Buddhism in Nepal

Buddhism in Nepal started spreading since the reign of Ashoka through Indian and Tibetan missionaries. The Kiratas were the first people in Nepal who embraced Gautama Buddha’s teachings, followed by the Licchavis and Newars.[1] Buddha was born in Lumbini in the Shakya Kingdom. Lumbini is considered to lie in present-day Rupandehi district, Lumbini zone of Nepal.[2][3] Buddhism is the second-largest religion in Nepal. According to 2001 census, 10.74% of Nepal's population practiced Buddhism, consisting mainly of Tibeto-Burman-speaking ethnicities, the Newar.[4] However, in the 2011 census, the Buddhist population in Nepal was just 9% of the country population.[5] It has not been possible to assign with certainty the year in which Prince Siddhartha, the birth name of the Buddha, was born, it is usually placed at around 563 BCE.[6] In Nepal's hill and mountain regions Hinduism has absorbed Buddhist tenets to such an extent that in many cases they have shared deities as well as temples. For instance, the Muktinath Temple is sacred and a common house of worship for both Hindus and Buddhists.[7]


Lumbini 4
Birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama as Buddha, at Lumbini in Nepal

In Nepal, the majority of people identify as Hindu. However, Buddhist influences are pervasive in most aspects of Nepali culture to an extent that Buddhist and Hindu temples are shared places of worship for peoples of both faiths so that, unlike in other countries, the distinction between Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal is not always clear. During the reign of King Aṃśuvarman, the Nepalese princess Bhrikuti played a significant role in spreading and developing Buddhism in Tibet. Tibetan Buddhist architecture has long been influenced by Nepalese artists and sculptors like Araniko. The sacred Buddhist texts in Mahayana Buddhism are mainly written in the Ranjana alphabet, the script of the Newars, or scripts like Lantsa, which are derived from Ranjana.

In traditional Nepalese Buddhism, there are nine special texts which are called the "Nine Dharma Jewels" (Navagrantha), and these are considered the nine books of Buddhism par excellence:

Among the Tibeto-Burman-speaking peoples, Tibetan Buddhism is the most widely practised form. Newar Buddhism is a form of Vajrayana influenced by Theravada Buddhism. Many Buddhist groups are also influenced by Hinduism. Buddhism is the dominant religion of the thinly populated northern areas, which are inhabited by Tibetan-related peoples, namely the Sherpa, Lopa, Manangi, Thakali, Lhomi, Dolpa and Nyimba. They constitute a small minority of the country's population.

Ethnic groups that live in central Nepal such as the Gurungs, Lepcha, Tamang, Magar, Newars, Yakkha, Thami, Chhantyal and Chepang are also Buddhist. These ethnic groups have larger populations compared to their northern neighbours. They came under the influence of Hinduism due to their close contacts with the Hindu castes. In turn, many of them eventually adopted Hinduism and have been largely integrated into the caste system.

The Kirati people, especially the Limbu and the Rai people, have also adopted Tibetan Buddhist practises from their Buddhist neighbours. The Jirel people, who are considered a Kirati, have also adopted Tibetan Buddhism.


Buddhist prayer flags in Nepal.

Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha in Nepal. He attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, in present-day Bihar, India. He there preached his teachings and thus Buddhism came into existence.

Pre-Lichchavi Buddhism

Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya Empire put up a pillar at Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha, in the second century BCE.[8] After the Third Buddhist council, Ashoka missionaries to Nepal.[8] It is also believed that Ashoka went to Patan and had four stupas built there. It is believed that his daughter Charumati established the village of Chabahil, which is located between Kathmandu and Boudha..

Buddhism during the Licchavi period (400-750)

The Licchavi period saw the flourishing of both Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal. Excellent examples of Buddhist art of the period are the half-sunken Buddha in Pashupatinath, the sleeping Vishnu in Budhanilkantha, and the statue of Buddha and the various representations of Vishnu in Changu Narayan.

Another Buddhist text, the Manjushrimula Kalpa, mentioned Manadeva as the King of Nepal Mandala. Researchers believe the Mulasarvastivadavinaya was written in the 2nd century CE, and that the Manjushriulakalpa was written during Manadeva's reign. The Swayambhu Purana, the ancient Buddhist Purana text, and a Licchavi inscription all mentioned Nepal Mandala.

Buddhist inscriptions and chronicles and Tibetan sources also record a few tantric Buddhist deities, namely Akshobhya, Amitabha, Vajrayogini, Vajrabhairava, Usnisavijaya and Samantabhadra. Strong influence from Animism resulted in belief in Buddhist deities such as the Pancaraksas.

Religious tolerance and syncretism were stressed during the Licchavi period. King Manadeva paid homage at both Hindu and Buddhist sites. His family subsequently found expression for their beliefs in various religions.

The worship of the Caitya and the Rath Jatra cart festival of Avalokitesvara were introduced around this period. Many ancient sites in the Kathmandu Valley were identified with major Buddhist Caityas, such as Swayambhu, Boudhanath, Kathmandu and the four "Ashoka" stupas of Patan, and another two hundred stone [Cetiya|Caityas] dating from the Licchavi Period, were testified to the widespread antiquity of [Cetiya|Caitya] worship.

It is possible that this practice, in its earliest incarnation, was related to the worship of stones, which may have originated in the early, rival Kirata inhabitants of the Valley, prior to the Licchavis. According to one of the earliest Licchavi inscriptions, Caitya worship ordinarily consisted of ritual circumambulation of the caitya and offering standard items such as incense, colored powder, oil lamps and ablutions. At times, the inscriptions indicate, it could even involve resurfacing an existing Caitya and covering the new surface with many elaborate paintings.

Caitya worship was an important factor in bringing more of the proto-Newar tribal inhabitants into the Buddhist fold, as it was a devotional practice designed for the general public. Thus, the masses probably began practicing the cart festival of Avalokitesvara/Matsyendranath (Jana Baha Dyah Jatra and Bunga Dyah Jatra) during the latter half of the seventh century AD.

This festival was celebrated by hundreds or even thousands of people, who helped to construct and transport a huge, wheeled cart that bore the image of Avalokitesvara for several days or weeks along a specific route. The introduction of this festival must have been an instant success among the majority of the Kathmandu Valley population. This strengthened Buddhism's standing in relation to the other Hindu and Animist faiths of the Valley at the time.

Forty stone inscriptions made some mention of Buddhism throughout the Licchavi period. Most of the references are concerned with monasticism. However, almost nothing is known about the day-to-day life in the Vihara monasteries or how they functioned administratively.

The names of the fifteen Buddhist monasteries are known, and it is clear from the context in which some of these are named that they are among the most important religious sites of that time. It is not known for certain what schools of Buddhism were most prominent at the time. But the strongest early influences (aside from an even earlier probable substratum of Pali Buddhism) probably came from the Mahasanghika, Sammitiya and the Sarvastivada schools. The Makhyamaka and Yogacara schools were thought to be more influential in the later period with the emergence and growth of the Vajrayana school.

Inscriptional evidence also proves that there was a string of traditional methods of making religious gifts. These offerings were used for earning blessing and making merit, and the women of the Buddhist seem to have taken the lead in offering these gifts. Strikingly, parallel points within the Buddhist cave contain inscriptions of Maharashtra, which predated the Licchvi Nepal. The references in the Licchavi inscriptions to the Mahayana and Vajrayana will be mentioned below in connection with Buddhist art and notable Buddhist figures of the Licchavi period.

Buddhism during the Licchavi period (600-1200)

British Museum Asia 41-2
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, gilded bronze. Nepal, 16th century CE

A Licchavi king, Amshuverma, married his daughter Bhrikuti to the ruler of Tibet, King Songtsen Gampo. According to legend, she received the begging bowl of the Buddha as part of her wedding dowry. It is believed that she introduced Buddhism into Tibet. she is also believed as a reincarnation of the Green Tara of Tibetan Buddhism, who is seen in many Buddhist Thangkas. Lichhavi period is known as the golden time for Buddhism.

Buddhism during the Malla dynasty (1200–1769)

The Malla dynasty saw to the golden period of the syncretism of Hindu and Buddhist art forms by the Newar. The Paubha, the Newar counterpart of the Tibetan Buddhist Thangka, flourished in this period.

During the reign of Jayasthiti Malla, after implementation of Manudharmasastra, celibate monks were banned from practicing in Nepal. This gave way to the decelibate Newar Buddhism. Because of this, Theravada Buddhism was lost in Nepal only to be revitalized in the beginning of the 20th century.[9]

Buddhism during the Shah dynasty (1769–1846)

The Shah dynasty saw the decline of Buddhism in Nepal where it eventually merged with Hinduism as the Hindu Gurkha rose to prominence. In the north, the Mustang kingdom ruled by the Buddhist Lopa and the Thakali saw to the flourishing of Vajrayana (Tibetan Buddhism) in the North.

Buddhism during the Rana dynasty (1846–1951)

There is an incorrect assumption that, due to perceived similarity to tantric Hinduism, that Modern Newar Buddhism in Nepal has largely been absorbed into mainstream Hinduism. However, Newar Buddhism has retained a distinct identity, and nearly all practices, art forms and castes remain. In the north, people of Tibetan origin continued to be the much-unchanged practises of Tibetan Buddhism, especially in the case of the Nyimba of Northwest Nepal. On the other hand, the Thakali, who had traditionally played an important role in the Nepali society but yet retained Tibetan Buddhism, have begun to embrace Hinduism as well in the recent years.

It is significant to note that during the autocratic Rana regime, several Theravada Buddhists were banished from Nepal for preaching Buddhism.[10][11] The Banishment of Buddhist monks from Nepal in 1926 and 1944 was prompted by an attempt to suppress the revival of Theravada Buddhism which began in the 1920s. Also, the rediscovery of Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, occurred in this era with contributions from among others, General Khadga Sumsher Rana.

Shah Dynasty (1951–2006)

Victor Skumin 1998 Kathmandu Nepal
Victor Skumin (right) at the International Buddhist Meditation Centre in 1998. Kathmandu, Nepal

After the overthrow of the Rana dynasty in 1951, Buddhism gradually developed in the country. Theravada Buddhists played a greatly significant role for the Buddhist revival campaign in modern Nepal since the 1920s. This revival movement has changed Buddhism from a religion of some ethnic groups and castes to going beyond the caste and ethnic religion in Nepal. Presently, there are three main Buddhist schools; Tibetan Buddhism, Newar Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism.

Tourism is an important factor for promoting Nepali Buddhism to the world. Every year, Kathmandu can receive more than 10,000 travellers from all over the world just to visit the Boudha Stupa Boudhanath and the Swyambhu Maha Chaitya Swayambhunath stupas. These are the remarkable and significant architectural sites, which are only found in Nepal. Apart from these two main Buddhist monuments there are hundreds of Buddhist monuments in Kathmandu and in other main cities of Nepal.

International Buddhist Meditation Center operates in Kathmandu.[12]

Republic of Nepal (2006-present)

Nepal officially became a secular state in 2006. All religions in Nepal now have equal opportunities to propagate according to their belief.


According to 2011 census, the adherents of Buddhism are as follows[5]:NEG denotes newly listed ethnic group, for which 2001 census figures are not available.

Ethnic Group Buddhist Percentage


Total Population


Total Buddhist


Buddhist Percentage

2011 (%)

Tamang 90.26% 1,539,830 1,344,139 87.29%
Magar 24.47% 1,887,733 340,608 18.04%
Gurung 69.03% 522,641 327,813 62.72%
Newar 15.35% 1,321,933 141,982 10.74%
Sherpa 92.83% 112,946 111,068 98.34%
Bhote 59.40% 13,397 13,173 98.33%
Ghale NEG 22,881 11,451 50.05%
Hyolmo 98.45% 10,752 9,819 91.32%
Thakali 65.01% 13,215 8995 68.07%
Chhantyal 64.2% 11,810 0 0.00%
Jirel 87% 5,774 0 0.00%
Lepcha 88.8% 3,445 0 0.00%
Other ethnic groups 0.81% 21,028,147 87051 0.41%
Total 10.74% 26,494,504 2,396,099 9.04%

Between 2001 and 2011 census, the percentage of Buddhists have declined by 1.7%, from 10.74% to 9.04%. All major ethnic groups (except Sherpa, Bhote and Thakali) showed decline in percentage of Buddhists. It is interesting to note that in the 2011 census not a single Chhantyal, Jirel and Lepcha reported themselves as Buddhist. In the 2011 census, a total of 11,233 Chhantyal (95.1%) reported themselves as Hindu. Likewise, 4,604 Jirel (79.7%) and 2,907 Lepcha (84.4%) reported themselves as Bon religion followers. Of the Ghale group, which was added in the 2011 Census, more than 50% of them reported themselves as Buddhist followers.

See also


  1. ^ Dutt, N. (1966). "Buddhism in Nepal" (PDF). Bulletin of Tibetology. 3 (2): 27–45.
  2. ^ Smith, V. A. (1914). The Early History of India from 600 B.C. to the Muhammadan Conquest Including the Invasion of Alexander the Great (Third ed.). London: Oxford University Press. pp. 168–169.
  3. ^ UNESCO (2012). "Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha". UNESCO: World Heritage Centre.
  4. ^ Dahal, Dilli Ram (2003). "Social Composition of the Population: Caste/Ethnicity and Religion in Nepal" (PDF). Population Monograph of Nepal 2003. Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Government of Nepal. 1: 104–106. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 7, 2014.
  5. ^ a b "Population Monograph of Nepal 2014 Volume II (Social Demography)" (PDF).
  6. ^ Thomas, E. J. (1927). "The Birth of Buddha". The Life of Buddha as Legend and History. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services. pp. 27–37. ISBN 81-206-0979-4.
  7. ^ Shastri, G. C (July 1968). "Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal" (PDF). Ancient Nepal: Journal of the Department of Archaeology. 4: 48–51. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 6, 2012.
  8. ^ a b [1] Archived October 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Theravada Buddhism in Modern Nepal". Lumbini Nepalese Buddha Dharma Society (UK). Archived from the original on 4 August 2014. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  10. ^ "buddhistview.com". Archived from the original on 6 May 2003. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  11. ^ "Dhammaduta: The Theravada Bhikkhu Sangha in Nepal". Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  12. ^ "International Buddhist Meditation Center". facebook.com. Retrieved 31 December 2018.

Further reading

External links

Amitabha Monastery

Amitabha Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Nepal.

Banishment of Buddhist monks from Nepal

The banishment of Buddhist monks from Nepal was part of a campaign by thee erstwhile Rana government to suppress the resurgence of Theravada Buddhism in Nepal in the early decades of the 20th century. There were two deportations of monks from Kathmandu, in 1926 and 1944.

The exiled monks were the first group of monks to be seen in Nepal since the 14th century. They were at the forefront of a movement to revive Theravada Buddhism, which had disappeared from the country more than five hundred years ago. The Newar Buddhism is traditionally Vajrayana based. The tyrannical Rana dynasty disapproved of Buddhism and the Newar language. It saw the activities of the monks and their growing following as a threat. When police harassment and imprisonment failed to deter the monks, all of whom were Newars, they were deported.

Among the charges made against them were preaching a new faith, converting Hindus, encouraging women to renounce and thereby undermining family life and writing books in Newari.

Buddhaghosa Mahasthavir

Buddhaghosa Mahasthavir (Devanagari: बुद्धघोष महास्थविर, born Sapta Ratna Vajracharya, 12 October 1921 – 24 September 2011) was a Nepalese Buddhist monk who worked to revive Theravada Buddhism in Nepal in the 1940s in the face of suppression by the Rana regime.

He was the founder of Pariyatti Shiksha (Buddhist education) in the country, and in 2006 was named the fifth Sangha Nayaka (Chief Prelate).

Bunga Dyah Jatra

Buṅga Dyaḥ Jātrā (Nepal Bhasa: बुंग द्यः जात्रा) is a chariot procession honoring the Buddhist deity of compassion Avalokiteśvara held in Lalitpur, Nepal. It is one of the greatest religious events in the city and the longest chariot festival celebrated in the country.

Buṅga Dyaḥ is also known as Raktalokitesvara Karunamaya and Rāto Machhindranāth and is revered as the giver of rain. The name Rato Machhendranath means Red Machhendranath in a reference to the color of the deity's image. The chariot festival is held according to the lunar calendar, so the date is changeable. It begins on the 4th day of the bright fortnight of Bachhalā, the seventh month in the lunar Nepal Sambat calendar.

Chanira Bajracharya

Chanira Bajracharya (Nepali: चनिरा बज्राचार्य; born 1995 in Nepal) is a former Kumari or Living Goddess of Patan in Nepal. She was chosen as living goddess in April 2000 and was enthroned when she was five years-old. Her reign ended when she reached puberty at the age of 15 when she menstruated for the first time, as is customary for Kumaris. She was succeeded by Samita Bajracharya.Bajracharya is the niece of Dhana Kumari Bajracharya, one of the longest serving living goddesses, who reigned in Patan for three decades.Bajracharya speaks fluent English, which she learned during her reign as Living Goddess, and is currently a business student.


Devdaha (Dev Daha, देवदह) is a municipality in Rupandehi District of Nepal, the ancient capital of Koliya Kingdom, located 7 km east of Lumbini and east of Butwal and shares a border with Nawalparasi district on the east side. It is identified as the maternal home of Queen Mayadevi, Prajapati Gautami and Princess Yasodhara. There are many places to visit in Devdaha. It is believed that Prince Siddhartha had spent some years of his childhood with his step-mother/aunt Prajapati Gautami in Devdaha.

International Buddhist Academy

The International Buddhist Academy (IBA) is an academy of Buddhist philosophy situated in the Boudha area of Kathmandu, Nepal. The academy was founded in 2001 by the Venerable Khenchen Appey Rinpoche in order to preserve, study and translate primarily Tibetan Buddhist texts. The academy is home to a number of monks and nuns, and can accommodate students who come from around the world for the summer courses. Khenpo Ngawang Jorden is the director.

IBA is also home to the Chodung Karmo Translation Group which aims to translate texts from the Abhidharma, Prajnaparamita, Madhyamaka, Pramana, Yogacara, and Three Vows collections.

Jana Baha Dyah Jatra

Jana Bahā Dyaḥ Jātrā (Devanagari: जनबहा द्यः जात्रा, alternate names: श्वेत मत्स्येन्द्रनाथ / मच्छिन्द्रनाथ जात्रा, सेतो मत्स्येन्द्रनाथ / मच्छिन्द्रनाथ जात्रा, अमोघपाश अवलोकितेश्वर जात्रा, जनबहाः करुणामय जात्रा) is the chariot procession of Jana Baha Dyah, the Bodhisattva of compassion, which is held annually in Kathmandu. It begins on the 8th day and ends on the 10th day of the bright fortnight of Chaulā (चौला), the sixth month in the lunar Nepal Era calendar.

The Buddhist deity is known in Sanskrit as Aryavalokitesvara (Sacred Avalokiteśvara), and also White Machhendranath or White Karunamaya and Guanyin by Chinese. It is believed that the annual procession was begun to provide the townspeople who were unable to visit his temple a sight of the image.

Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling

Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery near Boudhanath, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal. It has ties to both the Kagyu and Nyingma schools, hence the combined Ka-Nying in the name. Shedrub Ling means “sanctuary for learning and practice.”

Kopan Monastery

Kopan Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery near Boudhanath, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal. It is a member of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an international network of Gelugpa dharma centers, and once served as its headquarters.

The monastery was established by the FPMT's founders, Lamas Thubten Yeshe and Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, who bought the property from Nepal's royal astrologer in 1969. Its name comes from the name of the hill on which it was built.

Kopan has become especially famous for teaching Buddhism to visiting Western foreigners. The first of what would become annual month-long (November–December) meditation courses was held in 1971. These courses generally combine traditional Lam Rim teachings with informal discussion, several periods of guided meditation, and a vegetarian diet.

Kopan now encompasses two separate institutions: the monastery, atop Kopan Hill, and the nearby Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery (known as the Kopan Nunnery). The nunnery was established in 1979 by Lama Yeshe to provide spiritual and practical education modeled on that received by the monks. In 2009 the nunnery began raising money to expand its housing and education capacity, which has grown from 4 to 400 in less than 35 years, using such sites as GoFundMe.

Kopan Monastery has also recently become a popular recreational destination for Kathmandu residents and tourists. On Saturdays it regularly receives hundreds of visitors. The monastery is not open to the public on other days of the week.


Lumbinī (Nepali and Sanskrit: लुम्बिनी listen , "the lovely") is a Buddhist pilgrimage site in the Rupandehi District of Province No. 5 in Nepal. It is the place where, according to Buddhist tradition, Queen Mahamayadevi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama in 563 BCE. Gautama, who achieved Enlightenment some time around 528 BCE, became the Buddha and founded Buddhism. Lumbini is one of many magnets for pilgrimage that sprang up in places pivotal to the life of the Buddha.

Lumbini has a number of older temples, including the Mayadevi Temple, and various new temples, funded by Buddhist organisations from various countries, have been completed or are still under construction. Many monuments, monasteries and a museum, and the Lumbini International Research Institute are also within the holy site. Also, there is the Puskarini, or Holy Pond, where the Buddha's mother took the ritual dip prior to his birth and where he had his first bath. At other sites near Lumbini, earlier Buddhas were, according to tradition, born, then achieved ultimate Enlightenment and finally relinquished their earthly forms.

Lumbini was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.

Newar Buddhism

Newar Buddhism is the form of Vajrayana Buddhism practiced by the Newar people of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. It has developed unique socio-religious elements, which include a non-monastic Buddhist society based on the Newar caste system and patrilineality. The ritual priests (guruju), vajracharya (who perform rituals for others) and shakya (who perform rituals mostly for their own families) form the non-celibate religious sangha while other Buddhist Newar castes like the Urāy act as patrons. Uray also patronise Tibetan Vajrayanin, Theravadin, and even Japanese clerics.Although there was a vibrant regional tradition of Buddhism in the Kathmandu Valley during the first millennium, the transformation into a distinctive cultural and linguistic form of Buddhism appears to have taken place in the fifteenth century, at about the same time that similar regional forms of Indic Buddhism such as those of Kashmir and Indonesia were on the wane. As a result, Newar Buddhism seems to preserve some aspects of Indian Buddhism that were not preserved in schools of Buddhism elsewhere.

Pema Namding Monastery

Pema Namding Monastery is a Nyingma Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Nepal which was opened in April 2008. Trulsik Rinpoche of Thupten Chholing Monastery named this monastery. Ngawang Jigdral Rinpoche is the founder and Head Lama. It is located in Jubing VDC. Ward No. 09, Kharikhola, Solukhumbu, Nepal. It is located above the Kharikhola village and has a view of the surroundings including Mount Everest.

Pranidhipurna Mahavihar

Pranidhipurna Mahavihar (Devanagari: प्रणिधिपूर्ण महाविहार) is a Theravada Buddhist monastery in Balambu, Kathmandu which was a key base in the revival of Theravada Buddhism in Nepal in the 1940s.Informally known as Balambu Bihar, it is located 8 km from Kathmandu at the western edge of the Kathmandu Valley.

Ramagrama stupa

Ramagrama stupa (Nepali: रामग्राम नगरपालिका, also Ramgram, Rāmgrām, Rāmagrāma) is a stupa located in Ramgram Municipality, in the Nawalparasi District of Nepal. This Buddhist pilgrimage site, which was constructed some 2500 years ago, contains relics of Gautama Buddha.

Tergar Osel Ling Monastery

Tergar Osel Ling Monastery or Tergar Lungrik Osel Targyé Ling Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal of the Tergar Meditation Community.

Tharlam Monastery

Tharlam Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the Sakya sect in Boudhanath, Kathmandu, Nepal.


A bajracharya or vajracharya (lit. "vajra acharya(guru or master)") is a Vajrayana Buddhist priest among the Newar communities of Nepal and a Revered Teacher who is highly attained in Vajrayana practices and rituals. Vajracharya means "vajra carrier". They are also commonly called guru-ju or gu-bhaju (a short form for guru bhaju) which are Nepali terms related to the Sanskrit term guru, and translate as "teacher" or "priest". The bajracharya is the highest ranking of the Newar castes that are born Buddhist.The emergence of vajracharya institution is ascribed to the decline of celibate Buddhist monks in about 13th century, and the emergence of Vajrayana.To become a professional Guruju, a person of the bajracharya caste must go through a number of rituals. The bajracharya boy goes through a ritualistic process of initiation known as bajravishekha, including shaving off the head as the buddha and asking for alms, at a minimum of seven houses a day in different places, in the tradition of monks since the time of Gautama Buddha. Sometimes tantric Newar Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism is referred to as "Vajracharya Buddhism".

The writers of Rebuilding Buddhism: The Theravada Movement in Twentieth-century Nepal explore the unusual relationship of the vajracharyas and their assistant shakyas with Buddhist monasticism:

, Unlike Vajracharyas, Shakya men may not be priests for others, but together with Vajracharya men they are the members of the traditional Newar Buddhist monasteries, known honorifically as vihara and colloquially as Baha or Bahi. In so far as Shakya and Vajracharya men filled their roles in the monastery, they were monks. In effect, they were married, part-time monks.

Many of the modern Buddhist scholars in Nepal belong to the vajracharya tradition.

There are several legendary vajracharya priests from different parts of Kathmandu valley. Shatikaracharya, a king who turned into a powerful tantric priest and disappeared inside the cave in Shantipur Swoyambhu is well known for his expertise in vajrayana buddhist practice. He is still believed to be dwelling inside the Shantipura cave performing intense sadhana.

Vajracharya Bandhudutta, who was a disciple of the legendary Shatikaracharya, is credited with bringing lord lokesvara form kamaru kamakhya Askam, in Kathmandu valley. Leela Vajra, a Buddhist priest from sakhu is believed to have built kasthamandap from the wood obtained from kalpabrikshhya ( wish fulfilling tree)

Similarly Surata Vajra, Vak Vajra, Sashwot Vajra, Manjuvajra ( Jamana Gubhaju) etc. are some of the famous Vajracharya priests whose folklores of magical and mystical deeds are popular among the people of Kathmandu valley


Vasudhārā, whose name means "stream of gems" in Sanskrit, is the Buddhist bodhisattva of wealth, prosperity, and abundance. She is popular in many Buddhist countries and is a subject in Buddhist legends and art. Originally an Indian bodhisattva, her popularity has spread to southern Buddhist countries. Her popularity, however, peaks in Nepal where she has a strong following among the Buddhist Newars of the Kathmandu Valley and is thus a central figure in Newar Buddhism. She is named Shiskar Apa in Lahul and Spiti. She is related to Hindu great goddess Lakshmi, and her Sanskrit name Vasundhara indicates she is the source of the eight "bountiful Vasus." Therefore, according to the epic Mahabharat, she is the bounty that is the waters of the river Ganges—the goddess, Ganga whose origin is the snows of the Himalayas.

Her short mantra is oṃ Vasudhāre svāhā.

Sovereign states
States with
limited recognition
Dependencies and
other territories
Topics in Buddhism
The Buddha
Key concepts
Major figures


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.