Culture and Tradition

The culture and tradition of Bhutan is exclusively Bhutanese, which qualifies the status of a distinctive culture in the world. Rich tradition and culture has been a major strength for Bhutan and it has served as a weapon for defending the nation’s sovereignty. The daily life of the Bhutanese people clearly portrays the typical Bhutanese culture and tradition.

Presently the Bhutanese or Drukpa population primarily consists of the three main ethnic groups; the “Tshanglas or Sharchopas”, “Ngalops” and the “Lhotsampas” (Nepali origin). The earliest residents of Bhutan were the Sharchops whose origin can be traced to the tribes of Northern Burma and northeast India. The Ngalops migrated from the plains of Tibet and brought Buddhism into the land. The other minority groups are the Bumthaps and the Khengpas of Central Bhutan, the Kurtoeps in Lhuentse, the Brokpas and the Bramis of Merak and Sakteng in eastern Bhutan, the Doyas of Samtse and finally the Monpas of Rukha villages in Wangdue Phodrang. Together the multi-ethnic Bhutanese population number just over 700,000.

The spread of Buddhism in Bhutan can be traced back to the 2nd century during the time of 33rd Dharma King of Tibet known as Songtsen Gampo. During his reign Buddhism had flourished mostly in Himalayan countries. Down the line many great Buddhist saints uplifted the teachings of Lord Buddha in Tibet. Gradually, in 1222 A.D as prophesized by Tshangpa Gyarey, the founder of Drukpa school in Tibet, Lam Phajo Drukgom Zhipo visited Bhutan and spread Buddhism mostly in western Bhutan. During his tenure he made Drukpa Kagyud as the state religion of Bhutan. Later his descendants especially his four sons continued to spread Buddhism across the country which is still practiced in our country even to this day.

Then, in 1616 AD the great Buddhist saint Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal arrived in Bhutan. Later on he was popularly known as the ‘Architect of the nation state of our country.’ He continued to practice Drukpa Kagyud and it became more popular during his term. He not only continued to propagate Buddhism but also brought so many great reforms in our country. He has major contributions in constructing the unique Dzongs, practising unique culture and tradition such as Gho and Kira (National dress), our national language Dzongkha and also various ways of performing the rituals and festivals which is still prevalent in our country. For the first time Bhutan was introduced to new form of government which is known as Dual system (Chosied Nyenden) and all laws were based on the teachings of Lord Buddha (Michhoe tshangma chudu and Lhachhoe gyalwa chu). 

After he entered into retreat in 1651, the political affair was taken care by Desi and the religious affair was looked after by Je khenpo (religious abbot of Bhutan). Today our country is independent and the people of Bhutan enjoys the harvest of seed planted by the Great Saint Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.