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Dictionary of Pāli Proper Names

by G.P. Malalasekera, D.Litt., Ph.D., M.A. (Lond.), O.B.E.

The Pali Text Society
No copyright

Koliya, Koliya

One of the republican clans in the time of the Buddha. The Koliya owned two chief settlements — one at Rāmagāma and the other at Devadaha. The Commentaries[1] contain accounts of the origin of the Koliyas. We are told that a king of Benares, named Rāma,[2] suffered from leprosy, and being detested by the women of the court, he left the kingdom to his eldest son and retired into the forest. There, living on woodland leaves and fruits, he soon recovered, and, while [690] wandering aboüt, came across Piyā, the eldest of the five daughters of Okkāka, she herself being afflicted with leprosy. Rāma, having cured her, married her, and they begot thirty-two sons. With the help of the king of Benares, they built a town in the forest, removing a big kola-tree in doing so. The city thereupon came to be called Kolanagara, and because the site was discovered on a tiger-track (vyagghapatha) it was also called Vyagghapajjā. The descendants of the king were known as Koliyā. According to the Kunala Jataka,[3] when the Sakyans wished to abuse the Koliyans, they said that the Koliyans had once "lived like animals in a Kola-tree," as their name signified. The territories of the Sakyans and the Koliyans were adjacent, separated by the river Rohinī. The khattiyas of both tribes intermarried,[4] and both claimed relationship with the Buddha. A quarrel once arose between the two tribes regarding the right to the waters of the Rohinī, which irrigated the land on both sides, and a bloody feud was averted only by the intervention of the Buddha. In gratitude, each tribe dedicated some of its young men to the membership of the Order, and during the Buddha’s stay in the neighbourhood, he lived alternately in Kapilavatthu and in Koliyanagara.[5]

Attached probably to the Koliyan central authorities, was a special body of officials, presumably police, who wore a distinguishing headdress with a drooping crest (Lambacūḷakābhaṭā). They bore a bad reputation for extortion and violence.[6]

Besides the places aheady mentioned, several other townships of the Koliyans, visited by the Buddha or by his disciples, are mentioned in literature — e.g., Uttara, the residence of the headman Pataliya[7]; Sajjanela, residence of Suppavasa[8]; Sāpūga, where Ānanda once stayed[9]; kakkarapatta, where lived Dīghajānu[10]; and Haliddavasana, residence of the ascetics Puṇṇa Koliyaputta and Seniya.[11] Nisabha,[12] Kakudha[13] (attendant of Moggallāna), and Kaṅkha-Revata[14] (and perhaps Soṇa Koḷivisa, q.v.), were also Koliyans.

After the Buddha’s death the Koliyans of Ramagama claimed and obtained one-eighth of the Buddha’s relics, over which they erected a thūpa.[15] See also s.v. Suppavāsā.


[1] DA. i. 260 f.; SNA. i. 356 f.; A. ii. 558; ThagA. i. 546; also Ap. i. 94.

[2] The Mtu (i. 353) calls him Kola and explains from this the name of the Koliyas.

[3] J. v. 413.

[4] It is said that once the Koliyan youths carried away many Sakyan maidens while they were bathing, but the Sakyans, regarding the Koliyans as relatives, took no action. (DA. i. 262.)

[5] For details of this quarrel and its consequences see J. v. 412 ff.; DA. ii. 672 ff.; DhA. iii. 254 ff.

[6] S. iv. 341.

[7] Ibid., 340.

[8] A. ii. 62.

[9] Ibid., 194.

[10] A. iv. 281.

[11] M. i. 387; see also S. v. 115.

[12] ThagA. i. 318.

[13] SA. i. 89.

[14] Ap. ii. 491.

[15] D. ii. 167; Mhv. xxi. 18, 22 ff.




AN 4.194

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