Despite his successful departure, the Buddha has a great deal of hardship ahead. For the moment he dismounts and sets foot on the ground, he must confront his own destiny. Upon dismounting in the middle of a village, the Buddha's head is filled with marvellous if naive ideas about saving humanity, which he wants to share. However, the village inhabitants bow low to him as if he were on parade for them; no one is interested in what he has to say, and all they want is to revere him. He stupefies the village people by proceeding to undress before them; they remain prostrated, forcing him next to cut his hair, since long hair was considered a privilege of the nobility. Still no reaction, so - as the supreme sacrifice - he removes his earrings, for in the East, the right to wear dynastic drop earrings was a symbol of royalty, even more so than the crown and scepter. Having divested himself of all, and appearing fully in the nude before the people, he at last dominates their typically Oriental (particularly in India) atavistic attitude and truly captures their attention. This scene has only rarely been depicted.
Hence, to portray the Buddha with distended ear lobes is to remind viewers/worshippers that, although he was entitled to wear earrings, he deliberately renounced them.