Cultural Identities

Bhutan has three main ethnic, religious and linguistic groups and a dozen smaller groups. It is a nation of immigrants and can be characterized as a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-linguistic society. The ancestors of ethnic group of Ngalungs/Ngalops (commonly known as Drupkas) migrated from Tibet and speak Dzongkha. They are called Drupkas as they follow the Drupka Kargyupa school of Tibetan Buddhism. The last royal family and king of Bhutan belong to this group.

Sharchops are the second ethnic group settled in the eastern and central region of Bhutan. They practice nyingmapa sect of Mahayana Buddhism and belong to the Tibeto-Burman ancestry.  Lhotshampas(Southern Bhutanese) of Nepali origin form the third ethic group of Bhutan. They inhabit six southern foothill districts, speak Nepali language and practice mostly Hinduism. They migrated to Bhutan from Nepal, Darjeeling and Sikkim in India.Caste system is only prevalent amongst them in Bhutan. For the rest of the ethnic groups, social status is based on a family’s economic position. These three ethnic tribes migrated to Bhutan at different points of time in history and now they live clustered together in separate regions.

There are numerous smaller ethnic groups in Bhutan having their own distinct characteristics in terms of language, culture and religious practices. These groups are: Tibetans, Doyas,  Khengs, Adivashis, Brokpas monpa, gongduk Lhop/Doya and  Kurteops. In terms of religious identity, Bhutanese people practice Hinduism, Christianity, Drukpa Kargyupa and Nyingmapa sects of Buddhism and Animism.


Photo Source URL:

Sharma, Rashmi. Bhutan and SAARC. New Delhi: Regal Publications, 2007.