The origin of the eleven-headed form of Avalokiteshvara is explained in thefollowing legend:
Avalokiteshvara, the all pitying bodhisattva, descended into hell, convertedthe wicked, liberated them, and conducted them to Sukhavati, the paradise ofhis spiritual father, Amitabha.
He discovered, however, to his dismay, that for every culprit converted andliberated, another instantly took his place. Legend claims that his headsplit into ten pieces from grief and despair on discovering the extent ofwickedness in the world, and the utter hopelessness of saving all mankind.Amitabha caused each piece to become a head, and placed the heads on thebody of his spiritual son, Avalokitesvara. Nine of the heads have benignfaces and are depicted in three rows; the tenth has an angry face, while thehead at the top is that of Amitabha.
All the heads, except that of Amitabha, is crowned. In contrast to thefloral crowns of the three rows of heads, the top wrathful head is adornedwith a crown of skulls.