(Note: This article is derived from under the same title.)