` Good Karma Travels

Bhutanese Religion

The state religion of Bhutan is Drukpa Kagyud tradition of Mahayana Buddhism. A sizable section of the population practises the Nyingma tradition of Buddhism. A small section of population of Nepalese origin practise Hinduism.

Buddhism came to Bhutan as early as the seventh century when Tibetan Dharma King Songtsen Gampo built Jampa Lhakhang (temple) in Bumthang and Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro as part of his commitment to the propagation of Buddhism. Later in the eighth century, Indian tantric master Padmasambhava, popularly known as Guru Rinpoche, visited Bumthang from Nepal. His visit to Bumthang at the invitation of the ailing local king is widely believed to be the arrival of Buddhist faith in the country.

Bhutan was later visited by a series of saints and lamas from Tibet who established their religious centres in Bhutan. Some of them not only propagated Buddhism among the largely agrarian population, but also asserted political influence over them.

Among the visits of numerous religious figures from Tibet, the visit Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1616 was to transform Bhutan into a nation state. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, or Zhabdrung Rinpoche as he is also widely known, fled his ancestral home in Ralung after a conflict with the ruler of Tsang. After his arrival in Bhutan, he vanquished all his rivals belonging to different traditions of Buddhism and expanded his religious and political influence. By the time of his death in 1651, he consolidated most parts of the country. Today, he is reverentially remembered as the founder of Bhutan.
Drukpa Kagyud tradition of Buddhism, the state religion of Bhutan, is his biggest legacy. This tradition of Buddhism is today practised in the dzongs (a fortress-like structure) and religious institutes supported by the state. Each dzong, which serves as a religious and administrative centre, houses a monastic body supported by the state.

Nyingma tradition, or old school of Buddhism, is equally vibrant in the country with hundreds of temples and monasteries keeping thousands of monks. Although Nyingma monasteries and centres do not enjoy the patronage of the state for their daily upkeep, they receive the state’s support in a number of areas. Nyingma is an important tradition of Buddhism in Bhutan originating from the celebrated local lama and treasure discoverer, Terton Pema Lingpa (1450-1521). Terton Pema Lingpa’s descendants settled in different parts of the country to start religious the families of religious aristocrats. Bhutan’s royal family originated from one such family in Dungkar in Lhuntse.

Hinduism is practised by most of the people of Nepali origin living in the southern districts. The people of Nepali origin comprise some 25 percent of the total population.

In Bhutan, religious persons are not kept out of politics by law. The constitution considers religion “above politics”. Therefore, religious persons are required to keep themselves away from mundane political activities.

About Bhutan

1. Culture
2. Religion
3. Environment
4. Gross National Happiness
5. Political System
6. National Symbols

  • a. National Flag
  • b. National Emblem
  • c. National Anthem
  • d. National Bird
  • e. National Animal
  • f. National Flower
  • g. National Anthem
  • h. National Tree
  • i. National Sport
  • j. General Information