Research Output
The Zhabdrung’s Legacy: Buddhism and Constitutional Transformation in Bhutan
  The charismatic Tibetan religious hierarch, the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal unified Bhutan in the second quarter of the seventeenth century. The Zhabdrung introduced a “dual system” of secular and religious government that remained in place until the establishment of the current monarchy in 1907. Major institutional reforms implemented by the third king saw the state-sponsored Central Monk Body gain roles in the National Assembly and the Royal Advisory Council that lasted until 2008. In its transition to a democracy in 2008 Buddhism was declared to be separate from politics with monks, nuns, and lay practitioners (gomchen) prohibited from taking part in elections or voting. The chapter outlines the transformation from a theocratic “dual system” to a constitutional monarchy and the unforeseen consequences of the separation of religion and politics now emerging in Bhutan.

  • Date:

    18 November 2022

  • Publication Status:


  • Publisher

    Cambridge University Press

  • DOI:


  • Funders:

    New Funder


Whitecross, R. W. (2022). The Zhabdrung’s Legacy: Buddhism and Constitutional Transformation in Bhutan. In T. Ginsburg, & B. Schonthal (Eds.), Buddhism and Comparative Constitutional Law (73-98). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



Buddhism, constitutionalis, Bhutan, Tibet, theocracy, secularism

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