After renouncing his princely existence in search of truth, Siddhartha went through a stage of profound austerity. For six years Siddhartha tried passionately to work out his own way of salvation visiting several religious masters of the time. Dissatisfied with their teachings, he practiced asceticism, submitting himself to such severe physical austerities that he came to look like a living skeleton. The deeply sunken eyeballs, the projecting cheekbones, the veins on the forhead and tight lips with a gentle smile attest to his superhuman effort to exceed human limitations in his quest for spiritual transcendence.
Gandharan artists, beyond capturing the idealized physical beauty of the enlightened Buddha, were equally capable of dramatizing a subject. This head, closely related to the famous sculpture from the Lahore Museum, must be regarded as one of the quintessential Gandharan iconic types. It expresses the noble spiritual state of the Bodhisattva seeking the meaning of life at the threshold between life and death. It is arguably the most graphic image of the physical privations and mental concentration endured by Siddhartha on his path towards Enlightenment.