The name of a people and their country.
Included in the sixteen great countries (Mahājanapada) of the Buddha’s time. The kingdom, at that time, was divided into two parts, having their respective capitals in Pāvā and Kusinārā. The Mallā of Pāvā were called Pāveyyaka Mallā, those of Kusinārā, Kosinārakā. That these were separate kingdoms is shown by the fact that after the Buddha’s death at Kusinārā, the Mallā of Pāvā sent messengers to claim their share of the Buddha’s relics (D.ii.165). Each had their Mote Hall.
In the Saṅgīti Sutta we are told that the Buddha, in the course of one of his journeys, came with five hundred followers to Pāvā and stayed in the mango grove (ambavana) of Cunda the smith. A new Mote Hall, called Ubbhataka, had just been completed for the Mallā of Pāvā, and the Buddha was invited to be the first to occupy it that it might be consecrated thereby. The Buddha accepted the invitation, and taught in the Hall far into the night. It was also at Pāvā that the Buddha took his last meal, of tender pork (sūkaramaddava), at the house of Cunda (D.ii.126 f). From there he went to Kusinārā, and there, as he lay dying, he sent Ānanda to the Mallā of Kusinārā, who were assembled in their Mote Hall to announce his approaching death. The Mallā thereupon came to the Upavattana Sāla grove where the Buddha was, in order to pay him their last respects. Ānanda made them stand in groups according to family, and then presented them to the Buddha, announcing the name of each family. After the Buddha’s death, they met together once more in the Mote Hall, and made arrangements to pay him all the honour due to a Cakkavatti. They cremated the Buddha’s body at the Makuṭabandhana cetiya, and then collected the relics, which they deposited in their Mote Hall, surrounding them with a lattice work of spears and a rampart of bows until they were distributed among the various claimants by Doṇa (D.ii.166). The Mallā, both of Pāvā and Kusinārā, erected thūpas over their respective shares of the relics and held feasts in their honour (D.ii.167).
The Malla capital of Kusinārā was, in the Buddha’s day, a place of small importance. Ānanda contemptuously refers to it as a “little wattle and daub town in the midst of a jungle, a branch township,” quite unworthy of being the scene of the Buddha’s Parinibbāna. However, the Buddha informs Ānanda that it was once Kusāvatī (q.v.), the mighty capital of Kusa and Mahāsudassana. This shows that the Mallā had, at first, a monarchical constitution, but in the sixth century B.C. they were regarded, together with the Vajjī, as a typical example of a republic (saṅgha, gaṇa) (M.i.231). The chief Mallā administered the state in turn. Those who were free from such duties engaged in trade, sometimes undertaking long caravan journeys (DA.ii.569).
Both the Buddha and Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta appear to have had followers among the Mallā. Pāvā was the scene of Nāṭaputta's death, just as Kusinārā was of the Buddha’s (see Pāvā). Several followers of the Buddha among the Mallā are mentioned by name — e.g., Dabba, Pukkusa, Khaṇḍasumana, Bhadragaka, Rāsiya, Roja and Sīha (q.v.) The Mallā seem to have lived at peace with their neighbours, though there was apparently some trouble between them and the Licchavī, as shown by the story of Bandhula Malla (q.v.) Both the Mallā and the Licchavī were warriors (khattiya), belonging to the Vāseṭṭha clan, because in the books both tribes are repeatedly referred to as Vāseṭṭha (q.v.) ¹ There is reason to believe that the Malla republic fell into the hands of Ajātasattu, as did that of the Licchavī (Bhandarkar, Carmichael Lectures, 1918, p.79).
The Mallā are generally identified with the Malloi mentioned in the Greek accounts of Alexander’s invasion of India. The Malloi were a warlike clan who, for some time, successfully resisted Alexander’s attack. Their territory must have been situated in or near the Punjab.
Other places in the Malla country, besides Pāvā and Kusinārā, are mentioned where the Buddha stayed — e.g., Bhoganagara, Anupiyā, and Uruvelakappa, near which was the Mahāvana, a wide tract of forest.
Bandhula went from Kusinārā to Takkasilā for purposes of study. v.l. Mālā (e.g., UdA.377) and Malatā (e.g., AA.ii.814) are evidently both wrong readings.
¹ Manu says that both Licchavī and Mallā had Kṣatriya parents, but their fathers were Vrātyas — i.e., had not gone through the ceremony of Vedic initiation at the proper time.
2. Mallā.– A bhikkhuṇī who came to Sri Lanka from Jambudīpa; she was an eminent teacher of the Vinaya at Anurādhapura. Dpv.xviii.12.