Sakya, sometimes also Sakka, was both the name of a region and the clan of people who lived there. The Buddha was a Sakyan. Sakya was a small chiefdom situated between the much larger kingdom of Kosala and the confederacy of Vajji and which corresponds to the north-east corner of the modern north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. According to the legend, the Sakyans took their name from the saka tree, Tectona grandis, the Indian teak (D.I,93); see picture. Sakyans were a people of the ancient Adicca linage, they belonged to the warrior caste, were known for their pride and impulsiveness and were considered rustics by their neighbours (D.I,90; II,165; Sn.423). A group of Sakyan youths are reported as saying of themselves: `We Sakyans are proud' (Vin.II,183), and Upàli said of them that they are `a fierce people' (Vin.II,182). The Buddha described his kinsmen as `endowed with wealth and energy' (dhanaviriyena sampanno, Sn.422).
Although nominally independent, the Sakyans were under the influence of their eastern neighbour. In the Tipitaka it says: `The Sakyans are vassals of the king of Kosala, they offer him humble service and salutation, do his bidding and pay him homage'(D.III,83). Towards the end of the Buddha's life this de jure independence came to an end when the Sakyan lands were invaded by and absorbed into Kosala. Even before this the Buddha described his homeland as belonging to the king of Kosala (Sn.422).
Legend says that the Buddha's father Suddhodana was a king of the Sakyans although he was probably more like an elected chief. The only Sakyan ruler mentioned is Bhaddiya who is described as Sakyaràjà and when it was suggested that he join his friends in becoming a monk said `wait until I hand over the kingdom to my sons and brothers'(Vin.II,182).
The Buddha once said to his monks that when others asked them whose philosophy they adhered to or which teacher they followed they should reply that they were `Scions of the Sakyan' (D.III,84), i.e. of the Buddha.
There is a community of people in Nepal called Sakya who claim to be the direct descendants of the ancient people, although historians consider this claim to be unfounded.
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