Religion in Bhutan (PewResearch) 2020[1][2]

  Buddhism (84.3%)
  Hinduism (11.3%)
  Bon (3.2%)
  Others (1.2%)

Bhutan is a Buddhist country by constitution and Buddhism plays a vital role in the country.

The official religion in Bhutan is Buddhism, which is practiced by 84.3%% of the population;[3] the rest of the population is mainly Hindu. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the King.

In the past, approximately 85% of the population of 770,000 followed either the Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school, the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism or another school of Buddhism. Almost 11.3% of citizens (mainly Lhotshampas) practiced Hinduism.[4][5]


Main article: Buddhism in Bhutan

The constitution states that Buddhism is the state’s “spiritual heritage”;[3] It also states that the king must be Buddhist, but must also be the “protector of all religions.”

The Sharchops, descendants of the country's probable original inhabitants, make up most of the eastern population. It is reported that some Sharchops practice Buddhism combined with elements of Bon whereas others practice animism and Hinduism.[3]

In the early 2000s, the Ngalop people, descendants of Tibetan immigrants, comprised the majority of the population in the western and central areas and mostly followed the Drukpa Lineage of Kagyu Vajrayana.[6] The government supported both Kagyu and Nyingma Buddhist monasteries. The royal family practiced a combination of Nyingma and Kagyu Buddhism and many citizens believe in the concept of "Kanyin-Zungdrel," meaning "Kagyupa and Ningmapa as one."


Main article: Hinduism in Bhutan

Hindus, mainly in the South, practice Hinduism. There are about 92,167 Hindus mainly of Lhotshampa ethnicity living in Bhutan. They form 12% of the country's population, and Hinduism is the second largest religion of the nation. The very first Hindu temple was constructed in Thimphu in 2012 by the Je Khenpo, Chief Abbot of Bhutan, and Hindus practice their religion in small to medium-sized groups.[6] Hinduism is more common among the Lhotshampa ethnic group, although a fair amount of ethnic Lhotshampa follow Buddhism as well. Since 2015, Hinduism is also considered as the national religion of Bhutan.


Main article: Bon in Bhutan

Bon, the country's animist and shamanistic belief system, revolves around the worship of nature and predates Buddhism. Bon is portrayed in Buddhist sources as anti-Buddhist and a source of resistance to Buddhism's spread in eighth-century Tibet. Bon priests were considered skilled in black magic and animal sacrifices, needing spiritual conversion to Buddhism. Yet, despite centuries of Buddhist opposition, Bon traditions persist in Bhutan, with annual celebrations and everyday involvement in healing and protective Bon rituals[7]

Although Bön priests often officiate and include Bön rituals in Buddhist festivals, very few citizens adhere exclusively to this religious group.[3]


Main article: Christianity in Bhutan

This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (October 2023) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

Christianity was first brought to Bhutan in the late 17th century by Portuguese Jesuits, but the teachings failed to gain much traction among the devout Bhutanese Buddhists. A few Christians living in Assam and Bengal and other States have Bhutanese origins.


In 2010, the Pew Research Center estimated that 0.1% of the population were Muslims and Islam has no recognition there according to Bhutan constitution.[8][4]

Freedom and regulation of religion

Main article: Freedom of religion in Bhutan

The law provides for freedom of religion; the religious institutions and personalities have a duty "to promote the spiritual heritage of the country while also ensuring that religion remains separate from politics" and that religious institutions and personalities remain "above politics."[9] Reflecting the government's stated purpose of preserving individuals' religious and cultural values, the above prohibitive clauses in the Constitution have been interpreted to apply to proselytism and to prohibit religious personalities from voting, respectively.[10][11]

The Religious Organizations Act of 2007 aims to protect and preserve the spiritual heritage of Bhutan through providing for the registration and administration of religious organizations. To meet those goals, the Act creates the Chhoedey Lhentshog as the regulatory authority on religious organizations. This body regulates, monitors, and keeps records on all religious organizations in Bhutan, which are in turn required to register and maintain specified corporate formalities.[12]

In 2022, Freedom House rated Bhutan’s religious freedom as 2 out of 4,[13] noting that the constitution protects freedom of religion, but local authorities are known to harass non-Buddhists and people have experienced pressure to participate in Buddhist ceremonies and practices.

In the same year, the country was ranked by a Christian organisation in the USA as the 40th worst place in the world to be a Christian.[14]

See also


  1. ^ [bare URL PDF]
  2. ^ "Bhutan, Religion and Social Profile". The ARDA. 1 January 2015. Retrieved 20 July 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d US State Dept 2022 report
  4. ^ a b Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project: Bhutan. Pew Research Center. 2010.
  5. ^ Aris, Michael (1979). Bhutan: The Early History of a Himalayan Kingdom. Aris & Phillips. p. 344. ISBN 978-0-85668-199-8.
  6. ^ a b United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Bhutan: International Religious Freedom Report 2007. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ Tashi, Kelzang T. (2023). World of Worldly Gods: The Persistence and Transformation of Shamanic Bon in Buddhist Bhutan. Oxford University Press. p. 296. Retrieved 2023-11-04.
  8. ^ Pew Research Center - Global Religious Landscape 2010 - religious composition by country.
  9. ^ "The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan" (PDF). Government of Bhutan. 2008-07-18. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2010-10-08.
  10. ^ "Pastor sentenced to 3 yrs in prison". Bhutan News Service online. Bhutan News Service. 2010-12-12. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
  11. ^ "Chhoedey Lhentshog Lists Those Who Can Vote - Religious personalities above politics". Kuensel online. 2010-10-17. Retrieved 2011-01-28.
  12. ^ "Religious Organizations Act of Bhutan 2007" (PDF). Government of Bhutan. 2007-07-31. Retrieved 2011-01-25.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Freedom House, Retrieved 2023-04-25
  14. ^ Open Doors website, retrieved 2023-08-08