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, Sāmagāma, Devadaha, 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. UdA.409.
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:
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.).