Hair is often used as a metaphor for human being's illusion and ignorance. So, it is also called "weeds of ignorance" and having a shaved head, symbolically, represents getting rid of those illusions and ignorance. It is believed that to achieve the level of true understanding and enlightenment, we should keep our body and mind clean. That's why we often see Buddhist monks having a shaved head. Even history suggests that Siddhartha Gautam- The Buddha had cut his hair when he left his palace to achieve enlightenment.
But when we see Buddha in any of his statues and other forms of art, Buddha is portrayed with short and tight ringlet curls. To be exact there are around 108 ringlet curls on the Buddha's head. So, one question arises why the artists that have been portraying Buddha with short ringlets? There are numerous beliefs for these short ringlets. One belief suggests that those ringlets are not short hair but are actually 108 dried snails.
One day on a sunny afternoon, Buddha sat down under the tree and start to meditate. He became so immersed in his meditation that he didn’t notice the time. As time passed by, the sun ray was directed to his bald head.
At that very moment, snail was making its way along ground. Snail noticed that the Buddha was in deep meditation on such hot day. Even though Buddha had sat under the tree, the sun rays were directed towards his head. Thinking Buddha was soon going to be distracted and loose focus on his concentration due to sun rays, without a second thought, Snail made its way up to the Buddha's head and sat there, with his lubricated body cooling the Buddha's smooth and bare skin. Other snails also followed the first one, went up to the head and sat down there. Snails on the head looked like a neat cap of spiral shells.
Snail's cool and damp bodies helped to maintain the Buddha's meditation continue for hours. The snail became dehydrated and dry due to the heat rays. Later in the evening when Buddha stood from the meditation, he learned that he was wearing a cap of 108 snails, all of whom had given their lives to make a distraction-free environment for Buddha's path to enlightenment.
Since snails had given their lives for the Buddha, they are now honoured as martyrs. Hence, they are displayed on Buddha statues to remind us of their sacrifice.