A piece of art that has inspired me to write The Escape to Myanmar is Manuha Temple in Bagan in Myanmar/Burma, built by the imprisoned Mon king Manuha of Thaton in 1059. He was captured by King Anawrahta of Bagan because he refused to give away the Buddhist scriptures (Donald K. Swearer, “Buddhism: Buddhism in Southeast Asia”, Encyclopedia of Religion, Ed. Lindsay Jones. Vol. 6. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005, p. 1133).
Three huge seated Buddha figures and an enormous reclining Buddha, which seem to have too little space inside the temple, are an allegorical representation of the physical discomfort and mental suffering that the captured king had to endure (Pictorial guide to Pagan, Ministry of Culture, Archeology Department, Socialist Republic of Burma, Rangoon, 1979 (1955), p. 39.). Just the reclining (dying) Buddha has a smile on its face showing that for Manuha only death was a release from his suffering. (http://www.ancientbagan.com/manuha-temple.htm)
Since king Manuha had to leave the Thaton Kingdom he was not only captured, but he was also exiled in the Bagan Kingdom. Even though it is said that he was treated well (Ma Thanegi, Bagan Mystique, Yangon: Tanintaye Sarpay, 2011, p. 102), he must have felt severely distressed. At the dedication of Manuha Temple he made this prayer:
“Whithersoever I migrate in samsara, may I never be conquered by another”.)
(Pe Maung Tin & G. H. Luce. The glass palace chronicle of the kings of Burma. The Text Publication Fund of the Burma Research Society. Oxford University Press, 1960, p. 108)
Maybe the lack of independence is the greatest hardship when being in exile and maybe the loss of a home is just as distressful as the loss of a whole kingdom? These have been some of my thoughts while writing The Escape to Myanmar.
In The Escape to Myanmar the refugees from Europe has to participate in different projects to get an income and a place to stay. In Yangon some of them work within the “Facelift of Yangon”-project and when their houses are needed to new refugees, they are transfered to Bagan, where they are supposted to work within a pagoda restoration project, aiming to get Bagan on UNESCO’s list of World Heritages. The first pagoda they have to restore is Manuha Pagoda.