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Sakyā, Sakka, Sākiyā

A clan in North India, to which the Buddha belonged. Their capital was Kapilavatthu. Mention is also made of other Sakyan settlements — e.g., Cātumā, Khomadussa, Sāmagāma, Devadaha, Silāvatī, Nagaraka, Medāḷupa, Sakkhara, and Ulumpa (q.v.) Within the Sakyan clan there were probably several clans (gottā). The Buddha himself belonged to the Gotama-gotta. It has been suggested (e.g., Thomas, op.cit., 22) that this was a brahmin clan, claiming descent from the ancient sage (isi) Gotama. The evidence for this suggestion is, however, very meagre. Nowhere do we find the Sākyā calling themselves brahmins. On the other hand, we find various clans claiming a share of the Buddha’s relics on the ground that they, like the Buddha, were warriors (khattiya) (D.ii.165). It is stated a that the Sākyā were a haughty people. Vin.ii.183; D.i.90; J.i.88; DhA.iii.163. Hiouen Thsang, however, found them obliging and gentle in manners (Beal, op.cit., ii.14).

When the Buddha first visited them, after his Enlightenment, they refused to honour him on account of his youth. The Buddha then performed a miracle and taught the Vessantara Jātaka, and their pride was subdued. They were evidently fond of sports and mention is made of a special school of archery conducted by a Sakyan family, called Vedhaññā (D.iii.117; DA.iii.905). When the prince Siddhattha Gotama (later the Buddha) wished to marry, no Sakyan would give him his daughter until he had showed his proficiency in sport (J.i.58).

The Sākyā evidently had no king. Theirs was a republican form of government, probably with a leader, elected from time to time. The administration and judicial affairs of the gotta were discussed in their Santhāgāra, or Mote Hall, at Kapilavatthu. See, e.g., D.i.91; the Sākyā had a similar Mote Hall at Cātumā (M.i.457). The Mallā of Kusinārā also had a Santhāgāra (D.ii.164); so did the Licchavī of Vesāli (Vin.i.233; M.i.228).

Ambaṭṭha (q.v.) once visited it on business; so did the envoys of Pasenadi, when he wished to marry a Sakyan maiden (see below). A new Mote Hall was built at Kapilavatthu while the Buddha was staying at the Nigrodhārāma, and he was asked to inaugurate it. This he did by a series of ethical discourses lasting through the night, delivered by himself, Ānanda, and Moggallāna. M.i.353 f; S.iv.182 f; the hall is described at SA.iii.63; cf. UdA.409.

The Sākyā were very jealous of the purity of their race; they belonged to the Ādicca-gotta, (Ādiccā nāma gottena, Sākiyā nāma jātiyā, SN. vs.423) and claimed descent from Okkāka (q.v.) Their ancestors were the nine children of Okkāka, whom he banished in order to give the kingdom to Jantukumāra, his son by another queen. These nine children went towards Himavā, and, having founded Kapilavatthu (q.v. for details), lived there. To the eldest sister they gave the rank of mother, and the others married among themselves. The eldest sister, Piyā, later married Rāma, king of Bārāṇasī, and their descendants became known as the Koliyā (see Koliyā for details). When Okkāka heard of this, he praised their action, saying, “Sakyā vata bho kumārā, paramasakyā vata bho rājakumāra; hence their name came to be “Sakyā.”

SNA.i.352 f; cf. DA.i.258. Okkāka had a slave girl, Disā, her offspring were the Kaṇhāyanas, to which clan Ambaṭṭha belonged. The Mhv.ii.12 ff gives the history of the direct descent of the Buddha from Okkāka, and this contains a list of the Sakyan chiefs of Kapilavatthu:

From the very first there seems to have been intermarriage between the Sākyā and the Koliyā; but there was evidently a good deal of endogamy among the Sākyā, which earned for them the rebuke of the Koliyā in the quarrel between them “like dogs, jackals, and such-like beasts, cohabiting with their own sisters. e.g., SNA.i.357; J.v.412 f; there were eighty-two thousand rājās among the Koliyā and Sākyā (SNA.i.140).

A quarrel that broke out in the Buddha’s lifetime between the Sākyā and the Koliyā is several times referred to in the books. The longest account is found in the introductory story of the Kuṇāla Jātaka. The cause of the dispute was the use of the water of the River Rohiṇī (q.v.), which flowed between the two kingdoms. The quarrel waxed fierce, and a bloody battle was imminent, when the Buddha, arriving in the air between the two hosts, asked them, “Which is of more value, water or warrior chiefs?” He thus convinced them of their folly and made peace between them. On this occasion he taught five Jātaka stories — the Phandana, Duddubha, Laṭukika, Rukkhadhamma, and Vaṭṭaka (Sammodamāna) — and the Attadaṇḍa Sutta.

To show their gratitude, the Sākyā and Koliyā gave each two hundred and fifty young men from their respective families to join the Buddha’s Order. (J.v.412 f; for their history see also SNA.i.358 f ) Earlier, during the Buddha’s first visit to Kapilavatthu, when he had humbled the pride of his kinsmen by a display of miracles, each Sakyan family had given one representative to enter the Order and to help their famous kinsman. The wives of these, and of other Sākyā who had joined the Order, were the first to become nuns under Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī (q.v.) when the Buddha gave permission for women to enter the Order. Among the most eminent of the Sakyan young men, who now joined, were Anuruddha, Ānanda, Bhaddiya, Kimbila, Bhagu, and Devadatta. Their barber, Upāli, entered the Order at the same time; they arranged that he should be ordained first, so that he might be higher than they in seniority and thus receive their obeisance, and thereby humble their pride Vin.ii.181 f; according to DhA.i.133, eighty thousand Sakyan youths had joined the Order.

The Buddha states, in the Aggañña Sutta, that the Sākyā were vassals of King Pasenadi of Kosala. D.iii.83 (Sakyā … Pasenadi-Kosalassa anuyuttā bhavanti, karonti Sakyā rañño Pasenadimhi Kosale nipaccakāraṃ abhivādanaṃ paccupaṭṭhānaṃ añjalikammaṃ sāmīcikammaṃ); cf. SN.vs 422, where the Buddha describes his country as being “Kosalesu niketino.”

Yet, when Pasenadi wished to establish connection with the Buddha’s family by marrying one of the daughters of a Sakyan chief, the Sākyā decided in their Mote Hall that it would be beneath their dignity to marry one of their daughters to the King of Kosala. However, as they dared not refuse Pasenadi’s request, the Sakyan chieftain, Mahānāma, solved the difficulty by giving him Vāsabhakhattiyā (q.v.), who was his daughter by a slave girl, Nāgamuṇḍā. By her Pasenadi had a son, Viḍūḍabha. When Pasenadi discovered the trick, he deprived his wife and her son of all their honours, but restored them on the intervention of the Buddha. Later, when Viḍūḍabha, who had vowed vengeance on the Sākyā for the insult offered to his father, became king, he marched into Kapilavatthu and there massacred the Sākyā, including women and children. The Buddha was powerless to save them from their fate because they had committed sin in a previous life by throwing poison into a river. Only a few escaped, and these came to be called the Naḷasākiyā and the Tiṇasākiyā.

The Mahāvaṃsa Ṭīkā (p.180) adds that, during this massacre, some of the Sākyā escaped to the Himavā, where they built a city, which came to be called Moriya-nagara because the spot resounded with the cries of peacocks. This was the origin of the Moriyā dynasty, to which Asoka belonged (p.189). Thus Asoka and the Buddha were kinsmen.

Among the Sākyā who thus escaped was Paṇḍu, son of Amitodana. He crossed the Gaṅgā, and, on the other side of the river, founded a city. His daughter was Bhaddakaccānā (q.v.), who later married Paṇḍuvāsudeva, king of Sri Lanka. Thus the kings of Sri Lanka were connected by birth to the Sākyā. Mhv.viii.18 ff. Six of her brothers also came to Sri Lanka, where they founded settlements: Rāma, Uruvela, Anurādha Vijita, Dīghāyu, and Rohaṇa (Mhv.ix 6 ff.).