Switzerland 1931
Denmark & Sweden 1932
Germany 1934
Istanbul 1935
Berlin 1936
Norway 1940
Berlin 1943
The Flight - Oslo
Sweden 1944
End of War

India 1953
Nepal 1954
Kathmandu, Swayanbhunath
and becoming a monk
Kali Gankaki 1950
Sugata accomapnied Sherchan
to take photograhs of the
Devil Dances up in Tukuche
2001 Bodhgaya, Sarnath, and Goa
Sugata at 90
in Tatopani and returning to
Tukuche and Chhairo

Sugata's homeland

2005 Sugata's footsteps
1940 Norway


Nepal 1954    
Amrit Ananda and Anagarika Sugata at Ananda Kuti, Swayanbhunath  

In 1954 Karl and his wife Ingrid were brought directly to Amritananda's base amid the Buddhist temple complex at Swayambhunath, a few kilometres outside Kathmandu city and high on a hill.




'These stairs are hopeless in monsoon, slippery with water pouring down them. Soon after we arrived, when Ingrid was carrying up our shopping, a monkey jumped on her umbrella. In her fright she dropped the bags and the monkeys ran off with all the food. Everything was lost. She arrived at our kuti weeping, weeping.

'I cannot say it was a life of meditation... I was running around with my cameras, fascinated with all of life around me - the people, the art and the ritual. Every day there was a festival somewhere. And then there was much running to the city, buying vegetables, sending post. To send post could take a day, to find post could take another day.'




Bhikhu Amritananda
"Your holiness, Your hopelessness, Your helplessness!", Amritananda would chant, always laughing.

A few years before this time, another way had been cleared for the revival of Theravada Buddhism in India, by Anagarika Dharmapala, and Amritananda became part and parcel of the Theravada revival in Nepal. The first miracle he achieved was to establish the first Theravadan monastery on Swayambhunath. It was built on the back-side - but it was the first. His monastery became known, simply, as Ananda Kuti. So it was that Amritananda became the lone Theravadan presence on the dominantly Mahayanist Swayambhunath mountain.

By ethnicity Amritananda was a Newar, an indigenous blend of Indian and Tibetan who practice, to this day, both Hindu and Buddhist rituals, blending the two mostly harmoniously. The Newars are the oldest Buddhist inhabitants of the Kathmandu valley who, with the growing Hindu dominance (like the Buddhists), had become a suppressed and marginalised people.

Amritananda was therefore holding the banner for three minorities: Buddhism, Theravada and Newari. Throughout his life he campaigned on all three fronts, seeking to re-introduce Theravada Buddhism into Nepal and at the same time raise his fellow suppressed Newars. 'He was a pioneer', Sugata describes, 'imperfect of course, like we all are, but one with an abundance of energy and drive.'



Kathmandu life

Mazipat - dying sari's

'At that time you could still see the mountains. Brown-tiled roofs of city houses, haphazardly clinging together amongst gentle pagodas formed the skyline of Kathmandu city, and surrounding it were monsoon-green rice fields. The wells were crowded with women washing their saris and oiling their bodies with mustard oil, and with men and children bathing.





Agriculture was everywhere, in the city as well as villages, and the autumn atmosphere of threshing was medieval.




The only overland way into the country from India was via a narrow-gauge railway that climbed from Raxaul on the Indian frontier, up the foothills of the Himalayan mountains only 30 kilometres into Nepal to Amlekhganj, and from the last station there was a two-day trek on narrow footpaths over the big mountains down into the valley of Kathmandu.




The first motorable road from the Indian frontier to Kathmandu was completed, after many avalanches, in 1956.

Despite there being no road into the city, there were a few cars in Kathmandu - all had been carried piecemeal over a 2,000 metre mountain pass by hundreds of porters.

Every year, for Durga puja, every practical machine tool and weapon was ritually worshiped and offered to the godess.





The funeral of King Tribhubana Bir Bikram, 1955

'In March 1955, King Tribhubana Bir Bikram died, and his body was brought back from Zurich, and burned at Pathupathinath.

Kathmandu came to a standstill and I rushed, like the rest, to the airport to meet the body. An Aghora baba, I think from Calcutta, came with it, a man who made it a practice to follow dead people to their cremation. Afterwards every man shaved his head for 13 days state mourning.'






Festivals were everywhere, everyday....




Kathmandu valley.

From Kathmandu towards Karkoni valley and Madkhu pass. Terraces of rice fields




Everest 1954    

'The first winter in Nepal I went to Everest region. It was winter 1954, two years after Hillary had climbed it.

At sunset we would come to a farm and ask to stay the night, and the farmers were always welcoming charging us only for what we ate - 50 paisa for wood, 70 paisa for potatoes.

Our hired porters, sleeping on the veranda, quickly got through our precious food rations, so with less to carry we sent them back and continued on with Mila.

Mila, our water barer on Swayanbhunath, became our sole porter. He was forever afraid for the snow - naturally as he had no boots.

Mila travelled with me at other times and as a consequence he became worldly wise. When I came to his village years later, I saw he was a respected Elder of the village. Through his travels he had accumulated great knowledge: how to make well a sick chicken or a person, how to build, and what lay over the mountains.



I wore my white 'disappearing dress', the one I escaped in across the border to Sweden in 1944.'

I met Hillary in Kathmandu. I asked him if I could join his expedition - at the time he was searching for the yeti - but he said no! On the way up I met his Sherpa, Tensing. He was travelling with his two sisters and he greeted me warmly congratulating me for climbing in the winter.



Machendra wagon, Patan    


Just as the dogfight led to monkhood, Sugata came to the Shivapuri Baba because of a broken pair of glasses:

'On the veranda outside our kuti one day, I accidentally sat on my glasses and broke them. It was early in the morning, the time when the daily trail of worshipers arriving at Swayambhunath for morning pujas would pass by and see for themselves 'the white couple on the way to become monk and nun'. By good fortune, one of those passing, declared he was the only optician. He was also a musician, he told me, often playing the violin on Nepalese radio, and we had a fascinating conversation about classical Indian music. His name was Karkat Man - a simplification, he told me of 'corrugated iron', after which his enthusiastic father named him, his birth coinciding with the arrival in Nepal of such a popular and practical roof replacement.

'When he returned in a few days with my mended glasses, he asked me if I would like to visit a 'very old man' who lived as a hermit in the jungle near Pashupatinath and was 'very uninteresting'. Yes, I said, I was interested to visit a very uninteresting man. After some days Karkat Man said the uninteresting old man, whom he called Swamiji, assented to meet me: "Your friends are my friends and you can bring him." And so I came to the Shivapuri Baba in company with this Karkat Man Tuladhar, the only optician in Kathmandu.

'Shivapuri Baba was a very slender man, standing easily erect in long white robes that gave him the appearance of being taller than he in fact was. His plentiful hair and beard were white by this stage. Yes, he was 128 years old when I met him and took this photograph.

'I recognised him from the beginning as someone I had been waiting, and I began going to see him regularly, crossing the city on foot to Pashupathinath. He became a teacher for me, not so much through what he said, as how he was.'

Shivapuri Baba aged 110. Photograph taken by Thakurlal Manandhar, Giridhar's father.

"You have been very hungry in your life and the strength of that hunger has helped you to overcome many hindrances," he said to me.

Anagarika Sugata    

In November 1955, Karl became an Anagarika and was given the name Sugata.

'Su' is happy, and 'gata' is going - 'He who goes the happy way'.

'I had always wanted to become a monk, even before I knew that I wanted to become one. It was like being told "Ah, so you are pilgrims!" when we were journeying to Asia. It was always going to happen.'



Ordination of Anagarika Sugata.
(In the back ground
Rev. Subodhananda and
Rev. Kumar Kashyap)

Amrit Ananda asked me to give a presentation and I talked about the subject that was closest to my heart: my shame for my own white skin. Yes I was ashamed of my white skin - I wanted to take it off and exchange it for a brown one. I let rip about the evils of imperialism under the British - how all the art from Delhi had been robbed by the English and languished in the London Victoria and Albert Museum. I spoke in this way. Yes, I had the fire of anger in me. I was ashamed to belong to this race of people who had looked down their noses at this so called primitive culture, and at the same time robbed Asia for centuries. They all wanted a road, but I was against building a way to Kathmandu, and I told them to beware of the new technology arriving for it would destroy them. Just as Christian universal truths destroyed authentic cultures when Christian missionaries went out into the world, so too is technical modernity eliminating ethnic and national cultures! And a man came to me afterwards and said 'We shall use technology and not abuse it!'

In June 1955 Ingrid became a Theravadan nun. She took the name Amita Nissatta - literally meaning 'infinite'.  

Anagarika Sugata and Amita back in Sweden, as monk and nun.

Amita wrote to me: "Now is the time. The bitterness you felt when you left Sweden is gone, and the people are eager to hear about Buddhism. Now is the time to return. You will not be shunned but welcomed back."'

Sugata meeting King Mahandra of Nepal visiting Sweden.



2001 Sugata and Tirtha Narayan Manandhar

'Tirtha Narayan Manandhar was one of Amritananda's 'four wheels'.

Look, there were many hindrances in Nepal - everything took a long time, especially administering and overseeing the building of the school, and Amritananda was always in a hurry to get things done. So he had four people whom he called his 'four wheels'. They got no money - they did it only for love. Tirtha was one of them and Amritananda engaged him specifically to help us - oh yes, Tirtha made many things possible. His father was famous throughout Kathmandu for introducing bicycles - English Remingtons.'

Thirtha, now about 78 years old, arrived (on his bicycle of course) fresh from a committee meeting on the conservation of Swayambhunath.

'It has just been made a World Heritage site', he told us, and he represented Ananda kuti along with 23 other organisations on the mountain who had recently formed a committee to ensure its preservation and conservation.


2001 Sugata in the compound of the Shivapuri Baba near Pashupatinath.





Part1 in PicturesIndia 1953Nepal 1954 | Kali Gandaki 1960 | Sugata at 90 | Sugata in India 2001 | Norway 1940-2001

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