History of Bhutan
Bhutan has two main religions, Buddhism and Hinduism. Bhutan is the only country in the world to have maintained the tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism as its official religion. In the south, the people follow their own religion ai???Hinduismai??i??.
The freedom regarding different religious believes is accepted at a certain level. People can hold and practice their own religion in which they believe. However, the government does not permit public expression of other faiths & doctrines. There might be social pressure against the expression of external faiths. Out of the total population, approximately 65% are Buddhist, 34.5% are Hindus and .5% is Christians. There are no Muslim followers in Bhutan.
Arts & Crafts
Bhutanese art & craft have been influenced largely by Tibet & India. Artworks are mainly created for religious purposes since artists were traditionally monks. Nowadays, artists can be anyone who has artistic gift. The main work of art is to gain merit.
Based on the records of stone implements Bhutan was probably first inhabited early around 2000 BC. Buddhism was outstandingly marked on the history of the religious land as Bhutan. It was first introduced in the country in the 7th century when a Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo built first two temples in Bhutan. The one is in Bumthang ai???Jambay Lhakhangai??i?? and the other one is in Paro ai???Kichu Lhakhangai??i??.
The Buddhist faiths become increasingly known when Padmashmbhava or Guru Rimpoche brought the tantric form of Buddhism into this secret land in 747 AD.
Since the 12th century, many religious schools had spread widely throughout the kingdom and from 13th century onwards, the people had more rapidly adopted Buddhism, but later there were conflicts among different religious schools. Moreover, from the 15th century when many clans and noble families started to rule the different regions of the country, quarrels frequently burst out among the rulers and in different valleys. Besides this many invasions by Tibet took place in 1634, 1639, 1645 & 1648.
The country had been seriously unstable politically and religiously until the 17th century when a religious leader Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel of Drukpa School fled from Tibet & took refuge here in Bhutan. He built most of the Dzongs (fortified monasteries) in Bhutan and also fought against enemies from abroad & inside the country he then established himself as the religious ruler with the honorary title of Shabdrung (meaning ai??? at whose feet one submitsai??i??). Shabdrung died in 1651 but his political system continued till the beginning of 20th century. However, internal disputes, political conflicts and civil wars broke out after his death. In 1907, political stability was re-established in the country when Ugyen Wangchuk was elected to be the first king of Bhutan by the assembly of representatives of the monastic community, civil servants and the people, thereby hereditary monarchy was established under the Wangchuk Dynasty. The present king Jigme Singye Wangchuk is the fourth in line.
Bhutanese painting can be classified into 3 groups: paintings on statues, murals & banners. One interesting thing about statue painting is that the clay statues are painted all over and metal statues are painted only on the face.
Bhutan is also well known for mural paintings. For example: the cosmic Mandalas at the entrance of dzongs and temples. Legends of Buddha are normally represented on wall paintings.
The banner paintings are shown only during the important religious festivals and ceremonies. They show god & goddesses in artistic & colorful combinations and are very imaginative.
Crafts are sold very expensively in Bhutan, especially woven fabrics. Actually they are not made for selling to tourists. Many women, especially in central and eastern Bhutan, weave at home. They do not belong to any particular social group or corporation, but are simple village women who use their spare time to weave clothes for their family and sell what is left over. Most craftsmen, except gold smiths and painters, are peasants who produce craft products, particularly daily articles and fabrics during their free time. The examples of renowned specialties from different regions are the silks from eastern Bhutan, woolen products from Bumthang , Bamboo wares from Khyeng (central Bhutan), Brocade from Lhuntse, wooden crafts from Tashiyangtse (eastern Bhutan), gold & silver work from Thimphu and yak hair goods from northern region of Lingtshi & Laya.