A tribe in North India, to which the Buddha belonged.
Their capital was Kapilavatthu. Mention is also made of other Sākyan settlements -
e.g., Cātumā, Khomadussa,
Sīlavatī, Nagaraka, Medatalumpa,
Sakkhara and Ulumpa (q.v.). Within the Sākyan tribe there were probably several
clans, gottā. The Buddha himself belonged to the Gotamagotta. It has been
suggested (E.g., Thomas, op. cit., 22) that this was a brahmin clan, claiming
descent from the ancient isi Gotama. The evidence for this suggestion is,
however, very meagre. Nowhere do we find the Sākyans 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 khattiyas (D.ii.165). It is
stated a that the Sākyans 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 preached the Vessantara Jātaka, and their pride was
subdued. They evidently fond of sports and mention is made of a special school
of archery conducted by a Sākyan family, called Vedhaññā (D.iii.117;
DA.iii.905). When the prince Siddhattha Gotama (later the Buddha) wished to
marry, no Sākyan would give him his daughter until he had showed his proficiency
in sport (J.i.58).
The Sākyans 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 Sākyans had a
similar Mote Hall at Cātumā (M.i.457). The Mallas of Kusinārā also had a
Santhāgāra (D.ii.164); so did the Licchavis of Vesāli (Vin.i.233; M.i.228).
Ambattha (q.v.) once visited it on business; so did the
envoys of Pasenadi, when he wished to marry a Sākyan 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, Ananda, and
Moggallāna. M.i.353f.; S. iv.182f; the hall is described at SA.iii.63; cf.
The Sākyans were very jealous of the purity of their race;
they belonged to the Ādiccagotta, (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 Benares, and their descendants became
known as the Koliyans (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.352f.; cf. DA.i.258. Okkāka had a slave girl, Disā,
her offspring were the Kanhāyanas, to which gotta belonged Ambattha (q.v.). The
Mhv.ii.12ff gives the history of the direct descent of the Buddha from Okkāka,
and this contains a list of the Sākyan chiefs of Kapilavatthu:
- Okkāmukha was Okkāka's eldest son;
- Nipuna, Candimā, Candamukha, Sivisañjaya, Vessantara,
Jāli, Sīhavāhana and Sīhassara were among his descendants.
- Sīhassara had eighty-two thousand sons and grandsons,
of whom Jayasena was the last.
- Jayasena's son was Sīhahanu, and his daughter
- Sīhahanu's wife was Kaccāna, daughter of Devadahasakka
of Devadaha, whose son Añjana married Yasodharā.
- Añjana had two sons, Dandapāni and Suppabuddha, and two
- Māyā and Pajāpatī.
- Sīhahanu had five sons and two daughters: Suddhodana,
Dhotodana, Sakkodana, Sukkodana, Amitodana, Amitā and Pamitā.
- Māyā and Pajāpatī were married to Suddhodana, and
Māyā's son was the Buddha.
- Suppabuddha married Amitā and they had two children,
Bhaddakaccānā and Devadatta.
- The consort of the Bodhisatta was Bhaddakaccānā; their
son was Rāhula.
From the very first there seems to have been intermarriage
between the Sākyans and the Koliyans; but there was evidently a good deal of
endogamy among the Sākyans, which earned for them the rebuke of the Koliyans 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 L; there
were eighty two thousand rājās among the Koliyans and Sākyans (SnA..i.140).
A quarrel, which broke out in the Buddha's lifetime,
between the Sākyans and the Koliyans is several times referred to in the books.
The longest account is found in the introductory story of the Kunāla Jātaka. The
cause of the dispute was the use of the water of the River Rohinī (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 priceless value, water or khattiya chiefs?" He thus
convinced them of their folly and made peace between them. On this occasion he
preached five Jātaka stories - the Phandana,
Daddabha, Latukika, Rukkhadhamma and Vattaka (Sammodamāna) -
and the Attadanda Sutta.
To show their gratitude the Sākyans and Koliyans gave each
two hundred and fifty young men from their respective families to join the Order
of the Buddha. (J.v.412f.; for their history see also SnA.i.358f ) Earlier,
during the Buddha's first visit to Kapilavatthu, when he had humbled the pride
of his kinsmen by a display of miracles, each Sākyan family had given one
representative to enter the Order and to help their famous kinsman. The wives of
these, and of other Sākyans who had joined the Order, were the first to become
nuns under Pajāpatī Gotamī (q.v.) when the Buddha gave permission for women to
enter the Order. Among the most eminent of the Sākyan young men, who now joined,
were Anuruddha, Ananda, 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.181f.; according
to DhA.i.133, eighty thousand Sākyan youths had joined the Order.
The Buddha states, in the Aggañña Sutta, that the Sākyans
were vassals of King Pasenadi of Kosala. D.iii.83 (Sakyā . . . Pasenadi-Kosalassa
anuyuttā bhavanti, karonti Sakyā rañño Pasenadimhi Kosale nipaccakāram
abhivādanam paccupatthānam añjalikammam sāmīcikammam); 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 Sākyan chief, the Sākyans
decided in their Mote Hall that it would be beneath their dignity to marry one
of their daughters to the King of Kosala. But as they dared not refuse
Pasenadi's request, the Sākyan chieftain, Mahānāma, solved the difficulty by
giving him Vāsabhakhattiyā (q.v.), who was his daughter by a slave girl,
Nāgamundā. By her Pasenadi had a son, Vidūdabha. 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 Vidūdabha, who had vowed
vengeance on the Sākyans for the insult offered to his father, became king, he
marched into Kapilavatthu and there massacred the Sākyans, including women and
children. The Buddha felt himself 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 Nalasākiyā and the Tinasākiyā.
The Mhv. Tīkā (p. 180) adds that, during this massacre, some of the Sākyans
escaped to the Himālaya, where they built a city, which came to be called
Moriyanagara because the spot resounded with the cries of peacocks. This was the
origin of the Moriya dynasty, to which Asoka belonged (189). Thus Asoka and the
Buddha were kinsmen.
Among the Sākyans who thus escaped was Pandu, son of
Amitodana. He crossed the Ganges, and, on the other side of the river, founded a
city. His daughter was Bhaddakaccānā (q.v.), who later married Panduvāsudeva,
king of Ceylon. Thus the kings of Ceylon were connected by birth to the Sākyans.
Mhv.viii.18ff. Six of her brothers also came to Ceylon, where they founded
settlements: Rāma, Uruvela, Anurādha Vijita, Dīghāyu and Rohana (Mhv.ix 6ff.).