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Śākya


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Name of the clan or tribe into which the Buddha was born. Like other tribes resident in the foothills of the Himalayas and northern Bihar who were tributary to the great kingdoms but exercised internal autonomy, the Śākyas most likely practised a republican form of government. Though in later legend the Buddha's father, Śuddhodana, is depicted as a king, he was most probably a tribal chief, depending on the support of an assembly of householders who gathered regularly to discuss tribal politics in a meeting-hall. If it is assumed the Śākyas were like other kṣatriya tribes of north-east India or elsewhere (as described in the sources of the Mauryan period or later, such as the Arthaśāstra), then each adult noble would have had the title rāja or ‘prince’, but would not be a ruler unless consecrated as such (mūrdhābhiṣikta). At certain periods some at least of such tribes would have had an oligarchic constitution, but at other times a monarchic one. There are no non-Buddhist sources extant on the Śākyas which could shed light on their political constitution.

Subjects: Buddhism.


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