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Religions of Bhutan




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In principle, Bhutan government guarantees freedom of religion but Buddhism is the official religion. The majority of the population practice Buddhism in the form of Drukpa Kagyupa (practiced almost by ethnic Ngalops, descendants of Tibetan immigrants) or Ningmapa (the ancient or the older major schools ), both are disciplines of Mahayana Buddhism (one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism). Ethnic Sharchops, descendants of the country's original inhabitants, practice Buddhism combined with elements of the Bön tradition (one of the branch of Tantric Buddhism, also known as Vajrayana Buddhism), whereas others follow Animism and Hinduism. Christianity and Islam are also present in the country.

Buddhism in Bhutan originated from Tibetan Buddhism but it differs significantly in rituals, liturgy, and monastic organization. It was first introduced by Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rimpoche) in the 8th century (year 746 A.D), a sage of Vajrayana Buddhism and to his followers he is the second Buddha (as 'the Miraculously Born', without genealogy), According to legend, Guru Rinpochein was reincarnated into a lotus blossom (Padmasambhava means 'Lotus Born') as an eight year old child, possessed great wisdom and insight, able to transform harmful action and substances into something positive. He is also associated with many sacred sites in Bhutan, like the cliff-hanging Taktshang Monastery in Paro. Each 10th day of the lunar calendar is said to commemorate a special event in the life.

Religion in Bhutan permeates all strands of secular life and Buddhism permeates the Bhutanese life, as the Buddhist faith plays a fundamental role in the cultural, ethical and sociological development Bhutanese people. Prayer flags fluttering in the wind, chortens (stupas), monasteries and prayer wheels are a very common sight. Drukpa Tshezhi (The Fourth Day of the Sixth Month) is considered one of the most sacred days in the Buddhist calendar. It commemorates the first sermon of the Buddha: ‘the Sermon of the Turning of the Wheel of Dharma

Annual religious festivals known as ‘Tsechus’ and ‘Dromchoes’ symbolizing amity, peace and compassion, are held in every corner of the kingdom. People congregate, dressed in a spirit's festivity, celebrating a deep faith. Festivals are dedicated to either Guru Rimpoche or other deities.

During the festival, rare and sacred masked dances, sword dances and many rituals are performed. Hindu festivals are recognized as national holidays, accepted and participated also by the royal family, who do practice Buddhism.