Sakya Clan : The clan in which Buddha was born
The Buddhist records give some details of the Sakya clan. Gautama Buddha was born in the Sakya clan and for that reason the Sakyas were held in great esteem by the Buddhistic writers. They naturally wrote in details about the Sakyas.
The Sakya country was located in the lower slopes of the Himalayas. It was bounded by the river Rohini on the east and by the Rapti on the west. The capital of the Sakya country was the city of Kapilavastu. Besides Kapilavastu there were at least nine other towns in the Sakya country.
The Sakyas are said to have comprised 80,000 families. Prof. Rhys Davids has estimated that the Sakyas comprised at least half a million people including women, children and dependants.
Origin and Political History of the Sakya Clan
The Sakya clan claimed to belong to the solar race and the Ikshaku family of epic fame. The political history of the Sakyas however does not give the impression that they were a great power. On the whole Sakyas were a peaceful community.
Sakya-Kosala War – Fall of the Sakyas
In the latter half of the 6th century B.C. the Sakyas clan came under the suzerainty of Kosala. The Pali texts throw some light on the circumstances which led to the final extinction of Sakyan liberty by Kosalan aggressions. King Prasenjit of Kosala was a great admirer of Buddha and the Sakyas, the clan in which Buddha was born. Therefore, he sought the hand of a Sakya princess. But the Sakyans being too proud of their lineage, refused to give the hand of a Sakya princess to him. They committed a fraud on Prasenjit by offering a slave girl to him as a Sakya princess. A son, named Vidudabha was born out of this wedlock. Meanwhile the fraud was detected. The flickering flame of Sakyan independence was extinguished in the gale that arose over this fraud. Kosalan royal house promised to take a stern revenge on the Sakyas. When Vidudabha ascended the Kosalan throne, he invaded the Sakya country. He perpetrated a brutal massacre of the Sakyas, sparing not even the women and children. This brought the virtual downfall of the famous autonomous Sakya clan, in which was born one of the greatest teachers of the world.
Economic Condition of the Sakyas
The people of Sakya clan had a self-sufficient agrarian economy. They lived on the produce of their rice-fields and the milk produced by their cows. The cattle grazed in the village pasture and in the forests. The wooded low lying hills had patches of arable lands which were fertile. The government of Sakya clan according to the republican tradition was perhaps formed by a council elected by heads of families. The peasants had to pay some form of tax to the Sakyan government.’ The villages were grouped together.