Buddhism in Nepal
Buddhism is widely followed in Nepal especially in some ethnic group like Magar, Newar, Gurung, Rai, and Tamang.
India is regarded as the starting point of Gautama Buddha and Buddhism, but Nepal can be considered as the supporting pillar of Buddhism. Gautama Buddha was born in the royal family of Shakya clan of Kapilvastu in Nepal. The ancient kingdom of Kapilvastu still lies in the present day, Rupandehi district. Even though Nepal is considered as Hindu Kingdom, Buddhism had always been considered second. Buddhism is widely followed in the Northern part of Nepal especially in the ethnic group, Tamang, Magar, and Gurung. The history of Buddhism in Nepal dated back in the life time of Gautama Buddha. Most of the Buddhist in Nepal follows mainly Tibetan Buddhism .
Unlike any other countries, Nepal can be taken as example since both Hindu and Buddhist shared same temples for worshipping and conduct respective practices. Muktinath is one of the few such places where both Buddhist, as well as Hindu, shared this temple for worshipping. Tibetan Buddhism is widely used in Nepal by Tibeto-Burman tribes. Newar people practice their own version of Buddhism influenced by Mahayana Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism. Nepal has been the center of various legends in history of Buddhism. Bhrikuti and Manjushri were among the legends in Nepal. Swayambhu Purana, a Buddhist text states the origin of Swayambhunath Stupa on the top of a mountain. Recently, researchers found that Lumbini housed one of the oldest Buddhist shrines which dated back to 2500 years.
The Buddhism in Nepal can be divided among many periods since the history of Nepal have witnessed many changes in the rule of different Clans. Buddhism entered in Nepal during the lifetime of Lord Buddha.
Prince Siddhartha was born in the royal family of Shakya clan of Kapilvastu , Nepal . Prince Siddhartha was the son of King Suddhodhana and Queen Maha Maya. After attaining Nirvana in Bodh Gaya in India, Gautama Buddha returned to Kapilvastu and believed to turn his whole family, as well as clan into Buddhism. Later Shakya clan was believed to arrive in Kathmandu and spread Buddhism in the capital city of Nepal. Shakya Clans can be considered as the first Buddhist clans in Nepal.
Pre Licchavi Period holds some of the most important events of Buddhism in Nepal. According to Swayambhu Purana, deity Manjushri (one of the important bodhisattva of Buddhism) cut the gorge in Kathmandu during the time of King Jitedasti. Also, Great Mauryan Emperor Ashoka came to Lumbini in 2nd Century CE and constructed pillar in Lumbini and also sent missionaries to spread the Dharma in Nepal. According to Buddhist history, Ashoka the Great also visited Patan and had built four stupas.
Some ancient Buddhist sites in the Kathmandu valley were identified during Licchavi Period such as Swayambhunath Stupa, Boudhanath Stupa, four Ashoka’s Pillar in Patan, and numerous other Buddhist stone caityas. During the 7th Century, caitya worshipping practice started the cart festival to respect and worship Avalokiteshvara or also known as Matseyendranath. This popular festival is still worshiped and celebrated by thousands of the general public and is one of the most popular festivals in Kathmandu valley.
The Green Tara of Tibetan Buddhism, Bhrikuti was believed to be the daughter of first Licchavi King Anshuvarma . The marriage of Bhrikuti with Tibetan King Songsten Gampo is considered as one of the most influential events take place in Tibetan Buddhism. It is believed that Bhrikuti introduced Buddhism in Tibet. The Malla Period is considered as the golden period in the history of Buddhism in Nepal . During this period, the Tibetan Buddhist Thangka was rivaled by the Paubha , introduced by Newar in Kathmandu valley. Buddhism suffered greatly for around 500 years during the rule of Shah and Rana Dynasty. Many Buddhist monks were exiled during this process.
Famous Buddhist Sites in Nepal
Kapilvastu and Lumbini hold great importance in the history of Gautama Buddha and Buddhism. Lumbini is considered as the four most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the whole world. Kapilvastu was the birthplace of Lord Buddha and one of the ten great disciples, Rahula became the disciple of Lord Buddha in Kapilvastu
The very existence of Swayambhunath Stupa tells the story about the origin of Buddhism in Nepal. Swayambhunath Stupa is one of the most important pilgrimages of Buddhism
Boudhanath Stupa is one of the important centers of Tibetans. Boudhanath Stupa is the largest stupa in Nepal and is believed to be constructed during the invasion of Mughal
Hiranya Varna MahaVihar (Kwa Baha)
One of the most intriguing, elegant, and most ornate Buddhist monuments of Nepal is located in the ancient city of Lalitpur, is Hiranya Varna Mahavihar and is popularly known as The Golden Temple among the tourists.
"Banishment of Buddhist Monks in Nepal"
During the tyrannical reign of Rana Dynasty , government run a campaign to suppress the rise of Theravada Buddhism since they disapproved of Nepal Bhasa and Buddhism. The campaign took place in 1926 and 1944. The Rana Dynasty exiled 5 Buddhist monks in 1926 and 8 Buddhist monks in 1944. These Buddhist monks were at the front of the movement for the sole purpose of reviving Theravada Buddhism in Nepal. The five exiled monks in 1926 went to Bodh Gaya in India and later dispersed in the different region of Burma and Tibet . And the eight monks exiled in 1944, went to Kushinagar in India and later went to Sarnath . The exiled Buddhist monks in 1926 were Mahapragya, Mahaviryya, Mahachandra, Mahakhanti, Mahagnana . And the exiled Buddhist monks in 1944 were Pragyananda, Dhammalok, Subhodhananda, Pragyarashmi, Pragyarasa, Ratnajyoti, Agga Dhamma, and Kumar Kashyap .
In 1946, the exiled monks returned to their home country due to diplomatic meeting with Sri Lankan government. The exiled Buddhist monks devoted themselves to meditation as well as preaching about Dharma to ordinary people.