The name 'Bhutan' appears to derive from the Sanskrit 'Bhotant' meaning 'the end of Tibet' or from 'Bhu-uttan' meaning 'high land'. Though known as Bhutan to the outside world, the Bhutanese ourselves refer to our country as Druk Yul or the Land of the Thunder Dragon. 'Druk' means 'Dragon' and extending from the predominant Drukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. The princely Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked country, about 300 km long and 150 km wide encompassing an area of 46,500 square kilometers. Located between longitude 88045' and 92010' East and latitudes 26040' and 28015' North in the Eastern Himalayas, it is bounded by India in South and South-West and Tibetan autonomous region of China in the North and North-West respectively. Virtually the entire country is mountainous, and ranges in elevation from 100m along the Indian border to the 7,554m Kulha Gangri peak on the Tibetan border.
Mahayana Buddhism is the state religion of Bhutan. Approximately two-thirds to three-quarters of the population practice Drukpa Kagyupa or Ningmapa Buddhism, both of which are disciplines of Mahayana Buddhism. Approximately one-quarter of the population is ethnic Nepalese and practice Hinduism. Christians, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, and non-religious groups comprise less than 1 percent of the population.
The introduction of Buddhism occurred in the seventh century A.D., when Tibetan king Srongtsen Gampo (reigned A.D. 627-49) built Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro and Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang in central Bhutan. They are Bhutan's most important religious sites and symbols of Buddhism's arrival. Tradition records that these temples were part of a greater scheme chosen by the seventh century Tibetan King Srongtsen Gampo to tame a huge female demon extending her body over the whole land, creating numerous obstacles to the spread of Buddhism. He is said to have magically multiplied himself, sending his emanations to build 108 temples in one day on each of her joints, thus pinning her down and immobilizing her. Of these, 13 were the most important: the Lhasa Jokhang was constructed on the heart of the female demon; four temples, "the four great horn suppressors", were built in central Tibet; four temples, "the temples to tame the border", were built farther away, of which Jampa Lhakhang is on the left knee of the female demon; finally four more temples, "the temples to tame the area beyond the border", were built on the extremities of the Tibetan sphere of influence, of which Kyichu Lhakhang is on the left sole of the female demon.
Following this initial impetus, Buddhist belief steadily spread throughout the land achieving a degree of hegemony. The ninth and tenth centuries were a period of political turmoil in Tibet, and marked the almost total disappearance of Buddhism in the region. It was only in the eleventh century that there was a renaissance, and what is called "the period of the second diffusion of Buddhism" commenced. Numerous competing schools arrived in Bhutan, founding monasteries, gathering followers and gaining both spiritual and temporal authority in respective parts of the country. Of these, the Drukpa Kapyupas and the Nyingmapas were to achieve some ascendancy. The Drukpa Kagyupa School was introduced to Bhutan by Phajo Drukgom Shingpo (1184-1251), who was instrumental in achieving initial dominance in the west, and whose descendants solidified both spiritual and temporal power. The Nyingmapa School had been present in Bhutan since the time of Guru Rinpoche, and gradually widened their sphere of influence in the central and eastern regions through a series of significant figures and emerging religious nobility descended from the families of important saints.