HInduism is one of the oldest philosophic and religious systems in the world, with some of its features possibly traceable to about 3500 years ago. It has no historical founder and its origins are multiple. In a form comparable to its present- day expression, Hinduism emerged at about the beginning of this era with an emphasis on the supremacy of the gods Shiva, Vishnu, and the Great Goddess. The latter is a personification of the energy of the gods. named Devi or Shakti. Hinduism is now a body of intertwined religious, cultural, and social practices which has assimilated many forms of worship. It includes Tantrism, a current of esoteric ritual and mysticism found also in Buddhism, in which female symbolism is a dominant element. As practiced in Nepal, Hinduism is colored by two millennia of continuous, side-by-side coexistence with Buddhism.
Nepalese adherents of Hinduism refer to their faith as "Shivamarga," i.e., the Way or Path of Shiva. This does not preclude the worship of Hindu deities other than Shiva, of many
popular deities like the Buddhist Mahakala and Red Macchendranath, or of'a host of Mother Goddesses and forces of nature. They are all differing aspects of the Infinite, a single diamond with multiple facets, say Hindus. In worship, ritual is emphasized. Pure offerings, such as flowers and fruit, are made to gods such as Shiva and Vishnu. Animal sacrifice, and offerings of meat and alcohol, are made to fierce and dangerous gods such as Bhairava and the Mother Goddesses.
Hindu deities have numerous manifestations; the same deity can be benign in one aspect and fierce in another. They are frequently portrayed with multiple heads and limbs. This distinguishes them as superhuman and permits them to hold a variety of embles that define their personality and assist in their identification. With multiple hands the gods can hold multiple weapons. All are needed to combat malevolent forces in engagements that hear cosmic consequences.