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One of the republican clans in the time of the Buddha. The Koliyā owned two chief settlements — one at Rāmagāma and the other at Devadaha. The Commentaries (DA.i.260 f; SNA.i.356 f; A.ii.558; ThagA.i.546; also Ap.i.94) contain accounts of the origin of the Koliyā. We are told that a king of Bārāṇasī, named Rāma (the Mtu.i.353 calls him Kola and explains from this the name of the Koliyā), suffered from leprosy, and being detested by the women of the court, he left the kingdom to his eldest son and retired into the forest. There, living on woodland leaves and fruits, he soon recovered, and, while wandering about, came across Piyā, the eldest of the five daughters of Okkāka, she herself being afflicted with leprosy. Rāma, having cured her, married her, and they begot thirty-two sons. With the help of the king of Bārāṇasī, they built a town in the forest, removing a big kola-tree in doing so. The city thereupon came to be called Kolanagara, and because the site was discovered on a tiger-track (vyagghapatha) it was also called Vyagghapajja. The descendants of the king were known as Koliyā.

According to the Kuṇāla Jātaka (J.v.413), when the Sākyā wished to abuse the Koliyā, they said that the Koliyā had once “lived like animals in a Kola-tree,” as their name signified. The territories of the Sākyā and the Koliyā were adjacent, separated by the river Rohinī. The warriors (khattiya) of both tribes intermarried, and both claimed relationship with the Buddha. (It is said that once the Koliyan youths carried away many Sakyan maidens while they were bathing, but the Sākyā, regarding the Koliyā as relatives, took no action; DA.i.262). A quarrel once arose between the two tribes regarding the right to the waters of the Rohiṇī, which irrigated the land on both sides, and a bloody feud was averted only by the intervention of the Buddha. In gratitude, each clan dedicated some of its young men to the membership of the Order, and during the Buddha’s stay in the neighbourhood, he lived alternately in Kapilavatthu and in Koliyanagara. (For details of this quarrel and its consequences see J.v.412 ff; DA.ii.672 ff; DhA.iii.254 ff).

Attached probably to the Koliyan central authorities, was a special body of officials, presumably police, who wore a distinguishing headdress with a drooping crest (Lambacūḷakābhatā). They bore a bad reputation for extortion and violence (S.iv.341).

Besides the places already mentioned, several other townships of the Koliyā, visited by the Buddha or by his disciples, are mentioned in literature — e.g., Uttara, the residence of the headman Pāṭaliya (S.iv.340); Sajjanela, residence of Suppavāsā (A.ii.62); Sāmūga, where Ānanda once stayed (A.ii.194); Kakkarapatta, where lived Dīghajānu (A.iv.281); and Haliddavasana, residence of the ascetics Puṇṇa Koliyaputta and Seniya (M.i.387; see also S.v.115). Nisabha (ThagA.i.318), Kakudha (SA.i.89) (attendant of Mahā-Moggallāna), and Kaṅkhā-Revata (Ap.ii.491) (and perhaps Soṇa Koḷivisa, q.v.), were also Koliyā.

After the Buddha’s death the Koliyā of Rāmagāma claimed and obtained one-eighth of the Buddha’s relics, over which they erected a thūpa (D.ii.167; Mhv.xxi.18, 22 ff).

See also s.v. Suppavāsā.