Saturday Feb 4, 2023
Saturday Feb 4, 2023

Will the Nepalese youth carry on with religious traditions?

Children are told that they need to continue maintaining the cultures started by their ancestors, but the mindset is shifting among them.

2022 Mar 02, 7:50,
Children posing as Krishna and Radha during the occasion of Krishna Janamastami.

With each passing year, the discussion always arises on how the younger generation rarely takes part in traditional occasions and are leaving behind the customs that have been practiced for decades. For older members of society, there is a fear that the youth are too liberal and all traditions will die out soon in the future.

Arpan Sharma, a priest from Koteshwor, has seen how society has changed since he first started in the profession. “About 20 years back, people of all ages would take part in religious activities. Whether it was during the month-long vacation of Dashain and Tihar or just a one day occasion like Shivaratri, there would rarely be a person unwilling to take part in all the rituals. Parents would even bring their children to the local temple every morning before school! But now? Even when I go to their homes on a day like Rakshya Bandhan, parents have to force their children to come out of their rooms and let me tie the doro on their wrists.”

A sister ties a rakhi on her brother's wrist.
A sister ties a rakhi on her brother's wrist.

Even when they do take part in the traditions now, it is just for show according to Sharma. Especially during the major festivals, the youth are in for their own vanity rather than for maintaining their social traditions. For instance, during Bhai Tika, siblings pose together while they are putting on the tika only so that they can share it on social media.

“This gives them an easy pass,” continues Sharma. “This way, they can get over the puja while also having something to share with others. They may think that there’s nothing wrong with this, but it is worse than not taking part as this is a form of cheating your family and your ancestors.”

It is not only priests and people who have their professions engrained in religion that think this is a problem. Parents, too, worry about how their children will adapt in the future.

“To an extent, I understand why the children do not want to take part,” says Kusum Dhital, a mother of three. “I was of their age once, too, and I was never that religious either. In fact, I still am not. However, there was a sense of pride and enthusiasm when the festive seasons came upon us. For example, during the month-long Dashain and Tihar break, we’d be excited about meeting relatives and going to each other’s homes. We used to love putting on tika and getting dakshina. All of this came with the festival. But Dashain, to today’s children, means getting to play on their phones and computers for a month.”

People of all ages playing deusi during Tihar.
People of all ages playing deusi during Tihar.

Dhital believes that children are slowly shying away from the traditions because of the influence from foreign media. Societies outside of Nepal, and also Asia, are far more liberal, and that is what is projected by their movies and television shows. Even individuals, from their favorite athletes to their favorite singers, promote liberal ideas and that certainly has an impact on the children.

“I’m not saying that being liberal is bad or that being conservative is good. Like I said before, I myself am not that religious. But what I am saying is that not everything you learn or hear about the foreign world can be directly applied to your life. I do not think the children realize this yet.”

When talking to children themselves, however, one could see that their approach to the matter was different than what the adults actually think.

Rupen Shrestha, an 18-year-old, says, “While I cannot speak for everyone of my age, I don’t think most of us take part in that many religious activities. We don’t worship or pray everyday and we don’t refrain from eating certain foods depending on the day of the week. When we talk to our elders about these, they directly say that what we are doing is ‘wrong’. But the reason we don’t do all of this is because religion itself is so confusing and, oftentimes, misleading.

“I don’t know if this is true for all families, but my parents expect me to pray every morning. At the same time, we have so called ‘special days’ like Shivaratri, for Lord Shiva. Now tell me, if I am already praying to him everyday, why do I need to dedicate an entire day to him? It doesn’t make sense! It’s not just Hinduism. My friend, who is a Christian, was told that his soul would remain in purgatory unless a priest pardons all his sins on his deathbed. So does that mean he can do anything he likes as long as a priest removes all his sins and he can go to heaven? Do our parents and elders really expect us to fully dedicate our lives here when there is so much ambiguity and senselessness?”

Christians pray during a communal service.
Christians pray during a communal service.

However, Shrestha did clarify that this does not mean his generation is anti-religion in any way. He clearly expressed that he believes everyone has the right to maintain their own beliefs and live their lives accordingly. He did agree that his generation was more liberal than most would expect, but that the majority of them were not for imposing their beliefs on others. Shrestha also mentioned that it is not as if this generation don’t take part or celebrate anything. But it would be wrong for other members of society to assume that they will follow each and every intricacy that comes with religion and tradition.


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