Religion in Bhutan
Just as the mighty Himalayas dominate Bhutan, so lies religion at the heart of this kingdom. Bhutan is the only country in the world where Mahayana Buddhism in its tantric form is the official religion, and Druk Yul is therefore often hailed as the last stronghold of Mahayana Buddhism.
Most of Bhutan was converted to Buddhism in the 8th century by the great saint Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche). It was not until the 17th century that the 'Southern Valleys' were united by the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, a leader of the Drukpa Kagyupa school in Tibet, into what is known as Bhutan (Druk Yul) today. Drukpas (who are followers of Tantric Buddhism) make up about 65% of Bhutan's population. The other 35% are people of Nepali descent (Lhotsampas), who are predominantly Hindu. They came to Bhutan in the 19th and 20th centuries, mostly settling in the southern foothills to work as farmers.
The Bhutanese piety is visible everywhere: in the prayerflags fluttering on hilltops, chortens dotting the hillsides, prayerwheels being turned by the devout, and many religious symbols and drawings in vibrant colors.
Tourists frequently plan their trips around the yearly religious festivals, called tshechus, that are held in honor of Guru Rinpoche throughout the country. The colorful tshechus are celebrated for several days, staging dances that help to educate the people in religious doctrines.