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Sakya was both the name of a region and the tribe of people who lived there. Siddhattha Gotama, known in history as the Buddha, was a Sàkyan.

Sàkya was a small country between the much larger kingdom of Kosala and the tribal confederacy of Vijji and which corresponds to the north-east corner of the modern north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. According to the legend, the Sàkyans took their name from the saka tree, Tectonia grandis, the Indian teak.

Sàkyans were people of the warrior caste, known for their pride and impulsiveness and were considered rustics by their neighbours. Although nominally independent, the Sàkyans were under the influence of their eastern neighbour. In the Tipiñaka it says ‘the Sàkyans 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, his homeland was invaded by and absorbed into Kosala. 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 ‘sons of the Sàkyan’ (D.III,84), i.e. of the Buddha. There is a community of people in Nepal called Sàkya who claim to be the direct descendants of the ancient people, although historians consider this claim to be unfounded.