Usnisa-siraskata (a mahapurusa-laksana) in the early Buddha images of India

Banerjea, Jitendra Nath
The Indian Historical Quarterly

p.499 The Mahapadana and the Lakkhaha Suttantas of the Digha Nikaya (vols. II and III) refer to one of the 32 signs' of the Buddha's person as unhisasisa; in later Buddhist Sanskrit works such as the Lalitavistara, Makavyutpatti, it is referred to as usnisa-siraskata. The correct interpretation of this peculiarity of a Buddha, especially in connection with its representation in Buddhist iconoplastic art of different periods, has engaged the attention of many a scholar. Long ago, Burnouf, after a careful examination of this question, wrote, "I propose to translate the term standing for the first of the characteristic signs of a great man, as the Tibetans did and as the Buddha statues testify: 'his head is crowned by a cranial protuberance'."(2) Remusat, however, some time before Burnouf, interpreted this physical peculiarity, partly after the Tibetan manner, supplying in addition a detail relating to the arrangement of the hair: ''He has the hair gathered together in a knot upon a fleshy tubercle placed on the summit of his head".(3) The exact significance of this laksana has since then been discussed by various scholars such as Foucher,(4) Waddell,(5) ---------------------- 1 Senart pointed out long ago that the Indian conception about these Mahapurusa-laksanas 'went far beyond the confines of Buddhism having taken root in older Brahmanic myths'; Essai sur la legende du Buddha, Paris, 1882, pp. 28f. The bearer of these marks on his body was destined to be either a Cakravarti monarch or a Buddha. 2 Lotus de la Bonne Loi, p. 560. 3 Mel. Asiat., I, p. 168. 4 L'art Graeco-Bouddhique du Gandhara, II, p. 295. 5 Ost Asiatische Zeitschrift, 1914, 'Buddha's Diadem or Usnisa'. It is very difficult to accept Waddell's conclusions on account of the fact that the premises on which he bases them do not bear scrutiny. His identification of cakravaka, the Nagaraja at Bharhut as Varuna, the god of sky and ocean, is not established on solid data. Again, the six-headed figure of Mahasena (Skanda-karttikeya) in the Yuan Kwang grottos, who can be correctly described as such from the attributes which are in his hands, viz., a Sakti and a cock, and his peacock vehicle, has been wrongly designated by him as Varuna. p.500 and Coomaraswami(1) and different explanations have been given by them. For determining the real sense of this term, one will have to take into careful consideration the original meaning of the word Usnisa, the interpretation of this laksana by the celebrated commentator Buddhaghosa (C. 5th century A.D.), its presence or absence in the list of the Purusa-laksanas in Brahmanical literature, such as the Brhatsamhita of Varahamihira and last, but not the least, the important testimony of the Buddha images of different periods, especially the early Gandhara and Mathura ones. From its etymological sense, "a protection from the sun, sunshade'', the term Usnisa is interpreted as "a turban", usually "a royal turban", e.g. King Milinda names it among the royal insignia.(2) The head-dress of a Brahmacarin is also referred to as Usnisa.(3) But, this usual sense of a turban can hardly be accepted to explain this physical pecularity of a Buddha, for the Bodhisattvas, when they left the world to attain Buddhatva, discarded, according to tradition, their head dress and other ornaments, Buddhaghosa, in his Sumangalavilasini, explains the laksana Unhisasisa as referring to the well-developed forehead (paripunnanalata) and the well-developed head (Paripunnasisa) of the Mahapurusa. He develops the first part of his explanation, thus, Mahapurisassa hi dakkhina-kannaculikato patthaya mamsapatalam utthahitva sakalanalatam chadiyamanam purayamanam gantva Vamakanna-culikaya patitthitam ranno bandha unhisapatto viya virocati. So, according to him, this refers to the mass of flesh which rises from the root of the right ear, extends over and thus covers the whole of the forehead ----------------------- Moreover, there is no justification for assuming that the 7 hoods of the Adisesa on whose coils Narayana Visnu is depicted in a recumbent pose, is the usnisa of the same god. Other objections can be raised, which make it impossible for one to accept his solution of the usnisa problem. 1 J. R, A. S., 1928., Buddha's cuda, hair and usnisa, crown. 2 Milinda Panha, p. 330: pubbakanam Khattiyanam anubhutiani paribhogabhandani seyyath'idam: setacchattam unhisam paduka valavijani khaggaratanam maharahani ca sayanani. H p.501 and ends near the root of the left ear , resembling the tied turban-folds of kings; i.e. this fleshy growth is uniformly distributed over the whole of the forehead and shines forth like the front plait of the royal turban. He goes out of his way to remark that kings modelled the folds of their turban (Unhisapatta) on this characteristic of the great men. As regards the second part, the learned commentator refers to various kinds of undeveloped heads resembling those of a monkey, in shape like a fruit, and extremely bony or pitcher-like in appearance, or of the rapidly sloping type; whereas the great man's head is fully developed and rotund everywhere (sabbattha parimandala) like a water bubble (mahapurisassa pana araggena vattetva thapitam viya suparipunnam udakabubbulasadisam sisam koti). Dr. Rhys Davids remarks about the explanation of Buddhaghosa, "in either case, the rounded highly developed appearance is meant, giving to the unadorned head the decorative dignified effect of a crested turban and the smooth symmetry of a water bubble",(1) We should point out here that both these senses of the word were not Buddhaghosa's own invention but were current in his time. But the most important point here is that 'the bony protuberance on the top of the Buddha's skull'--a sense which is established beyond doubt in later tradition, both literary and plastic, is not referred to here. We may enquire now about the characteristic feature of the heads of great men, as recorded in Brahmanical literature. It must be observed here that the word usnisasirsa does not occur in the Brahmanical texts among the Mahapurusa-laksanas, so far known to me. But the inherent sense of the word might be referred to there in a different manner. Thus, the great inhabitants of Svetadvipa, where Narada went in quest of the Bhagavat, are said to have heads like 'an umbrella,(2) (chatrakrtisirsa; not chatrakoti, as Waddell and Coomaraswamy have put it). The great gods Nara and Narayana, visited by Narada in the Vadarikasrama are characterised with heads like umbrellas, a feature described ------------------------ 1 Rhys Davids, Dialogues of the Buddha, II, p. 16, fn. 4. Dr. B. M. Barua, informs me that the force of the word c'eva in the commentary should be taken into account. Both the senses of Paripunnanalatatan and Paripunnasiso are comprised in the term unhisasiso. 2 Mahabharata xii, 334, II. p.502 as a Mahapurusa-laksana.(1) Varahamihira describes the heads of kings (cakravarttins) as resembling the shape of an umbrella.(2) Utpala comments on this passage that this umbrella-like shape refers to the high broad expanse of the upper part of the head. The Samudrikasastra tells us that he whose head resembles an open umbrella or the breast of a young lady is destined to be a sarvabhauma (cakravartti) monarch.(3) Thus, the Brahmanical traditions about the sirolaksana of gods, great men and kings are unanimous in laying down that the outline of the head would resemble that of an expanded umbrella;(4) i. e. here also we find a reference to 'the rounded highly developed appearance' of the head as is alluded to by Buddhaghosa in the term 'udakabubbulasadisa'. As regards the first part of Buddhaghosa's explanation (viz. Paripunnanalatata), if we refer to the section on the Sankhalalatalaksanas of human beings in the Brhatsamhita(5) we can understand what our author means here: thus, those 4 It may be objected that the umbrellas as represented in early Indian art is flat in shape and so do not show the gently rising carved outline which is necessary for the confirmation of our hypothesis, But it shbuld be remembered that all the umbrellas are not of the flat type which is usually shown over stupas and on Bodhi trees; partially dome-shaped umbrellas are also known (cf. HIIA, pi. XIII. fig. 48--a Bharhut rail medallion) and these were usually spread over honoured beings. p.503 with high and broad sankhas (the bone on the forehead) are (destined to be) rich (great) men; the rich (great) are characterised by a forehead like a hall-moon in appearance; men with broad suktis (front portion of the skull) are instructors of persons. The Samudrikasastra tells us also the same thing.(1) Thus, it appears, from all this that the parallel evidence of the early as well as the later Brahmanical texts proves that the early Buddhist writers did not mean by the term Unhisasisa 'the bony protuberance of the head' and Buddhaghosa was quite correct in giving us the full technical sense of the term, current in his time. It is universally accepted by scholars that the Buddhists adopted these signs of the Mahapurusas from the Brahmills and applied them to the person of the Buddha; so it will be natural for us to seek for their proper significance among: the Brahmanical literature. Thus we must: accept Senart's statement that 'this particular laksana is not in the list of the signs of a Great Man in Brahmanical writings such as the 'Brhat Samhita''(2) with some modification. But then the question may arise when did this term come to mean a 'bony protuberance?' That this sense had already come into existence when Yuan Chwang visited India in the 7th century A.D. is proved by the fact that he went on pilgrimage to the shrine of Buddha's Usnisa-bone in Hilo, near Gandhara. Two centuries earlier, the same temple enshrining the precious relic, viz., "Sakya Julai's skull-top bone" was seen and described by Fa-hien. It is true that this relic 'in shape like a wasp's nest or the back of the arched hand, shown to believing pilgrims in Hilo' was an imposture; but, it is interesting to note that this peculiarity of Buddha's head was understood in different manners by the two famous Buddhists of the 5th century A.D., viz., the Chinese traveller Fa-hien and the Indian commentator Buddhaghosa. This can be explained, however, by suggesting that Buddhaghosa who wrote his commentaries in Ceylon has offered us the original meaning of the term, which as has been shown by us, is borne out by the evidence of the Brahmanical texts, whereas, these Chinese pilgrims refer to the ---------------------- p.504 popular superstition about this supposed 'skull-top bone relic' with which Buddhism was at first little concerned. Watters remarks: "It is interesting to observe that we do not find mention of any Buddhist monks as being concerned in any way with this precious relic."(1) Again, it seems that there was some confusion in the minds of the Chinese regarding the exact nature of the Usnisa. "Some, like Yuan Chwang, regarded it as a separate formation on, but not a part of, the top of the skull."(2) Yuan Chwang and the other pilgrims use the Chinese word ting-ku (bone of the top of the head) for Usnisa; several other Chinese translations of it are ting-jou chi, i.e., "the flesh top-knot on the top of the head" and juchi-ku or "the bone of the flesh top-knot." Other Chinese methods of describing this laksana are: "On the top of the head the Usnisa like a deva sunshade (a reference no doubt in a round about manner to the Chatrakrtisirsa of the Brahmanical texts); or as having ''on the top of his head the Usnisa golden skull-top bone." Lastly, it is said that "on the top of the Buddha's head is manifested the usnisa, i.e., manifested occasionally as a miraculous phenomenon; and it is not visible to the eyes of ordinary beings,"(3) But whence came this adventitious sense of this term Usnisa, in the Indian literature? Here, fortunately, the Buddha figures belonging to different ancient and medi‘val art-centres of India will come to our aid, The Indian Buddha types of Mathura belonging to the early Kusana period and the early Hellenistic ones from Gandhara supply us with much useful data regarding the solution of our problem. But, in order to utilise the evidence of the early Kusana Buddha-heads of Mathura, we must first answer the question whether these are actually depicted bald except for the central snail-shell (kapardda) coil of hair on the top; because the hair-question is intimately connected with the Usnisa one. The head, reproduced in pl. I, fig. I, shows a smooth highly developed cranium which rises up from the ---------------------- 1 0n Yuan Chwang, vol, 1, p, 197, 2 Watters, Ibid., p. 196: 'this protuberance was supposed to be a sort of abnormal development of the upper surface of the skull into a small truncated cone covered with flesh and skin and hair' a very satisfactory description of the later adventitious sense. 3 Watters, Ibid., p. 197. p.505 hairline (kesarekha) with the central hair-coil on the top.(1) The smoothness of the raised cranium led scholars to think that the heads were shaven. But, there is no question that there were doubts in the minds of some of them with regard to this point. Dr. Vogel, while discussing the iconography of the sculptural specimens in the Mathura Museum, refers to the Katra Bodhisattva-Buddha and another standing Buddha (Nos. A1 & A4 in the Museum) and remarks,'that these are indeed Buddha images of the Kusana period in which the head is shaven.(2) But while describing the images themselves, in the case of A1, he observes: "the treatment of the hair deserves special notice. It is not carved in curls, but it is only indicated by a line over the forehead, so as to give the impression that the head is shaven".(3) In the case of no. A4, his remark is "the hair is treated so as to simulate the shaven head of a monk".(4) But, in his recent publication on Mathura sculptures, he is definite: "La tete rase porte un usnisa en forme de colimacon (kaparda)", i.e. the shaven head bears an usnisa in the form of a snail-shell.(5) It was Mons. Foucher, however, who first definitely pointed out that the early Mathura heads were not shaved, in these words "we want to point out this mode of stopping rigorously on the forehead the line of the hair of which the mass is indicated only by a perfectly compact smooth modelling: so well that in keeping altogether the silhouette characteristic of the chignon, the head appears entirely shaven",(6) Dr. Codrington refers to this feature in these words: "the usnisa is represented as a coiled protuberance something like a snail-shell, the head itself being smooth, but with the line of the forehead clearly marked,"(7) Later, his positive statement about the usnisa as a protuberance and further remark that 'no attempt is made to disguise it, as in Gandhara' are not based on the correct interpretation ------------------------- 1 Mathura Museum Catalague, p. A27; Vogel: "Shaven head" This may be regarded as a good representative of the early Kusana Buddha heads of Mathura; cf. the Katra Buddha: Coomaraswamy says about this head type: "rarely seen after the 2nd cent. A.D. and never after the fifth". 2 Mathura Museum Catalogue, p. 35. 3 Ibid., p. 47; italics are ours. 4 Ibid., p.49. 5 Ars Asiatica, vol. XV, p. 36. 6 Foucher, L'Art Graeco-Bouddhique, etc., p. 700. 7 Godrington, Ancient India, p.44. p.506 of these features. A little later, in the same publication, he definitely asserts that 'at least in the early part of the Kushan century it is certain the head was left bare,' Dr. Coomaraswamy, on the other hand, was at first of opinion that the early Kusana Buddha and Bodhisattva type of Mathura was characterised by the shaven head'.(1) That he changed his opinion some what later is proved by this observation of his about the early Kusana type: 'the head smooth, with a conical, spirally twisted projec- tion on the crown of the head; let us not take it for granted that the head is shaved, or that the projection is an Usnisa'.(2) Ludwig Bachhofer, however, in criticising Mons. Foucher's conclusion, observes: "There is no valid reason why in one place of the head, the hair should unmistakably be represented as such, while close by it should only be indicated by quite other means." (3) But Mons. Foucher's conclusion can be justified on the following grounds. If these heads were represented as shaved at all, what could have been the explanation of this distinct swell on the skull above the hair-line? Shaven headed monks are depicted in Indian plastic art; but these do not show this distinct cranial division into two planes just near the kesarekha. That the Mathura artists of this period were in the habit of indicating the hair in this manner can be proved, if we carefully ------------------------- 1 Hist. of Ind. & Indonesian Art, P. 56-7. In his Origin of the Buddha Image (M. F. A. Bulletin, vol. IX, no. 4, p. 23) however, he seems to have already changed his opinion. Referring to the great differences that are to be found in the treatment of the hair on Buddha-heads, in Gandhara and Mathura, he remarks: "in Mathura, however, both Buddha and Jina images are represented at first with a spiral protuberance which is a lock of hair and not an usnisa; later the whole head and hair are covered with small short curls, and this type after the second century becomes the almost universal rule, the only example of the smooth head dating from the Gupta period being the Mankuwar image, 448-9 A.D." 2 J.R.A.S., 1928, P. 817. He further adds in Ibid., p. 827, "that the remainder of the head is smooth does not mean that it is shaved but simply that all the long hair was drawn up close and tight over the scalp into the single stress. The thickness of this smooth hair is always clearly indicated in the sculptures." 3 Early Indian Sculpture, p. 95. p.507 observe the treatment of the same in some Yaksini heads (cf. pl. I, fig. 2: the hair is treated here in a smooth compact mass shown tightly drawn upwards, without the least striation on the surface which would indicate that the raised surface consists of hair; but the raised hair-line is divided here into several sections in order to give a beautifying effect to the heads of these females). P1. II shows that, in very rare instances, the hair on the cranium is treated in a slightly different manner showing six distinct layers, beginning from the root of the ear and ending below the Kapardda hair-coil; that these are nothing but stratified arrangement of the hair(1) is proved by the distinct striation of these layers. Bachhofer's objection can be further answered by suggesting that 'the unmistakable representation of the hair as such' on the topmost coil only, in the majority of the Buddha heads of this type, probably shows an ingenious attempt on the part of the artist just to suggest that the raised mass above the forehead also was hair; had there been no striation on the former, then there might have been a greater chance for misinterpreting the whole thing (as it is, the peculiar plastic form of ahead with compact smooth hair has been misread; the beautiful Yaksinis cited above were not certainly depicted with shaven heads!). In any case, Bachhofer himself has not given us any reasonable explanation of this 'rising' near the hair-line.(2) To the artists of Mathura as in the case of those of other localities, the Buddha was not shaven headed like his monks.(3) ----------------------- 1 Did the artist intend to show here in a conventional manner the downward continuation of the matted spiral coil on the top? 2 It cannot be suggested that this was perhaps the mamsapatala of Buddhaghosa, for he describes the latter as covevring the whole of the forehead and we have already tried to explain the term with the evidence of the Brahmanical texts; by the way, the 'open umbrella' like outline of these heads should be noted. The treatment of the hair of the Patna Yaksa (P. 2, in the Indian Museum, Calcutta) should be observed. All the hair is gathered en masse upwards--the hair-ends abruptly ending near the nape. The distinct swell above the hair-line and striation (clear in the relief) preserved near the hair-ends, should be especially marked in this connection. 3 The head of the Buddha image of Mankuwar (5th century A.D.) is sui generis; it is an exception to the general rule adopted in the case of both early Kusana on the one hand and the late Kusana and the Gupta Buddha head, on the other,the hair is treated here in an all p.508 Once we accept this solution of the hair-problem of the early Kusana Buddha type of Mathura, the determination of the question whether the kapardda coil is to be regarded as the Usnisa of these Buddhas is easy.(l) There is no contemporary authority which justifies us in describing this as Usnisa; so we should be careful in using such expression as 'Spiral Usnisa'(2) or Usnisa in the form of a Kapardda.(3) If there were any plastic representation of the laksana, Usnisasiraskata here, and we think it was there, we ought to find it in the well rounded (sabbathaparimandala) umbrella-like (chatrakrti) outline of the cranium and the high broad (suktivisala) shape of the forehead. Dr. Coomaraswamy, however, after a minute study of the earliest Indian images of Buddha entertains no doubt about the fact that 'they do not attempt to represent the Usnisa, either as a turban, or until later, as a bony protuberance, (4) Nor does the evidence of the earliest of the Gandhara Buddhas prove that these bear the abnormal cranial protuberance. There exists, still, a great deal of difference of opinion among scholars regarding the dating of the Gandhara sculptures.(5) But there is some sort of unanimity among them about the relievo-representation of Buddha ----------------------- compact smooth mass with neither a single coil in the centre, nor short curls all over the head, but with a slight swell on the centre of the head. 1 We can refer here to the interesting manner in which this spiral hair-coil is shown along with the folds of a turban on the head of a standing Bodhisattva (Codrington, Ancient India, pl. 22c.). It seems that the artist means to show that the hair is drawn up together in a mass and turned round in a single coil on the top and wound up with the folds of the turban. Rudra (Siva) is described as Kaparddi in Vedic texts on account of his identification with Agni whose flames waving upward are likened to the snail-shell-like coils gathered upward on an ascetic's head and 'the hair of the true Kapardin is long'; the attribute Usnisin was also applied to him in early and late texts: Vaj. S., XVI, 22; Mahabharata, 13, 17, 44; Kadambari, 220. Usnisin both in the Vajasaneyi Samhita and the Mbh. passages is explained by the commentators as sirovestanavan. 2 Coomaraswamy, HIIA, p. 57; but he does not describe now this Kapardda as Usnisa; cf JRAS., 1928, p. 817; M.F.A. Bulletin, vol. IX, no. 4, p. 23. 3 Ars Asiatica, vol. XV, p. 36. 4 JRAS., 1928, p. 832. 5 See Sir John Marshall, A Guide to Taxila, p. 31. p.509 on the Bimaran reliquary, --this being one of the earliest figures of the Master so far known, if not the earliest one. Bachhofer thus describes the hair on its head: "There are no spiral locks. The thick hair covering the head is twisted on the crown of the head into a large knot, which produces the effect of a loose structure (italics are ours).(1) The coiffure of the figure of the flask-carrying Maitreya on the socle of the Buddha statue from Charsada(2) should be studied in this connection; the hair is gathered up and tied round by a string (of hair?) at the bottom of the so-called Usnisa bump. As a matter of fact, a very close observation of the early Hellenistic Gandhara Buddhas in the Peshawar and Lahore Museums convinces one that the luxuriant hair of the Master is really tied up, upon the crown of the head. Mr. Hargreaves referring to the exhibit No. 1921 in the Peshawar Museum, remarks that 'the artist untrammelled by tradition, has ventured to bind the base of the Usnisa by a jewelled band'.(3) But what he fails to observe is that this pearl or usually the string band is present at the base of the so-called Usnisa bump in a large majority of the early Buddha heads of this art centre.(4) Nor is this feature of the top-knots of hair confined to the heads of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas alone; Mons. Foucher pointed out long ago that a number of reliefs show that even ordinary mortals have such a hair-dress beneath their turbans.(5) Semi-divine Yaksas are also depicted with this peculiar arrangement of the hair; thus most of the children of Hariti and Pancika in a Gandhara relief are shown with these top-knots.(6) It is no use multiplying cases; a close ----------------------- 1 Early Indian Sculpture, vol, I, p. 94. 2 "Hastnagar Socle" dated in the year 384, Sel. E. or A.D. 72; cf,, Ludwig Bachhofer, ibid., vol. II, fig, 143. But the dating is open to doubt; Konow dates it in 300 A.D. 3 Handbook to the Sculptures in the Peshawar Museum, p. 52. 4 Exhibit no. 227 in the Peshawar Museum shows the topmost hair-knot tied together by a string of pearls; similar is the case with fragmentary heads Nos, 232 and 293. In Nos. 223, 231 and 233 (all the last 5 are moustached heads) the upper knob consists of wavy curls strung together in their middle by a stringlike thin woven hair. In No, 231, this hair knob is elongated in shape. 5 Foucher, Art Graeco-Bouddhique du Gandhara, tome I, fig. 234. 6 Exhibit no. 241, Peshawar Museum; Hargreaves, Handbook etc., plate 7. p.510 Study of the reliefs alone will convince us of the truth of this statement. Now, this top-knot does not really cover any abnormal swelling of the central cranium; in its plastic form, it could not but appear as something solid with waving locks upon it. The misunderstanding of this feature was certainly the root-cause in the change of the meaning of the term Usnisa, and once this wrong interpretation came into existence, the artists of Gandhara began to make Buddha-heads with this top-knot having the appearance of the Central bump. But even then, the procedure was certainly not uniform. With the introduction of the short-curls, turned towards the right covering the head and the bump on it, a conventional stereotyping is no doubt apparent; but cases are not wanting where the old formula was resorted to. Hargreaves remarks, "a less naturalistic but still pleasing treatment of the hair is seen in Nos. 1430 (pl. 9a, pl. III, fig, 1), 1424, 1425 where the Usnisa is treated schemati- cally in little loose curls".(1) The evidence of the beautiful stucco heads of late Gandhara period (c. 5th century A.D.) is specially interesting in this connection; in many of these, the so-called Usnisa is disproportionately small and is shown sometimes in front and at other times in the centre of the cranium. One of these, 'of the conventionalised' type(2) leaves no doubt in our mind about the artist's intention (pl. III, fig.2). Our acceptance of this solution of the origin of the so-called Usnisa on later Buddha heads will be facilitated further, if we bear in mind that the wearing of long hair in different modes was a common custom among the males of the various social orders of the Indo-Aryans, especially of the higher ones, They not only carried these luxurious locks on their own heads in different shapes, but endowed their gods with this same characteristic. Thus, the various gods depicted in the early Indian monuments of the pre-Christian period--very few of which can however be regarded as distinct iconographic types--are shown with luxuriant hair dressed in various ways and the usnisa i.e., the turban is one of their most prominent ----------------------- 1 Handbook etc., p. 51; but where is the authority for using the word Usnisa here? It is simply an arrangement of the locks in several tiers narrowing upwards. 2 Marshall, Guide to Taxila, p. 48, pl, VI; here the top-knot is not disproportionate. p.511 adornment which also is worn in different manners. But, if we refer to the plastic representation of some we cannot but be struck with the idea that there could have been always the chance of misinter- preting the big knot of hair which was shown like a rounded object on the centre of the top of the cranium. A reference may be made here to the bottom row of the divine figures (whose back-view is only shown) worshipping the Master in the Trayastrimsa heaven in the scene of the Master's descent at Sankisa, at Barhut.(1) The big top-knots of these gods could very justifiably have been interpreted as the so-called Usnisa bump, if we were not sure that this sense of the term was unknown in early literature. Very few reliefs of Brahmanical deities like Siva, Visnu and others are known, which can be definitely dated back to the pre-Christian era. But, even in the few early specimens, various elaborate modes of dressing the hair are shown; thus Siva on the Gudimallam Lingam (2) has a thick be-jewelled plait, half-moon-like in shape sheltering as it were the whole head of the god; the same god (here four-handed) on the Mathura Lingam(3) shows all the hair tightly drawn up on the cranium as in the early Kusana Buddha-heads of Mathura, but unlike the latter the single Jata ends in two sections, one resting upon the other, the lowermost of which smaller and thinner in shape is immediately on the top of the central part of the cranium, while the uppermost one bigger and thicker in size is depicted like a cup which is caught hold of by the two back hands of the divinity. Some interesting information is also furnished in this connection by some Ujjain, Audumbara and Kusana coins where the god Siva is figured, either as an obverse or a reverse type. A careful study of fig. 2, plate X, (Ujjain), fig. I, plate IV, (Audumbara) in Cunningham's Coins of Ancient India and figs, 33, 36, 65, pl. XVII, (Vima Kadphises and Kaniska), figs. 209 and 211 (Vasudeva) in White-head's Punjab Museum Catalogue, vol. I, will show how the luxuriant hair was worn by the divinity.(4) We all know that long before the first appearance of the Buddha figure in art, he was being worshipped ------------------- 1 Cunningham, Stupa of Bharhut, pl, XVI, Ajatasatru pillar. 2 T, A. G.Rao, Elements of Hindu Iconography vol.II, part I, p, 66, pl. III, fig.9. 3 Coomaraswamy, HIIA, , pi, XVIII, 68; date 2nd century A.D. 4 Note the little hair-knots on the centre of the cranium which can easily be interpreted as the so-called Usnisa bump. p.512 as the highest god by his pious devotees. And in the anthropomorphic representation of the Bhagavat, the depiction of the flowing tresses was quite natural. So, there cannot arise here the question of utilising this hair-motif for the purpose of concealing 'the disfigurement of the bump of intelligence.' There was also the authority of the texts that Buddha was to have his hair of a certain uniform length on his head throughout his life (cf. the Nidanakatha, etc.). The early indigenous artists also endowed Buddha with long: locks in their own way. The Gandhara artists did not introduce any new iconographic motif in this case; what difference there was at first, was the difference in technique alone. Here with the Gandhara as well as the Mathura artists, the all important question was whether the Buddha-head was to be shown with hair or not. When they found that the tradition explicitly laid down that Buddha carried locks of hair of uniform length on his head, all throughout his life, it was immaterial to them whether the hair was to be shown 2 or 10 angulas in length. Again, they were not representing Sakya Simha, the man but the divine Tathagata Sammasambuddha the object of their piety and devotion. Lastly, the evidence of a few of the lesser signs referring to Buddha's hair, such as citakesa (hair piled up), asamlulitakesa (hair not dishevelled) aparusakesa (smooth hair) etc. should be taken into account in this connection. The Mahapadana and Lakkhana suttantas do not give us detailed list of these lesser signs; but they are found in the early works like the Lalitavistara and the Mahavastu hence it is quite reasonable to assume that the tradition about the hair was a fairly authoritative one. That the plastic form of this top-knot of hair could be easily misconstrued as covering something abnormal on the top of Buddha's skull and that in this misconstruction lay the origin of the Usnisa bump of later age was long ago conjectured by Mons. Foucher. My close observation of the early Buddha figures in the Peshawar, Lahore and Mathura Museums confirms my idea about the origin of this important iconographic peculiarity. Dr. Coomaraswamy also supports the main part of this conclusion in his article on 'Buddha's Cuda, hair, Usnisa, crown.'(1) I differ from Foucher when he says that the early -------------------------- 1 JRAX., 1928, p.833. He incidentally remarks while noticing my article on 'the Webbed fingers of Buddha' (I,H.Q., December, 1930), that unhisasisa which originally meant "destined to wear a royal turban'', and later came to be regarded (through misinterpretation p.513 Gandhara artists avoided the representation of a protuberance for aesthetic reasons. Again, the blame for misinterpreting the Gandhara chignon as covering a cranial bump should not be ]aid at the door of the 'Indian imitators'; for, as we have seen some (not all, compare the evidence of some stucco heads) of the Gandhara artists, themselves misinterpreted the whole thing. When, however, the convention of the short spiral curls, turning from left to right was introduced, the raised centre of the cranium was nothing but the protuberance covered with these; but even then, an unconscious reference to the original character of this abnormality is to be seen in those cases where this bump with these small spiral curls is encircled at its base by a string.(1) Now, to raise the question of interpretation again. What was the old meaning of the term Unhisa-sisa? Dr. Coomaraswamy suggests that it originally meant "destined to wear a royal turban" as catvarimsatdanta'' would mean ''destined to have 40 teeth." But where is the necessity of our having to suggest this explanation, when its original sense has been so explicitly put forward by Buddhaghosa? It is true that he 'writes long after the practical problem of iconographic representation had been settled and had the Buddha figures with a protuberant Usnisa no less than the old texts before him," But, as we have shown before that he was relying mainly on the old orthodox and technical sense of the term unhisa-sisa--it should be noted that the word is taken as a whole here--and his authority was certainly the older Brahmnical texts (unhisa-sisa=chatrakrtisirsa +suktivisalabhala) . In commenting fully on this word, he does not find himself in difficulties and I differ from Drs. Rhys Davids and Coomaraswamy, when they say that 'Buddhaghosa's interpretation is not at all satisfactory.' A brief reference ought to be made to 'the figure of Indra in the form of the Brahman Santi' carved in high relief on a railing pillar at Bodh Gaya (c. 100 B.C.). Many scholars hold that there is a distinct protuberance on its head which is covered with short curls and they ---------------------- originating in the sculptor's device and perhaps also due to misinterpretation of images) as "having a cranial protuberance'' (I.H.Q, June, 1931). 1 Cf.the seated Buddha,Indian Museum, Gandhara room, NO.3936. p.514 are of opinion that it served as the prototype of the later usnisa.(1) Dr. Coomaraswamy once observed about it, "the figure of Santi affords the earliest known example of the Usnisa in sculpture."(2) But, there is no justification for describing this cranial feature of the Bodh Gaya relief in this manner and he is now of opinion that it is not an usnisa. Bachhofer himself tells us that Indra is not here represented as a cakravarttin and so the question of the representation of the laksanas does not arise in this connection.(3) In fine, it would be interesting to refer to the technical sense in which the term Usnisa was used in Brahmanical iconometric texts of a comparatively late period. The centext, in which this term is used there, justifies us in understanding it as signifying the central part of the cranium. Referring to the measurement of the Usnisa, the Vakhanasagama says that it should be 1 an. and 3 yavas.(4) The text is a Pancaratra one and mentions this fact while describing the Uttamadasatala measure of the image of Devesa (evidently Visnu).(5) Similar other passages in the above text lead us also to the Same conclusion.(6) ----------------------- I Bavchofer, Ein Pfeilerfigur aus Bodh-Gaya, Jahrbuch as. Kunst, II, I925; K(ramrisch, Grundzuge der indischen Kunst, p. 83. Reference to this figure was first made by Sir John Marshall in JRAS., 1908,p.1065, where he described it as an undoubted usnisa. 2 HIIA., p.32, fn.9. 3 But, is it really a protuberarice The swell, it should be observed is not exactly on the centre of the cranium and it has got a distinct tilt backwards, which might or might not have been due to the position of the head. Compare the head of Vessantara in a fragmentary Gandhara relief (HIIA, pl.XXVI, fig. 93) with it. Dr. Coomaraswamy describes the former as 'the Bodhisattva nimbate with ttlick curly hair etc.', but does not use the word protuberance. Both these heads, however, give me the impression that they bear on them the wig-like massed arrangement of hair in two sections, the hair ending in curls.