Culture of Nepal

The culture of Nepal is rich and unique. The cultural heritage of Nepal has evolved over the centuries. This multi-dimensional heritage encompasses the diversities of Nepal’s ethnic, tribal, and social groups, and it manifests in music and dance; art and craft; folklore and folktales.

Religions & Philosophy

The 2001 census identified 80.6% of the population being Hindu. Buddhism was practiced by about 11% of the population (although many people labelled Hindu or Buddhist often practice a syncretic blend of Hinduism, Buddhism, and/or animist traditions). About 3.2% practice Islam and 3.6% of the population follows the indigenous Kirant religion. Christianity is practiced officially by less than 0.5%.

Hindu and Buddhist traditions in Nepal go back more than two millennia. In Lumbini, Buddha was born, and Pashupatinath temple, Kathmandu, is an old and famous Shiva temple of Hindus. Nepal has several other temples and Buddhist monasteries, as well as places of worship of other religious groups. Traditionally, Nepalese philosophical thoughts are ingrained with the Hindu and Buddhist philosophical ethos and traditions, which include elements of Kashmir Shaivism, Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, works of Karmacharyas of Bhaktapur, and tantric traditions. Tantric traditions are deep-rooted in Nepal, including the practice of animal sacrifices. Five types of animals, always male, are considered acceptable for sacrifice: water buffalo, goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks. Cows are very sacred animals and are never considered acceptable for sacrifice.

Festivals and celebrations

Several of the festivals of Nepal last from one to several days. Dashain is the longest and the most important festival of Nepal. Generally, Dashain falls in late September to mid-October, right after the end of the monsoon season. It is “a day of Victory over Demons”. The Newars celebrate the festival as Mohani. Tihar or Swanti and Chhath are another important festivals of Nepal. New Year’s Day of the lunar calendar Nepal Sambat occurs at this time.

Other important festivals include Buddha Jayanti (the celebration of the birth of Buddha)Maha Shivaratri (a festival of Lord Shiva) and during Maha Shivaratri festivities, some people consume excessive drinks and smoke charas.Sherpas, mostly located at higher altitudes and in the Mount Everest region, celebrate Mani Rimdu, for the good of the world.

Most festivals include dancing and music, and a variety of foods are consumed during festivals and on special occasions.

The Sagan ceremony is the ritualized presentation of five food items (boiled egg, smoked fish, meat, lentil cake and rice wine) to a person which is done to bring good fortune as per Tantric tradition.