Buddhism is practiced throughout the country and the majority of the Bhutanese are Buddhist. Hinduism is practiced particularly in Southern Bhutan among the Bhutanese of Nepali origin. As practiced by the Southern Bhutanese, Hindu religion has many common saints and divinities with Vijrayana Buddhism, the school of religion prevalent in Bhutan. The main protective deity of the country, Yeshey Gonpo or Mahakala, is a Tantric Buddhist form of Hindu God Shiva and often appears in the form of a raven.
Prior to the advent of Buddhism, various forms of animistic religions including Bon were followed in Bhutan. In some parts of the country these traditions and rituals are still practiced by minority groups.
Bhutan has been home to many sages and saints over the centuries since Guru Rinpoche brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century. Kuenkhen Longchen Ramjam, Phajo Drukgom Zhigpo, Pema Lingpa, Drukpa Kuenley, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye are some of the key figures of Bhutanese Buddhism. Drukpa Kagyu, school of Tantric Mahayana Buddhism, is the official state religion. Although it is similar to Tibetan Buddhism, it has its own set of unique beliefs and practices.
Religious Institutions continue to play an important role in Bhutan. Besides the formal monastic structure that is supported by the state, the monk body also includes monks and nuns who are not part of state sponsored institutions. Monks continue to play an important role in people’s daily lives. They perform religious ceremonies, and preserve and promote traditional scholarships.