Don’t Let Nepal’s Prayer Flags Confuse You

Mention Nepal and the picture that comes to mind is that of impossibly tall mountains viewed from a pass that is adorned with flapping, colorful Tibetan prayer flags. Photo journals from any of the variety of hikes are certain to include the flags along with prayer wheels and Buddhist stupas along the routes. With all of these being a big part of the image of Nepal, you could be forgiven for believing that Nepal is mostly a Buddhist country.

In fact, more than 80 percent of Nepalis are Hindu.

Hinduism and Buddhism Entwined

Hinduism and Buddhism have a bit of a shared history. The man who is most commonly known as Buddha was an Indian prince who practiced Hinduism, and as such a lot of the stories and practices from Hinduism are a part of many of the common practices of Buddhism. There’s also the interpretation that Buddhism isn’t so much a religion and more of a philosophy, so that you can be Hindu and Buddhist or Christian and Buddhist or Muslim and Buddhist at the same time. But it’s more accurate to say that Nepal is a Hindu nation.

Religious Tolerance

Visiting Nepal will reveal the widespread nature of Hinduism that isn’t always captured in the pictures. There are linga and yoni shrines scattered about; linga are the representation of Shiva’s male energy while yoni are the representation of Shakti’s female energy. Bindis are worn by those who have visited various temples and rubbed the red powder used on various deities on their foreheads. It’s believed that Nepal’s flag was given to them by Vishnu.

However, you will not find religious tensions between Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal, and quite often you will find them sharing temples. And while Buddhism may not be the majority religion, Nepal has become one of the refuges for Tibetans to retain their practices in spite of persecution in their homeland.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Let Nepal’s Prayer Flags Confuse You

  1. kaashish650 Reply

    Respected madam, whoever told you that buddha was a indian prince, have cheated you big time. Its been a long time that nepal is dealing with this shit. If you read this in a book, than burn it coz it is not worth reading. He was a prince of lumbini NEPAL. secondly, if you go to sahara desert trying to find glaciers, will it be possible? Have you ever heard of LUMNINI, KAPAN , TAPLEJUNG, MUGU, DOLPA, SANKHUWASABA and many more. These are the part of nepal where predominantly buddhists reside. On your walk to these places, i assure you that you will find those flags in every second house you see. So plz correct your knowledge and don’t make people confused.

    1. Christine Reply

      You are correct. Lumbini, the accepted birthplace of Guatama Buddha, is in the present-day borders of Nepal. However, at the time that he was born, the current nation-state borders did not exist as we know them now. There were a variety of kingdoms and tribes that covered the area and it is accepted by scholars that the Shakya clan that he was born to is much more closely associated with India than it is Nepal. This is not to say that there are no Buddhists or Buddhist sites in Nepal. I visited many that you listed. I was simply saying that there is a much stronger population of Hindus in Nepal that many people aren’t aware of, because many tourists focus on the Buddhist symbols throughout the country.

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