Smithsonian Freer Gallery Sackler Gallery National Museum of Asian Art Gallery Guide Art of Buddhism
In the earliest Buddhist art of India, the Buddha was not represented in human form; instead, his presence was indicated by a sign or "trace," such as a footprint, an empty seat, a parasol, or a stupa. By the first century, the Buddha, who had never claimed to be anything but a human being who had found a path to truth, had been deified. The newly introduced human figure now appeared across India and dominated the artistic scene. Clad in a monastic robe, the image always displayed two signs of his superhuman perfection — the ushnisha, or cranial bump (disguised by artists as a topknot), representing his omniscience, and the urna, or curl of hair (dot) on the forehead, symbolizing his renunciation.
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