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.
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. 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. 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.’
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.’