Harvard International Review

The Struggle Between Hindutva and Secularism in Nepal

In a 2014 poll, more than 94 percent of Nepalese said that religion was very important in their daily lives. As such an intensely religious society, Nepal made headlines in 2007 when it ousted its Hindu monarchy to form the new, secular nation it is today. Unsurprisingly, the movement toward secularism triggered violent protests from Hindu extremist groups, which erupted throughout the country during the final declaration of secularism in 2015. Nevertheless, many communities fought decades for democracy and secularism as equally important ideals for their new Nepal. They were acutely aware how Hindutva—an ideology that centers Hindu history, scripture, and religious community as central to one’s national identity—harms Nepali society and its inclusiveness. With more than 101 ethnic groups speaking 91 different languages, a secular identity is necessary to define an inclusive form of national fabric in a country as diverse as Nepal. Yet, Hindutva continues to remain a constant threat to this national fabric. In order to cultivate an inclusive national unity, secularism needs to be at the core of new Nepal.

The ideology of Hindutva has been present in the project of state formation in Nepal since the very beginning. The first monarch of this small Himalayan nation, Prithivi Narayan Shah (PNS), was believed to have unified all the smaller kingdoms that existed prior to the 18th century as a strategic ploy to counter the increasing power of the British in colonial India. Many are not aware how central Hindutva was to this project. PNS repeatedly mentioned in his writings how he wanted to establish Nepal as the “ asal Hindustan ” (the true land of the Hindus). His campaign of unification was also an attempt to establish a Hindu bulwark against Muslim hegemony in Mughal India and the rising Christian presence from the British.

The presence of Hindutva can be observed in the monarchy more recently as well. Towards the end of the 20th century, the monarchs actively used Hindutva to retain popular legitimacy and power over increasing calls to democratize. The starkest manifestation of this strategy was perhaps their deification as a direct reincarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu. Beginning in the 1960s, the monarchy actively started to establish Nepal as the last Hindu kingdom in the world, in direct opposition to secular India in the south. They began to foster cultural ties with the Hindu right, often to the dismay of incumbent governments, in India. This continued alongside the monarchy’s attempts to legitimize their rule as a divine ordinance inside the Nepali population while establishing Nepal as the last Hindu kingdom to the outside world. The monarchy even organized a world Hindu conference in the late 1980s and was named the “World Hindu Emperor'' in 2005.

The Impacts of Hindutva

Nepal is very diverse along religious lines. In the most recent census of 2011, 81 percent of the population identified themselves as Hindus, while 9 percent identified Buddhism as their primary religion. Islam was observed by 4.4 percent of the population, while 3.1 percent observed an Indigenous religion called Kirant. Whereas official estimates count 1.4 percent as Christians, many criticize this as a deliberate undercounting of Christian families.

Undercounting other religions and their merits is not unusual for Hindutva. One of the major criticisms of Hindutva is how it denigrates the contribution of other religions that also originate in South Asia, like Buddhism, Jainism, and Kirant. It also externalizes Islam and Christianity as invader religions. By propagating Islamophobia and false accusations of Christian proselytization, Hindutva deems the native followers of these minority religions as outsiders in their own homeland.

Hindutva has severely affected the preservation and celebration of other major religions practiced in Nepal. Until 2007, when Nepal was finally declared a secular state, followers of non-Hindu religions were not even recognized with national holidays for their major festivals. Nepali rulers have followed a tradition of hierarchizing Nepali society with Hinduism clearly above all other religions since the founding of modern Nepal in the 18th century. Local elites from various Indigenous Nationalities (called Janajatis in Nepal) were incentivized, with the promise of political relevance, to convert to Hinduism. Reportedly, many Thakali and Gurung lineages, two very prominent Janajati communities in Nepal, switched their primary allegiance from Tibetan Buddhism to Hinduism due to such incentives.

These rulers foregrounded these incentives with an active ploy to eradicate Indigenous languages and make Nepali the dominant lingua franca . In a country where only 44 percent speak Nepali as their first language, even today, state-sanctioned eradication of Indigenous languages gradually eroded the unique culture and religious practices of these communities. One of the starkest examples can be observed in Magars , one of the biggest Janajati communities in Nepal. While Magars represent 7.1 percent of the population, their Indigenous language is spoken only by a meager 3 percent. Losing one’s native language leads to a gradual decay of the collective memory of one’s unique history and religious culture. Throughout the last three centuries, many Janajati communities lost their language, culture, and religion to a state increasingly hostile to any deviance from the specific blend of Nepali-speaking, upper-caste Hindu traditions.

The harms of Hindutva have not been limited to the non-Hindu population of Nepal. One of the most notorious ways in which it subjugates Hindu populations is via the caste system. The Hindu caste system has been used as a central tool of division and oppression in many Hindu kingdoms in South Asia for the last 3500 years. Nepal has been no exception. The most detrimental effects of the caste system have been experienced by Dalits —communities denigrated to the bottom of the caste hierarchy. The ancient Hindu tradition of caste-based marginalization has continued under the direct supervision of every ruler since the founding of Nepal. Dalits have been denied both the necessary land to survive and their deserved social respect in Nepali society since its inception. This continues to this day as Dalit teenagers are lynched for falling in love with those from the upper-caste, and Dalit individuals are denied access to public spaces and commercial holdings because of their identity.

essay on secularism in nepal

Most recently, Rupa Sunar made headlines in Nepal when she was denied a rental room in the capital city of Kathmandu because of her caste. Notably, in this incident, the family denying her a room belonged to the Newar community, another major Janajati community in Nepal. Janajati s, which comprise more than 35 percent of the population, have been active participants in discriminating against Dalits since the reign of Prithivi Narayan Shah (PNS) himself. In 1854, Junga Bahadur Rana, the despot in power then, purposefully included Janajatis into the Hindu caste system above Dalit communities. Even though a majority of them were neither Hindu nor had a pre-existing caste system, the state-sanctioned caste hierarchy encouraged discrimination against Dalits for centuries while mandating reverence for those in the upper caste.

The fight against the caste system is inextricably linked to the fight for secularism, both for Janajatis and Dalits . The upper caste Hindu kings of yesterday have become the upper caste Hindu politicians and judges of today. Despite political quotas to ensure proportionate representation since 2007, upper caste men continue to dominate the upper echelons of all the major political institutions. Despite just making up 15 percent of the population, upper caste men make up 85 percent of judges in the country. The socio-political dominance of these men is intrinsically tied to their status in the Hindu caste system. Separating religion from the state is a key step in creating a representative political system and building a secular Nepal.

Gradual Secularization

The breadth of ethnic and religious diversity in Nepal makes secularism a necessity. The declaration of Nepal as a secular state in 2007 affirmed various non-Hindu Nepalese’s claim to equal citizenship. They could now be Christian or Muslim and still be as Nepali as anyone else. This was most explicitly not the case when Nepal was celebrated as the only Hindu kingdom in the world until 2007.

Janajatis and minority religious groups actively fought for equal citizenship to create the Nepal they live in today. Beginning in the 1990s, calls to declare Nepal a secular state began to grow from Janajati leaders. A 10,000-strong silent demonstration was held in support of secularism and minority rights in 1990. Reportedly, more than 100,000 people reclaimed the streets to march against the Hindu monarchy and for a secular state in 1994. These forces were critical in establishing the democratic infrastructure and collective imagination necessary to later oust the Hindu monarchy. The then-insurgent Maoists, with the support of various Janajati communities, also demanded secularism in their 40-point demand to the government before starting the decade-long civil war in 1996. This civil war ended with the ousting of the Hindu monarchy in 2007 and the declaration of Nepal as a secular state.

essay on secularism in nepal

However, Hindutva continues to be a key threat to the integrity of Nepali society today. The national rise of the Hindu right in India in 2014 followed the rise of its Nepali counterpart, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), in 2013. The RPP, an unabashedly pro-monarchy party infamous for using Hindutva politics, became the fourth biggest party in the new Constituent Assembly in 2013 from a much smaller force in 2008.

The influence of Hindutva in the making of Nepal’s final constitution in 2015 has been undeniable. Even de jure secularism in Nepal today is questionable. Many activists and minority communities objected to the wording of the constitution since secularism has been defined as the state protecting Sanatan religions, or religions practiced from ancient times. The term Sanatan is especially troubling as adherents of Hinduism often define themselves as followers of Sanatan dharma (or religion). While most would consider Buddhism and Kirant as being one of the Sanatan religions, there really is no definite list, and this vagueness is troubling for many. What is not vague for most scholars and activists is that Islam and Christianity would not be considered as Sanatan religions if their status came under any sustained questioning. This is just one example of the tenuous nature of Nepal’s new secularism.

Even without the election of an outright Hindu government, the incumbent governments do not appear rather favorable to the secular spirit of Nepal. Many fear that Khadga Prasad Oli, the recently-ousted Prime Minister of Nepal, symbolized the increasing prominence of Hindutva politics in Nepal. He caused a stir all over South Asia when, in 2020, he claimed that Lord Ram was born in Nepal, not in India. Many announced their displeasure over what they saw was an embattled leader using Lord Ram, an important figure of Hindu worship, for political ends. But this is not unusual for Oli. He famously expressed opposition to secularism before the promulgation of the new constitution in 2015. He is also routinely criticized for making official state visits to Hindu temples, often just when political crises are around the corner. Even though he is no longer the prime minister now that the Supreme Court of Nepal has rejected his unconstitutional stint , he still continues to lead the biggest political party in the country.

essay on secularism in nepal

Another facet of Nepali society that is clearly not secular today is the criminalization of cow slaughter. It is unclear why a secular nation would criminalize the slaughter of a particular animal based on the religious grounds of one community. This criminalization is often used to prosecute Dalits and Janajatis all over Nepal. Between 2011 and 2017, there have been 727 court cases of cow-slaughter in Nepal. While a majority of the accused are either Dalits or Janajatis (51 percent and 39 percent in the supreme court, respectively), more than 80 percent of the judges presiding over these cases come from the Hindu upper caste. Eating cow meat has historically been an integral part of many Janajati communities like Dolpo , Limbu , and Tamang . It is a result of their unique history of varied culture, specific geographical challenges, and ritual traditions. Criminalizing their indigeneity is one way in which the upper caste community continues to impose its religious values over everyone else. A majority of those convicted from these communities face 12 years of jail time for the crime of consuming something that they already owned.

Changing religions does not seem to end their woes either. A pathway many Dalits are increasingly choosing to escape social and religious persecution is converting to Christianity. More than 65 percent of Christians in Nepal today are Dalits , and the World Christian Database claims that Nepal has the world’s fastest-growing Christian community. Instead of rectifying the underlying social cause of such conversion, people who convert are used as battering rams for many to exert their Hindutva. The constitution today criminalizes proselytization, and converts to Christianity often face significant social persecution.

Many communities have fought long and hard for a secular Nepal. However, not everyone is sold on the notion just yet. In a series of opinion polls conducted in 2010 and 2011, around 55 percent of Nepalese said that they supported a potential redeclaration of Nepal as a Hindu state. For many pro-Hindu groups, the demand for the previous King to return is intimately tied with the redeclaration of Hindu nationhood. Yet, Nepal continues to strive as a secular democracy, in an incomplete and imperfect manner.

Hinduism is undoubtedly a sacred religion for many in Nepal. It has a reverent history of providing solace and meaning to millions of lives in Nepal for thousands of years. It continues to have its vibrant presence in Nepali society today. However, rulers and despots, throughout Nepal’s history, have used Hindutva to further their political ends. This has resulted in direct harms to various Janajati cultures and religions with prestigious histories of their own, while enshrining state-sponsored oppression to the country’s Dalit communities. Many underestimate how effective Hindutva politics can be in a highly religious nation like Nepal. As Nepal strives to solidify its newfound democracy, it must reckon with its historical struggle between Hindutva and secularism.

Cover picture: Victory rally at the 1990 Nepalese revolution against the Hindu Monarchy, by Min Ratna Bajracharya

Ang Sonam Sherpa

Ang Sonam Sherpa

Ang Sonam is a staff writer for the HIR. He studies Social Studies and South Asian studies at Harvard.

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RELIGION, SECULARISM, AND ETHNICITY IN CONTEMPORARY NEPAL | Edited by David N. Gellner, Sondra L. Hausner, and Chiara Letizia

New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2016. xiii, 491 pp. (Illustrations.) US$55.48, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-946772-3.

In 2007, following the ten-year People’s Movement that led to Nepal’s king relinquishing power, the former Hindu kingdom of Nepal became a secular republic. It was not clear, however, what this meant for its ethnic and religious minorities, its Hindu majority, and the state. To what degree would religion remain at the core of the state apparatus and identity? Would Nepalis become less religious? What would be the future of Nepal’s religious communities and traditions both inside and outside the dominant high-caste Hindu fold?

Religion, Secularism, and Ethnicity in Contemporary Nepal , an edited volume by David N. Gellner, Sondra L. Hausner, and Chiara Letizia, developed out of a 2012 workshop at the University of Oxford to “reflect on the trajectories Nepal would take in a state divested of its officially religious status” (xi). The resulting volume is a collection of methodologically and topically varied yet consistently superb case studies by scholars with extensive field experience and/or textual expertise in Nepal. Together, the essays demonstrate the continued salience, malleability, and pervasiveness of religion in Nepal, whether at the textual, ritual, symbolic, or real politik level. The volume provides rich examples, across contexts, of how religion is front and center in processes and problems involved in navigating the challenges of contemporary life and the forces of modernity. The essays here illustrate that religion remains indisputably central to people’s adaptations to pressures and changes wrought in the aftermath of civil war, migration, and urbanization. The essays also reveal a fascinating disconnect between state-level and other official discourses surrounding secularism and the lived religious lives of Nepali communities and individuals.

The book’s introductory essay by Gellner and Letizia discusses theories and models of secularization and the historical developments from the Panchayat era onwards that led to the state’s adoption of secularism in 2007. Nepal’s politicians appear not to have known enough about what they were endorsing when they supported secularism and soon found themselves surprised, even rudely awakened, to this fact by their constituents. Does being secular mean the state should de-fund long-standing cultural festivals that the public expects, or instead sponsor religio-cultural festivals for each community? The 2015 constitution, which finally provided the state’s definition of secularism, offered little clarity. So far in Nepal, as in India, “secularism has not entailed secularization” (15), but what is observable, Gellner and Letizia note, is an increase in individualism and middle-class values (16), a continued increased production of new identities in the public sphere (18), and the transformation and reform of ritual traditions (23).

Following the introduction, the volume is organized into two sections, “Contrasting Urban and Rural Views: Secularism, Individualism, and Blood Sacrifice” and “Ethnic Traditions Confront a Changing State and Society,” comprising six essays each. Letizia’s essay discusses varying communities’ conceptions of secularism in the Kathmandu Valley and Tarai, including Maoists, lawyers, Muslims, cow-protection agitators, and Hindus. Despite the wide semantic and symbolic range of the term secular ( dharma-nirapeksa ) , Letizia shows that across communities the general sense of its meaning is an increase of public religiosity (festivals, for example) and increased state support for religious activities.

Religion is always in flux, but certain historical periods and social events generate more significant degrees of accommodation and adaptation than others. This volume makes clear that the People’s Movement and its aftermath is one such period. Some of the most compelling discussions in this volume are of cases in which people have transformed aspects of religious practice and/or belief to achieve certain ends, including the preservation of religion itself. Ina Zharkevich documents the impact of the People’s War and Maoist wartime policies on religious beliefs and practices in Thabang, mid-western Nepal, where the Maoist “people’s government” ran as a parallel state from 1997. There were unexpected consequences to “the ambiguous nature of Maoist (anti-)religious policies during the war” (79) for religious practice: the gods were understood to have fled the place and people gave up following the ways of their ancestors. However, the ritual practice of desamar was transformed as puja was shifted to the family home so that families could avoid attack from the Maoists. Gerard Toffin maps new religious movements (NRMs) in the Kathmandu Valley, which center around guru figures and tend to offer members means for pursuing happiness and expressing individualism, without requiring a break with their ties with traditional religion. Pustak Gimire’s essay provides further evidence of religious adaptation as Rai non-high-caste women achieve gains in social status through possession by the goddess Bhagavati, who is perceived as of higher status than Rai ancestors, specialists, deities, and local spirits (183). Axel Michaels’s essay on transformations and criticisms of blood sacrifice in Nepal, Astrid Zotter’s essay on replacing the king in the state’s performance of the (formerly) royal ritual of the Pacali Bhairav sword procession, and Gellner and Krishna Adhikari’s essay on ancestor worship and sacrifice in the central and western hills together offer rich documentation of the complexities at work in maintaining the practice and legitimacy of long-standing religious rituals that assert status hierarchies and forms of authority now contested.

Other essays document processes of homogeneity and heterogeneity in religious performance, ritual, and affiliation among ethnic groups, such as the Tamang Lhocchar festival, discussed by David Holmberg, and in varying attempts to redefine Kiranti religion, discussed by Martin Gaenszle. At stake is the production of identity and pursuit of recognition. Tamang are the focus of Brigitte Steinmann’s essay on confrontations between Maoists and Buddhists and of Ben Campbell’s essay on Christianity in Tamang social life. Both essays document fluidity of beliefs, values, and religious (and non-religious, or quasi-religious) affiliations. In Tamang songs, Campbell explains, Christianity “is presented not as a great rupture with the past, but as the next generation’s suitably modern mark of difference” (404). The afterward, by Rajeev Bhargava, offers a theoretical discussion of secularism and considers Nepal’s commitment to secularism in a global era when other states are becoming increasingly anti-secular.

Though no volume can cover everything, some readers may wish that the religious traditions and cultures of the Tarai had received more proportionate attention in this volume. And though a minor quibble, the volume could have benefitted from its thirteen long essays being organized into smaller and thematically focused sections, instead of two large sections. But none of this detracts from the superb quality of each essay, the value of having them all together in one volume, and the critical importance of the volume as a whole for documenting and interrogating religion in contemporary Nepal. Religion, Secularism, and Ethnicity in Contemporary Nepal is a tremendous resource for scholars and students of religion in Nepal and South Asia.

Megan Adamson Sijapati Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, USA

Last Revised: August 30, 2018

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Filing Religion: State, Hinduism, and Courts of Law

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Filing Religion: State, Hinduism, and Courts of Law

2 National Gods at Court: Secularism and the Judiciary in Nepal

  • Published: June 2016
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Based on the acknowledgment that the notion of secularism in Nepal is multivocal and is still taking shape, this chapter examines the judiciary’s contribution to defining it. Two Public Interest Litigation cases concerning religious traditions that are closely associated with the Hindu monarchy are discussed. One petition seeks to reform the tradition of the living goddess Kumari in the name of child rights, while the other seeks to prevent the state from interfering in the appointment of priests at Pashupatinath temple. The analysis of these Supreme Court cases shows that Nepali secularism is taking a form which ascribes an active role to the state and the court in both supporting and reforming religious traditions, which contrasts with the neutral stance and no-relation policy that is generally seen as a mark of secularism in the West.

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Essay on Secularism for Students and Children

500+ words essay on secularism.

Secularism in simple words refers as an ideology which provides people with the right to follow any religion or not follow any. It permits the state with the responsibility to maintain neutrality in the matters of religions. In a secular country, no state can legally favor or hate a particular religion. However, individuals residing in a country are free to follow and practice the religion of their choice.

essay on secularism

What is secularism?

The term “ Secular ” refers to being “separate” from religion or having no religious base. Secularism term means separation of religion from political, economic, social and cultural aspects of life. Thus religion is only a purely personal matter. It provides full freedom to all religions and tolerance of all religions. It also stances for equal opportunities for followers of all religions. So, no discrimination and partiality on grounds of religion.

Importance of Secularism:

Secularism is one of the most important achievements of any democratic country. It facilitates us with some benefits such as:

Religious Freedom

Living in a secular state has several benefits. Religious freedom is one of them. People are unrestricted to follow the religion of their choice or not follow any.

Fair Decision Making

The independence of the state from religious groups make the sure fair decision making. That provide equal treatment to all the religious and non-religious groups. No religious community can put on pressure on the state to make decisions in their favor.

Freedom of Speech

The ideology of secularism also allows people to express their opinions and beliefs freely. As in a secular state, no religious group can apply pressure of dominance. This has an increasing effect on the right to speech.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

History of Secularism in India

The history of secularism in India times back to 1976. While it declared that a secular state during the 42nd amendment of the Indian Constitution. The leaders of Independent India had visualized of a country where religion is no bar for people.

The state cannot favor or accept any religion as the state religion. The presence of the ideology of secularism in India indorses the co-existence of all the religious groups. The execution of the ideology of secularism in a diverse country like India which embraces of a dozen religions was a difficult task. Hence there are certain drawbacks which are yet to be addressed to.

Western and Indian Secularism

The philosophy of secularism in the west based on the principle of separation of state and religion. It merely focuses on the rights of a citizen to follow the religion of their choice. India secularism supports the fair and equal treatment of all religions and treats them all as one under the law.

But the Indian government has not correctly been separated from religions. While making sure also that no religion has a special favor in a way unfair to the other groups. Secularism in the west has faith that every citizen has the right to follow any religion of their choice.

Problems with Secularism

Though the leaders of the independent state have struggled hard to make sure the fair execution of the ideology of secularism. But certain problems still need to be addressed to make certain proper, peaceful and fair functioning.

State and religious groups, both should work self-sufficiently and abide by the law at the same time. After some decades of independence still, political parties remain to use the agenda of religious diversity and caste. Sometimes because of personal benefits, some politicians are refusing the motive of creating a secular state.

It needs to be understood that any state cannot be truly secular with secularism just written in its books. Thus, the complete ideology has to be recognized with grace and implemented equally to all the people. Meanwhile keeping a check on the governmental bodies for any unfair practice of religious groups to gain power.

Hence, each individual should be careful subject to law, regardless of gender, religion, majority or minority status, etc. So, the young generation should be trained about the ideology.

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UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath | PTI

A s it appeared from his public life, whether rightly or wrongly, Adityanath’s mindset is simple and straight—whatever is required in the interest of the country has to be done, and done with commitment. The bitter pill, if required, has to be administered without any sugar coating. A clear pointer of things to come as majoritarian politics gained currency in the state.  

The February 2017 television interview also made clear that Adityanath does not view Mughal monuments as part of India’s virasat (heritage); even renaming Taj Mahal as Tejo Mahalay is not beyond him, though he says he would like the issue to be debated.  

Speaking at Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP’s) Virat Hindu Sammelan on 25 February 2015 in Rohtak, Adityanath said, ‘Conversions spoil communal amity in the country. [They] should be banned. If conversions continue, I feel Ghar Vapasi programme will continue.’

He also alleged that ‘anti-national activities breed’ in ‘Muslim areas’ and that ‘secularists’ should answer his questions. ‘India’s problem is not malnutrition or poverty. India’s problem is vote bank politics fuelled by jehadi fervour. In Hindu society everyone feels safe, every mother and sister feels safe. There is guarantee of safety of each and every religious sect here.’  

Prior to being anointed as chief minister, Adityanath faced three criminal cases. While two of these were filed in January 2007 for allegedly inciting violence and making communal speeches, the third one was filed way back in 1999, accusing him of ‘murder, criminal intimidation, trespassing on burial spaces, destroying/defiling any place of worship’. However, he got relief in each one of them, after he was installed as chief minister.  

Yogi Adityanath was known for his love–hate relationship with the BJP leadership. He established himself as an independent power centre with a distinct form of Hindutva. His strong communal statements and tall demands for his HYV during the election campaign did give anxious moments to the BJP leadership. Yet, the BJP and RSS leadership hoped to ‘contain and control’ Adityanath by appointing him to the most sought- after political office of Uttar Pradesh, while simultaneously using him to consolidate their Hindutva hold over the rising, upwardly mobile, non-Brahmin elite. Ever since he became chief minister, Yogi Adityanath has been busy trying to give the impression that ‘communal’ charges were falsely slapped on him, when he actually never indulged in any kind of hate speech.

Also read: BJP’s ‘double-engine’ pitch sells development but UP still lagging. See these indicators

In an exclusive interview given to the authors at the chief minister’s official residence in Lucknow in October 2017, Yogi Adityanath sought to make the media his punching bag. Asked to comment on his widely perceived ‘communal’ agenda and the tendency to give everything a Hindu–Muslim colour, he did not mince words in pointedly accusing the media of painting him black. ‘The media has its own bias and mindset against me and therefore it tends to always depict me in negative light’, was his charge. As a counter-question, he asked: ‘I would like to know what you understand of secularism? Can there be a more secular nation than India, where people of all castes, creed or faith have lived together for centuries?’  

He was, however, caught on the wrong foot when his attention was drawn to his speech on Nepal, where he expressed his displeasure about the new Nepali dispensation favouring secular and democratic values. He said, ‘my views were twisted in the media.’ He added, ‘Please view what I said in the context in which I spoke. What the media does is to skip the context and give out half-truths in order to project me in poor light. If you make it a point to view my remarks in a particular context, you will never find me wrong.’

Also read: Yogi’s cows, Modi’s houses, Akhilesh’s jobs: Why this is a more ‘normal’ Uttar Pradesh election

That secularism is not his cup of tea has been expressed quite explicitly by Adityanath in his article penned under the headline, ‘Antar-raashtreey saazishon ke jaal me phansta Himalayee Rashtra Nepal’ (Nepal getting caught in international conspiracies), which is part of the dissertation ‘Hindu Rashtra Nepal: Ateet aur Vartman’ (Hindu Rashtra Nepal: Past and Present). Describing 18 May 2006 as a ‘Black Day’, when the country’s kangaroo parliament passed an ‘unfortunate and unexpected’ resolution declaring Nepal a secular state, Adityanath squarely blames Maoists, Islamic militants and Christians for the ‘unconstitutional’ decision.

He expressed the same sentiment when he was asked whether he had altered the course of the philosophy of Gorakhnath who did not believe in hardcore sanatan dharma—a practice now being aggressively advocated by Adityanath.  

You have again got it wrong. I cannot imagine that an educated man like you would not know what sanatan dharma is. If Gorakhnath did not believe in ‘sanatan dharma’, then tell me, what did he believe in? What he practised and preached was sanatan dharma only and that is a Hindu practice which has been going on for ages. Where is the conflict and where is the question of any deviation from Baba Gorakhnath’s philosophy? I am only carrying on his spiritual legacy. Here again, you need to look at his teachings in the wider perspective then you will understand that whatever he did and preached was no different from sanatan dharma. After all, it began with the worship of ‘shakti’—something that Lord Shiva too believed in. There is absolutely no difference.  

While asserting that he had not deviated from the line laid down by Gorakhnath, whose philosophy was deeply rooted in secularism, he sought to know:  

Where has the secular fabric of this organization been violated? Many jogis were traditionally used to moving from place to place. They did not necessarily make the Gorakhnath temple their home. Therefore, it was natural for them to be shifting base with the passage of time. They used to sing bhajans also. And no one is denying them entry to the temple even now. You are making a false allegation if you seem to think that I have driven them away. Why should I?

Also read: Mahants and maths: Adityanath’s religious lineage that will shape 2022 UP election

Adityanath went on to add:  

Haven’t you seen how so many Muslims come to my janata durbar at the Gorakhnath temple every day, whether I am there or not? And you can check for yourself that there is no discrimination of any kind with them. Their problems are dealt with just the same attention and commitment as that of any Hindu. The trouble with the media is that they are always looking at me with their own coloured vision.20  

Instantly, he reverted to his familiar territory of minority bashing, accusing them of being responsible for India—a ‘Sanatanee’ Hindu state since time immemorial—not becoming a Hindu Rashtra. ‘But for the “scheming” Muslims and Christians, India would have become a Hindu state,’ was his prognosis.  

Fact remains that several commercial establishments within the premises of the Gorakhnath temple are being run by Muslims and a few of the temple employees also belong to the minority community. And that is surprising to many.  

At the end of the day, there could be no denying this sadhu-turned-politician has made it big, not by dint of any merit but by using religion and playing the politics of hardcore polarization. Having created his own political space at the highest level in the state, Adityanath is now aspiring for a bigger role in national politics—using the same tools.  

essay on secularism in nepal

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The Caravan

Battle Royal

The fight against a hindu rashtra in nepal.

essay on secularism in nepal

SINCE NOVEMBER LAST YEAR, protests have erupted throughout Nepal, including in the cities of Butwal, Biratnagar, Dhangadhi, Pokhara, Janakpur and Kathmandu. While civil and political protests are a strong and regular feature of Nepali politics, these recent developments assume significance because of the coming together of various fringe groups on two broad demands: the restoration of the monarchy and the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra. These demands are not novel—the country has seen sporadic protests of this kind over the past decade, but they have been few and far between. This time, however, the protests have drawn larger numbers than before and not been limited only to the usual suspects. Journalists have noted the presence of not just traditional royalist parties, such as the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, but also supporters of the Nepal Communist Party—the unified ruling party until its recent split into the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist–Leninist) and the CPN (Maoist Centre)—and the opposition Nepali Congress. The daily Naya Patrika has reported that the protests have received financial support from Hindu organisations in Nepal such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Vishwa Hindu Mahasangh Nepal and the Hindu Jagaran Samaj.

“ Dhamilo pani ma maachha marne prayas ho ”—these protests are akin to fishing in troubled waters— Keshab Lamichhane, a Nepali journalist, told me. Lamichhane was referring to a dramatic event that recently stunned Nepal’s political class. On 20 December 2020, the prime minister, Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli of what was then the unified NCP, dissolved parliament and recommended fresh elections, throwing the country into a constitutional crisis. Although Nepal’s supreme court later reinstated the parliament, complex constitutional provisions have allowed Oli to remain in power. Oli’s act was referred to as pratigaman— regression. Many saw a parallel with the former king Mahendra, who dismissed an elected government in 1960 and later imposed a partyless panchayat system. “He wants to leave behind a legacy like King Mahendra,” Sarojraj Adhikari, a senior journalist and writer, told me.

At first glance, the comparison might seem overblown, but the fears surrounding a change in a system of government are real. Nepal is a nascent democracy and promulgated its constitution in its latest democratic avatar as recently as 2015. This came seven years after the country abolished the monarchy, following a decade-long civil war against Maoist insurgents that ended with the signing of a comprehensive peace accord in 2006. The constitution-writing process took many years and the final version was rammed through following the 2015 earthquake. The document was considered deeply controversial and came against the backdrop of deep unrest in the Terai, the country’s southern plains, in which more than fifty people were killed. The main source of tension was the question of federalism—how the country would be divided up in terms of states. Madhesis, who form a significant percentage of the country’s population, felt betrayed by the constitution and the drawing of state lines to dilute their power even in places where their numbers are strongest.

essay on secularism in nepal

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Shaping secularism in Nepal

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Global Secularisms in a Post-Secular Age

Michael Rectenwald

Following the work of Bhargava, as well as Janet R. Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini, in this volume, the editors take as a point of departure the fact that secularism is plural, that various secularisms have developed in various contexts and from various traditions around the world, and that secularism takes on different social and cultural meanings and political valences wherever it is expressed. At the same time, however, we acknowledge the hegemonic desiderata of secularism’s universalizing claims. That is, we see the importance of recognizing secularism as an Enlightenment legacy that exhibits universalizing ambitions. Thus, it is necessary to keep in mind both the doctrinal claims of secularism – its supposed difference from religion(s), its association with “progress” and modernity, its assertions of rationality and neutrality, its claims of exclusivity in connection with public life – as well as how this doctrinal logic unfolds in various contexts. Given this conception of secularism as both universalizing doctrine and particular instantiation, the essays in this volume provide numerous points of contact between theoretical/historical reflection and empirical case studies on secularisms in context. Recognizing that secular traditions have developed differently around the world and that this multiplicity must necessarily inform and complicate the conceptual theorization of secularism as a universal doctrine delivered wholesale from the Enlightenment, we have sought to gain clearer and more nuanced appreciations of the complexities of the concept of secularism from empirical case studies. Analyses of different regions, we believe, enrich our understanding of the meanings of secularism, providing comparative range to our notions of secularity, while adding dimension to our understanding of regional conditions and conflicts themselves. We maintain that theoretical and historical reflections over the meanings of secularism benefit from such empirical studies, serving to illustrate theories while also challenging traditional understandings that otherwise may remain unchallenged from within the more or less purely theoretical debates. At the same time, theoretical/historical treatments of secularism, we believe, help to inform our understanding of secularisms in context, enabling us to discern the principles at stake in the various regional expressions of secularity and/or religiosity globally. Theoretical and historical accounts help us to refine, contextualize, and revise our understandings of contemporary empirical findings.

essay on secularism in nepal

Economic and Political Weekly

Mohita Bhatia

Global Secularisms addresses the state of and prospects for secularism globally. Drawing from multiple fields, it brings together theoretical discussion and empirical case studies that illustrate "on-the-ground," extant secularisms as they interact with various religious, political, social, and economic contexts. Its point of departure is the fact that secularism is plural and that various secularisms have developed in various contexts and from various traditions around the world. Secularism takes on different social meanings and political valences wherever it is expressed. The essays collected here provide numerous points of contact between empirical case studies and theoretical reflection. This multiplicity informs and challenges the conceptual theorization of secularism as a universal doctrine. Analyses of different regions enrich our understanding of the meanings of secularism, providing comparative range to our notions of secularity. Theoretical treatments help to inform our understanding of secularism in context, enabling readers to discern what is at stake in the various regional expressions of secularity globally. While the bulk of the essays consists of case-based research, the current thinking of leading theorists and scholars is also included.

Anush Khadka

Routledge Handbook of South Asian Religions

David Gellner , Chiara Letizia

Between 2006 and 2017 Nepal transitioned from being an officially Hindu kingdom to an officially secular federal republican state. Although some Nepalis have upheld a model of secularism that would imply no connection between the state and religion, for most it implies that the state should support all religions equally. Through case studies (1) of conversion and the relation of Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity to the state and to Hinduism, (2) of diverse Hindu responses to secularism, and (3) of the controversy over animal sacrifices at the Gadhimai festival, the chapter examines the effects of the new concepts, propagated by the state especially since 2015, of secularism and of distinct religions and ethnic groups.

Ziad Esa Yazid

Modern western welfare states are among the most secularised societies in history. Using literature research,this article reviews the attributes of welfare states that contribute to secularisation, i.e., economic development, industrialisation, democracy, science and technology and education. Economic development has reduced the need for religion to compensate for the frustration of economic deprivation while industrialisation has changed society’s economic activities from primitive agrarian to modern industrialisation, which has reduced uncertainties and has ultimately led to secularisation. Democracy has made it possible for people to choose their beliefs. The advancement of science, technology and education has replaced religion to explain events in a more rational way than offered by religion. So far, it is concluded that these attributes do contribute to secularisation.

Journal of Islam in Asia <span style="font-size: 0.6em">(E-ISSN: 2289-8077)</span>

Adibah Abdul Rahim

Secularism is the most serious challenge of modernity posed by the West. Its main ideology is to liberate man from the religious and metaphysical values and expel religion from the practical aspect of man’s life. It clearly presents its materialistic viewpoint which is cut off from Divine, Transcendent or Supernatural principles and does not refer to and is isolated from Revelation. In terms of its intensity and scope as well as its discernable effects upon people’s mind, the repercussion of secularism is so pervasive and universal. It gives a great impact on every facet of life including individual and family lives as well as educational, political, economic and social-cultural realm. Most importantly, secularism affects the very tenets of traditional religious beliefs and practices. This paper tries to focus on the danger of secularism and its principles which are contradict to the religious worldview.

Journal of Sociology 53 (4)

Adam Possamai

Post-secularism is a term that has emerged in various disciplines including sociology to reflect the move back of religion in the public sphere and the need to take into account the voice of religious actors in any contemporary analysis of a society. This articles argues that post-secularism is in fact a specific type of secularism that deals with the neo-liberal management of religion in the public sphere. To unpack this, this article will first explore what is meant by post-secularism, and then via a case study on Shari’a in Australian, it will then move to the theory of multiple modernities to underline the relativity of such a term. It will then be proposed that what is meant by post-secularism is a type of secularism (perhaps a ‘late’ rather than a ‘post’) in neo-liberal societies.

Working Paper Series of the CASHSS „Multiple Secularities - Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities“

Monika Wohlrab-Sahr

Vincent Depaigne


Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology

Charles Pickles


Management and Marketing

Robert Andrei

Matthew Flinders

Marlyn Edith Rivera Huamán

New England Journal of Medicine

Dương Nguyễn

Anuario del Departamento de Historia y Teoría …

Damian Dombrowski


Anggun Sri Hardiyanti

Dmitry Storchak

International Journal of Public Administration

Allison Turner

Luis Manuel Cuellar

Yamila Juri

Fair Work Act Revision or Restitution

Keith Abbott

Jose Weissmann

Pedro G S Costa

Shane MacSweeney

Luisa Graciela San Martin

European Journal of Purchasing &amp; Supply Management

Eso que nos juntábamos a estudiar, se volvía real

Emir Andrés , Viviana Marilin Cimbaro Canella

Kyandoghere Kyamakya

Agáta Csehiová

Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives

Priyank Chauhan

Salud mental

J J Sanchez Sosa

Journal of Extension

Terrie Becerra

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an essay on superstition

Friday, may 31, 2013, secularism in nepal.

essay on secularism in nepal

Thank u so much... Jennifer Thompson


  1. (PDF) Shaping secularism in Nepal

    essay on secularism in nepal

  2. Essay on Meaning of Secularism in English || Paragraph on Meaning of

    essay on secularism in nepal

  3. (PDF) Future of secularism in Nepal

    essay on secularism in nepal

  4. (PDF) Secularism in Nepal

    essay on secularism in nepal

  5. Religion, Secularism, and Ethnicity in Contemporary Nepal

    essay on secularism in nepal

  6. (PDF) Religious Identities and the Struggle for Secularism The Revival

    essay on secularism in nepal


  1. ||What is Gender equality || लैगिक समानता र समता || लोकसेवा विशेष

  2. Christians are for secularism state of Nepal 5th oct 2015

  3. Secularism only Exist in Hindu country 🇮🇳🇳🇵 #secularism #india #nepal #hindu #shorts

  4. Essay on Nepal 🔥 ❤️👍👌

  5. secularism ka keeda chor do #hindu #hinduism #temple #krishn

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  1. The Struggle Between Hindutva and Secularism in Nepal

    The web page analyzes the history and impacts of Hindutva, an ideology that centers Hinduism as the national identity, on Nepal's secularism and social fabric. It explains how Hindutva has harmed the non-Hindu and Dalit communities, and how it challenges the diversity and inclusiveness of Nepal. It also discusses the challenges and opportunities of secularism in Nepal.

  2. PDF Shaping Secularism in Nepal

    Shaping Secularism in Nepal Chiara Letizia Introduction On May 18 2006, Nepal's House of Representatives declared Nepal a secular ... of these bans is strong, and they remained in the concept papers of the Constituent Assembly and the new draft Criminal Code presented to Parliament in 2011. Plate 1. On the day of Ram Nawami (24 March 2010 ...

  3. Review Essay: Toward an Anthropology of Nepali Secularism

    Part I starts off with Letizia's thoughtful essay on different ideas of secularism championed by various pro- and anti-secular forces in contemporary Nepal. Although the essay is not very different from Letizia's previously published articles on different meanings and contours of secularism, she brings the debate up to date with the ...

  4. (PDF) Secularism in Nepal

    This is the model of multi-religious cooperation and equality. The Nepalese model of secularism will be exemplary, new and unique. Swagat Nepal is a versatile young man. Besides being a political analyst, he is also an advocate, literary expert, poet and a journalist. A rare combination of several disciplines in one.

  5. PDF The Perception of the Public towards the Concept of Secularism in Nepal

    Kingdom of Nepal, 1990 (2047 B.S.), Article 4 (1)) and an unofficial Hindu State before that time. Since 2007 Nepal became a secular since the declaration in the Interim Constitution of Nepal (4Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2007 (2063 B.S.) Article 4 (1)), which marked the end of a ten-year-long armed conflict.

  6. Is Nepal's Secularism Under Threat?

    Pro-Hindu forces pose a serious threat to mainstream political parties, who take ownership of secularism and federalism in Nepal. If political parties fail to provide much-needed political ...

  7. Religion, Secularism, and Ethnicity in Contemporary Nepal

    Nepal, which formerly prided itself on being 'the world's only Hindu Kingdom', is now officially secular. Secularism was adopted by the interim assembly as part of the removal of the monarchy in the semi-revolutionary situation following the end of the Maoist insurgency. Many of the MPs who voted for it then had regrets later.

  8. [PDF] Shaping secularism in Nepal

    Introduction On May 18 2006, Nepal's House of Representatives declared Nepal a secular state and suspended the political powers of the king, thus putting an end to the two-centuries-old Hindu kingdom. Nepal's secular status was reiterated in the Interim Constitution of 2007, without specifying which model of secularism should be established, and finally the Constituent Assembly declared ...

  9. PDF Contested Secularism and Religious Conflict in Nepal

    secularism that ended two hundred years old Hindu dominance. Monarchy and Hinduism were the main foundations of the state governing system since Nepal's unification in the 18th century. Afterwards, of the declaration of secular status, Nepal is facing numbers of socio-political and religious challenges. Hindu groups are protesting the secular

  10. Temple Building in Secularising Nepal: Materializing Religion and

    How does secularism materialize? Through an ethnographic exploration of several recent temple-building projects among the Thangmi (Thami) community of Dolakha district, I explore how Nepal's ongoing transformation from a unitary Hindu monarchy to a secular federal democratic republic has prompted citizens to reconceptualize the relationships between the categories of "ethnicity" and ...

  11. [PDF] Secularism and statebuilding in Nepal

    Article 4 of the new constitution describes the Nepali state as secular, but defines this as meaning 'religious and cultural freedom, along with the protection of religion and customs practised from ancient times'. None of the other terms used in Article 4 were deemed to need similar explication. Hence, according to the 2015 Constitution, to say that Nepal is secular is to say that there ...

  12. A Case Study of Secularism in Nepal

    The objectives of the research are to know the emergence of secularism in Nepal and to evaluate the consequences of secularism in Nepal. In this paper, I have focused on the debate of secularism in Nepal. ... Search 217,137,126 papers from all fields of science. Search. Sign In Create Free Account. DOI: 10.3126/vot.v7i01.51017; Corpus ID ...


    The book's introductory essay by Gellner and Letizia discusses theories and models of secularization and the historical developments from the Panchayat era onwards that led to the state's adoption of secularism in 2007. Nepal's politicians appear not to have known enough about what they were endorsing when they supported secularism and ...

  14. National Gods at Court: Secularism and the Judiciary in Nepal

    Based on the acknowledgment that the notion of secularism in Nepal is multivocal and is still taking shape, this chapter examines the judiciary's contribution to defining it. Two Public Interest Litigation cases concerning religious traditions that are closely associated with the Hindu monarchy are discussed. One petition seeks to reform the ...

  15. (PDF) Future of secularism in Nepal

    Kathmandu post, ' For Secular Nepal, (2015); The author in the article has started secularism as a fundamental part of what it means to be livi ng in a democratic republican polity committed to ...

  16. Essay on Secularism for Students and Children

    500+ Words Essay on Secularism. Secularism in simple words refers as an ideology which provides people with the right to follow any religion or not follow any. It permits the state with the responsibility to maintain neutrality in the matters of religions. In a secular country, no state can legally favor or hate a particular religion.

  17. Religion, Secularism and Ethnicity in Contemporary Nepal

    The Sacred Town of Sankhu: The Anthropology of Newar Ritual, Religion and Society in Nepal. B. Shrestha. History, Sociology. 2012. This book presents a detailed view of Newar society and culture, and its socio-economic, socio-religious and ritual aspects, concentrating on the Newar town of Sankhu in the Valley of Nepal.

  18. Freedom of religion in Nepal

    Nepal is a secular state under the Constitution of Nepal 2015, where "secular" means religious, cultural freedoms, including protection of religion and culture handed down from time immemorial. In 2023, the country was scored 2 out of 4 for religious freedom. Background. The Constitution provides for freedom to practice one's religion. ...

  19. For Yogi Adityanath's views on secularism, read his essay on Nepal

    secularism. Uttar Pradesh. Yogi Adityanath. In 'Yogi Adityanath', Sharat Pradhan and Atul Chandra write about the UP chief minister's essay where he called 18 May 2006 — the day Nepal became a secular state — a 'Black Day'.

  20. The goddess Kumari at the Supreme Court: Divine kinship and secularism

    Nepal, which formerly prided itself on being 'the world's only Hindu Kingdom', is now officially secular. Secularism was adopted by the interim assembly as part of the removal of the monarchy in the semi-revolutionary situation following the end of the Maoist insurgency. Many of the MPs who voted for it then had regrets later.

  21. The fight against a Hindu Rashtra in Nepal

    Lamichhane was referring to a dramatic event that recently stunned Nepal's political class. On 20 December 2020, the prime minister, Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli of what was then the unified NCP, dissolved parliament and recommended fresh elections, throwing the country into a constitutional crisis. Although Nepal's supreme court later ...

  22. (PDF) Shaping secularism in Nepal

    The shaping of secularism in the 1990s The declaration of Nepal as a secular state has been a cherished goal of the religious minorities and ethnic groups since 1990, when the People's Movement overthrew the Panchayat regime, and provided the context for the rise of ethnic-based political identities.

  23. an essay on superstition: Secularism in Nepal

    Secularism in Nepal. Secularism in Nepal. Nepal was only a Hindu Kingdom before the Janaandolan II, 2062. After that revolution it has become a secular state. Secularism means the belief that religion should not involved in the organization of the society, education etc. The power of religion should not influence in any sector of a country.