Phra Singh means Buddha in Lion’s gesture.  This gesture referred to the moment when he just got enlightened and became Buddha. The Evil  Mara came to claim that he has not yet become the Buddha, the supreme head of all beings in this universe. In his reaction, Buddha touched his pointing finger of his right hand to the ground to get witness by the Goddess of Earth of his enlightenment. The Goddess of Earth shook the earth and Mara was blown away by great momentum of earth quake together with great blow of winds and followed by flooded water. In this subduing Mara gesture, Buddha won over as the great Lion and thus this posture is named as Phra Singh or Lion Buddha. All Phra Singh Buddha are cross leg and sitting position as Buddha was meditating under the Bodhi tree when he was enlightened.

The Phra Singh type refers to a distinctive group of seated Buddha images found in Northern Thailand of 14th century Lan Na Kingdom period.

The distinctive characters of Phra Singh Buddha Heads are as follows:

Phra Singh Buddha Head 14 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 Phra Singh Buddha images in Northern Thailand is the knob or jewel (ratana) 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.  Large flat coils are typical of the Lan Na Phra Singh type 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 Phra Singh type Buddha images of Northern Thailand.

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 Phra Singh images are round.  The upper eye lids over the downcast eyes are prominent and the chin also is a prominent round knob.

Phra Singh Buddha Head - Side View

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.

The lines at the Neck

Buddhas 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 fo the three folds at the opening of spiral shells and signify good fortune and beauty.  The Phra Singh 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.

Phra Singh Buddha Head - Back View

This image is available for sale in my store section coded BH1 Phra Singh Buddha Head on Stand.