Famous Northern Sukhothai style Buddha images were produced in the era of King Kue Na’s reign (1355 -1385).  In 1369 Abbot Sumana arrived to Chaingmai from Sukhothai at the request of King Kue Na.  The king built the Wat Suan Dok temple in Chaingmai for the Abbot Sunmana in 1371 and cast the Classic Northern Sukhothai style Buddha.  After this statue, the Northern Buddha images have their hands in meditation gesture were very common in the images cast in the last of the fourteen century to the end of the fifteen century.

The distinctive characters of Northern Sukhothai Buddha Heads are as follows:

Northern Sukhothai Buddha Head

Northern Sukhothai Buddha Head 13 Century Thailand

The Finial (Ratsami or Ketumala)

Emanating from the top of the Buddha’s head is a finial representing his fiery energy or explosive spiritual power.  The finial of the Northern Sukhothai Buddha images in Northern part of Thailand is the flame form.  Sometimes the finial is encircled with a ring or rings at the base where it joins the rounded excrescence of the ushnisha.

The Cranial Protuberance (Ushnisha)

The dome shaped mound on the head of Buddha is another identifying characteristic of Buddha Statues in Asia.  This mound or the cranial protuberance is indicative of the acquired knowledge by a superior being.  The Ushnisha on Northern Thailand Buddha heads are conical or hemispherical in shape.

The Hair Curls

The hair of Buddha is depicted in individual tightly curled coils.  According to the legend, the Buddha only had to shave his head once-when he cut off his long princely hair to become an ascetic.  After his initial tonsure, the Buddha’s hair adhered tightly to his scalp in rows of snail like curls.  Small knobs of coils are typical of the Northern Sukhothai Buddhas.

The Band at the Hairline

One of the distinguishing marks of the Buddha images in Thailand is the band at the hairline.  A stylistic element separating the hair from the face, the band usually extends from ear to ear but not always behind them.  However, hair bands are rarely employed on the Northern Sukhothai Buddha images. The significant of the image is the rows of hair curls that dip in the center of the forehead.

Northern Sukhothai Buddha Head - Side

Northern Sukhothai Buddha Head-Side View

The Forehead Mark (Urna)

The urna represents a tuft of white hair curling from a mole located in the center of the forehead that was supposedly a part of the Buddha’s special facial anatomy.  Alternatively, some scholars think the urna is a representation of the magical intonation, om which is sometimes depicted in the form of a spiral.  Mostly the urna is painted on the Buddha image.  This miniature brass image does not have urna.

The Facial features

The facial features of most of the Northern Sukhothai images are long and oval.  The upper eye lids over the downcast eyes are prominent and having protruding upper lip mouth and chin. A faint smile can be detected.

The Ears with Elongated Ear Lobes

The distended ear lobes are a reminder of the Buddha’s royal lineage.  As a young prince, Siddhartha would have worn heavy ear rings, weight of which would have elongated the lobes and the holes within.  On becoming an ascetic, he exchanged rich raiment and precious jewelry for the simple robe.  Royalty, disciples and semi divine beings also have elongated ear lobes.  The image bears the long ear lobes with marks for holes.

Northern Sukhothai Buddha Head-Back

Northern Sukhothai Buddha Head - Back View

The lines at the Neck

Buddha’s and other important male or female figures may have three concentric lines on the neck.  These are on the lower front of the neck, not on the sides or on the back.  The lowest line is at the collar bone and occasionally can be mistaken for the neck of the robe.  The other two are evenly placed above.  Called “shell neck” in India, they are metaphor for the three folds at the opening of spiral shells and signify good fortune and beauty.  The Northern Sukhothai Buddha head has the cut at the neck on the third line so only the above two lines can be observed as the third is at the cutting point.

This image is available for sale in my store section coded BH3 Northern Sukhothai Buddha Head.