Buddhism in Bhutan

Get to Know Bhutan

BHUTAN, the Land of the Dragon or Druk Yul,as it is traditionally called, is the land of Dzongs (fortress) and monasteries, land of one of the most hospitable and friendly people, land of the well preserved heritage, where traditions are not a thing of the past but are actively part of the daily life, the land of the endangered Black Necked Crane and the land of beautiful scenic Himalayan mountain ranges.

Nestled high in the Himalayan mountains, this small monarchy represents one of the World’s most remote and least visited lands. Closed to the outside World untill 1974, Bhutan was accessible only by narrow mountain trails and that also by special invitation.

Bhutan is located in the Eastern Himalayas between the Tibetan autonomous region of China to the north and the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal to the south. Surrounded by high mountains and deep valleys, the altitude ranges from 300 meters in the south to 7,300 meters in the north. The total land area is 47, 000/- sq. km. It lies between Longitude 88 45' and 92 10' East and Latitude 26 40' and 28 15' North.

Climatic conditions

Bhutan experiences varied climates depending on the altitude. To the south it is hot and humid, while the Himalayan mountains in the north are under perpetual snow. Rainfall can differ within relative short distance due to rain shadow effects.


Bhutan's indigenous population is the Drukpa. The country's population of 600, 000 is composed of three main ethnic groups:

  1. Ngalops
  2. The Sharchops
  3. The Lhotsampas

make up today's Drukpa population.

The Ngalop - often called Drukpas - are the ruling group who control the monarchy and the government and dominate the economy. King and all the high government officials belong to this politically and economically dominant ethnic group. They live in the north-western region, speak Dzonkha language and wear robe like dresses. They migrated from Tibet. They are called Drukpas as they follow the Drukpa Kargyupa school of Mahayana Buddhism.

The second ethnic group is called Sharchop, who inhabit in eastern and central region and practice Nyingmapa sect of Mahayana Buddhism and belong to Tibeto-Burman ancestry. They speak Tsangla, Kurteop, Kheng and Brokpa dialects. They were supposedly migrated from North-east India.

The third ethnic group is called Lhotshampas ( meaning Southern Bhutanese) live in six southern foothill districts, speak Nepali language, practice mostly Hinduism and migrated from Nepal, Darjeeling and Sikkim in India.

All three ethnic groups migrated to Bhutan at different points of time in history, but before the exodus of British from India in 1947. There are other minority ethnic groups having their own distinct characteristics in terms of language, culture, religious practices etc. They are Tibetans, Doyas, Khengs, Adivashis, Brokpas Mangdepas and Kurteopas. In terms of religion and faith, Bhutanese people practise Hinduism, Christianity, Drukpa Kargyupa and Nyingmapa sects of Buddhism and Animism.

Each ethnic group of Bhutan have lived clustered together in separate regions. For example, the Nepali-speaking Lhotshampas lived in southern foothills, the Sharchops lived in eastern region and the Ngalungs lived in north-western regions. In Bhutan the census record is maintained in the district of origin, even though they are living in different parts like capital Thimphu.

Bhutan's official language is Dzongkha. The current population is approximately 750,000. Given the geographic isolation of many of Bhutan's highland villages, it is not suprising that a number of different dialects have survived. Bhutan has never had a rigid class system. Social and educational opportunities are not affected by rank or by birth.

Arts and Culture

Bhutanese women enjoy equal rights with men in every respect. To keep the traditional culture alive, Bhutanese people wear the traditional clothing that has been worn for centuries. Bhutanese men wear a gho, a long robe tied around the waist by a small belt called a kera. A woman's ankle length dress is called a kira, made from beautifully colored and finely woven fabrics with traditional patterns.

Necklaces are fashioned from corals, pearls, turqoise, and the precious agate eye stones which the Bhutanese call 'tears of the gods' or dzi beads.


  • South Asian Media Net