http://9gag.com/gag/arOnzn5 says that the Buddha's "hair" on this statue represents snails.

enter image description here

I thought Buddha shave his head like all his disciples. And there is a claim that his hair are actually snails.


9 Answers 9


The question isn't just whether the hair represent the snails, but what do the 108 snails present. Recall that Buddhism heavily utilize symbolism to convey it's message. It doesn't mean that the historical Buddha actually had snails on his head.

The number 108 represents the 108 mental afflictions.


In traditional Buddhist thought, people are said to have 108 afflictions or klesas. There are six senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and consciousness) multiplied by three reactions (positive, negative, or indifference) making 18 "feelings." Each of these feelings can be either "attached to pleasure or detached from pleasure" making 36 "passions", each of which may be manifested in the past, present, or future.

which corresponds to: {sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and consciousness} × {positive, negative, indifferent} × {attached to pleasure, detached from pleasure} × {past, present, future}   = 6×3×2×3 = 108

In this sense the snails and their hard shells essentially represents mindful concentration which guards against all these afflictions.


Buddha didn't shave his hair like a monk, as a teacher doesn't wear uniform when students do, in school.

Buddha has deep blue hair, 绀青色 similar to ultramarine, his hair naturally curled clockwise, harmonized with the spinning of the universal energy. In fact the Buddha statues in ancient China are made with strict proportions, with support from the Sutras.

If the Buddha statues show signs that we ordinary human beings don't have, it's not necessary an imagination of the people at that time. For Buddha is an enlightened being, when one's self-cultivation has reached a higher level, the body will change, too, it must, else this is not a true advancement but only an intellectual achievement. The structure of a body is the reflection of thought, thus a facial feature, hair colour, skin texture, limbs etc., all are not randomly by chance, it has it's intrinsic value.

  • 大般若波羅蜜多第381卷 link (Mahāprajñāpāramitā Sūtra) 世尊髮毛端皆上靡,右 T06n0220_p0967c10║旋宛轉柔潤紺青 (hair right-curling with tips pointing upward) 世 T06n0220_p0968a05║尊眉間有白毫相,右旋柔軟如覩羅綿 (a fine white "thread/hair" between the eyebrows, also right-curling)... 《佛說造像量度經》 [link] (buddhism.lib.ntu.edu.tw/BDLM/sutra/chi_pdf/sutra10/T21n1419.pdf) recorded the ratios and rules of making a Buddha statue, supposed this was asked by Śāriputra and this Sutra was written by him. Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 11:05
  • Bodhiharma always depicted with hair and beard, though bald at the top. link. Buddha also called himself "śramaṇa", who renounced the world symbolically most of them cuting off the hair, it's not necessary he shaved his hair all off. The monk with hair shaved clean is likely a later requirement. The shape of the head does reveal one's stage of self-cultivation. The hair should not hinder the sharp teacher's observation but in the later time, it may. The Ushnisha the fleshy protuberance signifies the completeness of enlightenment. Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 11:37
  • 1
    This is incorrect, Buddha shaved his hair
    – lasan
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 19:55

This blog entry, The Buddha's Hair, says no: not snails.

Also, you're probably right about his shaving his head:

the Tipitaka offers no authentic information about the Buddha’s hair other than to say that it was black (kalakesa) and that he cut it off when he renounced the world to become a monk (M.I,163). Although it is not mentioned anywhere in the Tipitaka, we can safely assume that the Buddha shaved his head like all other monks. Depictions of him with hair, is an iconographical convention without historical basis.

It theorizes that it's an attempt to depict one of the "32 Signs of a Great Man", which it calls "a rather strange idea introduced into Buddhism at a later period", one of the signs being that "the Great Man’s hair was black and curled upwards and to the right".

  • So once he became a monk he never shave again?
    – user21795
    Commented Nov 27, 2016 at 10:42
  • I mean how old is he when he leave palaces and how old is he when he dies? He never shaves all those years?
    – user21795
    Commented Nov 27, 2016 at 11:48
  • 2
    The blog entry says, "we can safely assume that the Buddha shaved his head like all other monks".
    – ChrisW
    Commented Nov 27, 2016 at 11:53

Buddha cut his hair himself when he left his palace for retreat. In some India and Buddhism countries, it is not respectful that touching one's head if the one who touched is younger in age or less respectful (lower in rank) than the one who was touched. So logically no one should touch Buddha's head for shaving since Buddha is superior to all living beings. That is why there was no barber who did Buddha's hair after his retreat and Buddha-hood. So Buddha cut his hair by himself once when his monk life began, definitely not possible to shave himself. So there some hair left on the head and are all in clockwise spiral shape and rest till Buddha's Mahaprinivana.

The above statement is very logical but there are no reference or citation in pali canon as far as I read. Buddha definitely was not totally bald like monks and hair relic are supporting facts about it though it has not been proved scientifically.

  • 1
    Buddha did have one of his disciples to trim (tidy and keep the length) his hair after starting the Budda-hood, recorded in one of the Sutra I came across. The disciple's occupation was a barber (lower caste. Buddha accepted disciples from all castes to show that all beings' essences are equal) before becoming a monk.《佛本行集經優波離因緣品第五十五》(chapter 55) described Upali cutting Buddha's hair and entered deep meditation. Upali was the barber for all the princes incl. Siddhartha. Commented May 30, 2017 at 13:55
  • That makes sense. I'm not sure of other Vinaya traditions, but I'm aware the Theravada Vinaya states that monks may not grow their hair longer than two finger breadths. The Buddha's curls that we see in images are naturally kempt and probably show the longest a monk's hair could be within the limits given in the rules. They're also very much the opposite of the matted locks piled on the heads of other wandering ascetics of the time.
    – M-2
    Commented Jun 6 at 17:26
  • There's a famous image of Amitabha Buddha called ”Gokōshiyui Amida 五劫思惟阿弥陀" where it looks like Amitabha has an enormous afro. This represents how his hair grew out during the five kalpas he took to finalize his vows. Even here, the hair is quite uniform.
    – M-2
    Commented Jun 6 at 17:53

From an unverified source I read that those are snakes protecting his head from heat when he was exerting himself for enlightment.

  • That is not correct , those are just myths
    – lasan
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 19:58

Buddha had hair before he achieved nirvana. After that he shaved his head . Because buddha's father asked him not to be like that, because that was shameful to their family status , because in india all the lower class people and beggars used to shave the head . But Buddha didn't listen to what his father said and kept the head shaved. And he is like any other human being , no such differences as those stories say .

Side story

Once the Buddha was going somewhere by foot at stopped his journey when it 's dark and went inside a small public cottage nearby to spend the night. There was this person in this cottage who also was on his way to see Buddha. His name was "pukkusathi" as much as I remember, so Buddha asked about him, and he said he was going to see the Buddha, so this implies the Buddha was same as any other monk in appearance.


He might had curly hair before he achieved nirvana , I think its best to not to talk about Buddha s appearances because , only thing Buddha asked from humans was to follow the path to nirvana.

So the hair is like that on statues because , There are statues of other monks as well , so people have to identify who is Buddha to worship those statues, so the artists who made those had to make it that way to make it different from other statues.

  • Buddha cuts off his hair, not keeping the long hair with adornment is one thing, shaved all hair clean with a [b]bald head[/b] is another thing. Buddha did cut off his hair to renounce the prince statue, yet the bald head of a monk was a later version, which was not the monk at that time and Buddha's appearance, I believe. It needs more research and long explanation to support which I'll give a pass. See this picture, the monks are with cropped hairs en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silk_Road#/media/… Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 7:05

He had curly hair, more sure where al this snale ish came from. As a person who has curly hair, I have this style just by accident


It’s dreadlocked. Dreadlocks in Vedic Scripture is called Jaata which means twisted locks of hair. Short or long, usually worn by holy men, which the Buddha was.

  • As far as I know Buddha shaved his head.
    – SarathW
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 20:23

The most logical answer is that Buddha was black, ie Negroid, which makes perfect sense as Asia's aboriginal population are black people.

Avoiding the most logical answer to the question is underpinned by some kind subconscious racialist notion that people have to evolve to develop straight hair and fair skin before they become capable of spiritual enlightenment.

It is similar to the questions which ask why Krishna is black or dark-skinned, as he is described as a curly-haired, black-skinned man with red eyes. I doubt the question about Buddha would be asked if he had the wavy or straight hair typical of contemporary South Asians or of Krishna if his skin was white.

The first pic below is of a Semang man taken in 1906. Check the Wikipedia page.

Semang Man 1906

Semang man 1906 (Malaysia) source wikipedia

This one below is a Jarawa woman from the Andaman Islands. The Jarawa are notable because they all exhibit the widow's peak often seen in Buddha images.

Jawara woman

Compare her hair and widow's peak to the Buddha icon below.

Buddha icon

The Jarawa man displays the hair better. You can see the widow's peak as well if you look well enough.

Jarawa man in profile

Buddha statue

Buddha head statue, with elongated earlobes.

Buddha's ears are most likely the result of heavy earrings worn for long time, or plugs in the ear lobes. In effect the Buddha image is basically one of the African woman below with the ear lobe plugs removed, with added widow's peak.

African woman with plugs in ear lobes

  • 2
    Buddha is said to be from modern day Nepal. So the best guess of his appearance would come from what people in that area looked like. Using statues/paintings to determine what he looked like will not work as no one new what he looked like when first paintings/statues were made 100s of years after buddhas death. And every culture made the statue look like the ideal person of their culture.
    – RRR
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 3:42
  • This "Buddha was Black" is some of the most ahistorical, racist garbage I've come across. It's nothing more than a cry for attention from Pan-African radicalists in an attempt to disenfranchises non-Black people. The images chosen to show he looks African are usually from countries like Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. None of these are ethnically homogenous (but Cambodia is currently 90-95% Khmer) and many have the features of buddha statues in those areas.
    – M-2
    Commented Jun 6 at 17:54
  • Scripture also tell us the Buddha hailed from the tribe of Indo-Aryan Shakyas. Buddha's skin was gold and his eyes were blue. "Kṛṣṇa" like the world "nīla" generally means a dark complexion, and ranges from black to blue to green. Indo-Aryan people have been light or dark throughout their history.
    – M-2
    Commented Jun 6 at 18:01
  • @M-2 It seems you have been "triggered". My answer starts with The most logical answer, and I have given the reasoning why, in addition to pointing out the existence of people from Asia who exhibit such features naturally. Early Europeans actually thought the image of the Buddha depicted an African, but that is not necessary as being the most ancient racial group it is natural to expect people with "Negroid" features all over the planet and this is actually the case.
    – vfclists
    Commented Jun 11 at 1:18
  • @M-2 The logic for this is quite simple. If God imbued the most ancient of men with divine wisdom, then it goes without saying that those people would be a negroid people, as they are the planet's oldest race. Unless you are insisting that the most ancient of men had to evolve to develop lighter skin and straighter hair before acquiring wisdom, and this doesn't make sense because the most ancient were the most perfect, unless God created flawed human beings at the start and refined them as he went along.
    – vfclists
    Commented Jun 11 at 1:28

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