Buddhism is the major religion in Bhutan. Vajrayana Buddhism is the state religion of Bhutan, and Buddhists comprise two-thirds to three-quarters of its population. Although the Buddhism practiced in Bhutan originated in Tibetan Buddhism, it differs significantly in its rituals, liturgy, and monastic organization. The state religion has long been supported financially by the government through annual subsidies to Buddhist monastery, shrines, monks, and nuns. In the modern era, support of the state religion during the reign of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck includes the manufacture of 10,000 gilded bronze images of the Buddha, publication of elegant calligraphied editions of the 108-volume Kangyur (Collection of the Words of the Buddha) and the 225-volume Tengyur (Collection of Commentaries), and the construction of numerous chorten (stupas) throughout the country. Guaranteed representation in the National Assembly and the Royal Advisory Council, Buddhists constitute the majority of society and are assured an influential voice in public policy.
Monasteries and convents are common in Bhutan. Both monks and nuns keep their heads shaved and wear distinguishing maroon robes. Their days are spent in study and meditation but also in the performance of rituals honoring various bodhisattvas, praying for the dead, and seeking the intercession of bodhisattvas on behalf of the ill. Some of their prayers involved chants and singing accompanied by conch shell trumpets, trumpets made from human thighbones, metal horns up to three meters long, large standing drums and cymbals, hand bells, temple bells, gongs, and wooden sticks. Such monastic music and singing, not normally heard by the general public, has been reported to have “great virility” and to be more melodious than its Tibetan monotone counterparts. Common people do practice the religion in their own ways: day to day works, in their speech, in their thought and visiting the holy place and persons on holy dates (holy dates are the 8, 10, 15, 25, 28 and 30th day in a month in Bhutanese calendar).