Buddhism as a religion does not propose idol worship, however, the statues of Gautam Buddha can be found everywhere. While Lord Buddha the founder of Buddhism is considered as a preacher by some sects, others do worship him as a guiding force to attain enlightenment. The common Buddha statues that you would have seen show Buddha with ringlets. Being curiosity struck, we tried to find out the reason behind those ringlets. And here we come with an interesting fact that those aren’t ringlets or Buddha’s hair but the shells of snails that count to 108. In this blog, we will dive into the reason behind the 108 snails on Buddha’s head.
Gautam Buddha found enlightenment in the 5th century B.C while he was sitting under the Bodhi tree. Siddharth Gautam adopted the path towards supreme spirituality after he spotted people suffering. Though he was born as a prince with all the luxuries of life, the pain and suffering of the people drove him to find a permanent solution to their bearing. It took six years for him to attain enlightenment, and in the following years, he decided to impart his knowledge for a better world.
Buddhism is not about following the footsteps of a deity God rather a lifestyle that would help in breaking the chain of reincarnation and embracing the Karma (the law of cause and effect). Precisely, the path towards enlightenment is based on this concept. The followers have felt calm and found that Buddhism is much more than a religion. The increasing numbers in Buddhism, especially from south-Asian countries, have made it a notable religion among, Christianity and Islam.
Significance of Buddha’s Statue
Buddha promoted his teachings as a lifestyle which originally spread orally. It was a century later that the documents came into existence.
The period between Buddha leaving his teachings to his followers and no document to support that Buddha existed brought a downtime for the religion to prosper. Later, the monks started drafting scriptures of Buddhist teachings and used the Buddha statue as the guiding light to overcome their fears and reach a calm state of mind.
Along with the scriptures, the statue of Buddha became a significant source of sending messages related to enlightenment, reincarnation, relief from pain, suffering, etc. The calmness on Buddha’s face contrasts with the chaos of the material world. Each pose and position of Buddha has a message in it. Starting from hair to the rug he sits on, has a message for the disciples. Here, in this blog, we will be discussing Buddha’s hair and the 108 snails on Buddha’s head story.
108 Snails on Buddha’s head
The depiction of Buddha’s head is the same among all the statues. There are many fascinating facts hidden behind the structure and formation of the head, including the hairstyle. The figure of Buddha is based on iconography and not typically the one representing Buddha in his physical form. Buddhism has picked the idol formation from Hinduism yet hasn’t concentrated on sketching a physical image of Buddha. This also shows the fusion of Buddhism in India with its culture.
The physical appearance of Buddha represents the knowledge and awareness that could be attained after getting enlightened. You will find the structure of the face with 108 snails and third eye almost similar in all statue formations.
One of the stories behind the snail-like hair comes from the time when Siddharth left his riches in search of enlightenment. Facts state, that Buddha had long, curly hair. After giving up all the materials, he trimmed his hair with a knife. The statues and paintings of Buddha portray short and ringlike curls that look like a snail. Here, the hair represents the sign of ignorance; thus, cutting of hairs implies getting rid of ignorance. It also symbolizes that a clean body and mind can understand life better. Trimming of body hair and shaving indicates the determination that one keeps to walk on the path of enlightenment and help rest with the same too. However, you will also find structures of Buddha that are neither shaved nor with long hair. These statues signify extreme indulgence.
Snail Martyr’s Story behind 108 snails on Buddha’s head
There is another interesting tale associated with Buddha’s ringlets. According to the tale, ringlets on Buddha’s head are nothing but snails shells. The story behind 108 snails on Buddha’s head goes like this:
One day Buddha was out for a walk and lost in some deep thought. He found a tree and sat in its shadow to continue the meditation. He sat in the same position mediating for hours and was so engrossed that he didn’t realize that the sun had reached high in the sky.
A snail noticed that Buddha’s head was getting dry due to the sun. In order to help Buddha, the snail climbed on his head to provide moisture. He didn’t want the heat to distract Buddha from his meditation. And thus rose to his head through the robe and sat there to protect him from the heat. Some more snails who were passing by the Buddha, saw him meditating and followed the path of the other snail. They covered Buddha’s head to protect him from the heat. While the moist skin of the snails kept Buddha’s head cool, the scorching heat of the sun-dried the snails and they eventually died. The snails are moist creatures, and too much dryness can cause death.
When Buddha regained his senses, the 108 snails on Buddha’s head were dead and sitting like a cap. These snails are considered as the martyrs that helped Buddha in his journey towards enlightenment. Thus they are shown in many statues of the Buddha reminding us of their sacrifice.
So, now you know why Buddha’s head is shown with 108 snails. There are numerous exciting tales associated with Buddha, that will tell you a lot about Buddhism. We will keep on delving into these interesting facts and sharing great insights related to Buddhism