Saturday, December 9, 2006

Tracing the Shakya clan

Shakyas, whose one of the sons Sakyamuni Buddha spread the message of peace in the world, are the proud community of Nepal. They have, in the span of more than 2,600 years, been able to conserve their rich Buddhist roots.
To make this community known to the world, Ajaya Kranti Shakya has penned The Shakyas, a book about Shakya community and their glorious tradition and culture. Author-musician Shakya, in the book, tries to unveil the origins of Shakyas and Koliyas of Kol Nagar, one of the major principalities along with Kapilvastu under the then Koshal state. The author claims, with the help of Buddhist scriptures, that Shakyas had already started migrating to the Nepal-Mandala in the life-time of Buddha himself.
He also gives an account of the controversial event of massacre of Shakyas and destruction of Kapilvastu. After Virudhak massacred the Shakyas and destroyed Kapilvastu, the glory of Lord Buddha clan came to an end, the author writes. He quotes the Mulsarvastivada Vinayavastu, the authentic Buddhist text, to prove that the Shakyas of Kapilvastu, after that massacre, entered the Valley en masse.
The book mentions that with the extensive migration of Shakyas and Koliyas, Buddhism flourished in the Valley. Citing may historical inscriptions like Licchavi inscriptions of 513 Saka Era, the author speculates on the separate existence of Shakya community, the influence of Buddhism in the ruling class and their contribution in the Nepal-Mandala before and after the Licchavi period.
From shedding light on the etymological origin of the word Shakya, the book goes on to give us detailed rites and rituals that Shakyas should follow and are following currently.
Once the truth and historical background of Shakyas is established in the first part, the book in the second part mentions the culture of Shakyas the sacraments, feast and festivals that they observe.
The author also traces the origins of Buddhism in the Valley through records of Bahas and Bahis. The Buddhist Bahas and Bahis in the Valley need a great deal of conservation work and protection as they are gradually losing their very existence, he writes.
He dedicates four chapters of the book to cover the traditions, feasts and festivals observed by the Shakyas; from birth rites to death rites in detail. The last chapter is dedicated for the philosophical aspect of Buddhism; the wheel of life and death.
The labour put in by the author in proving the historical migration of Shakyas of Kapilvastu is evident. The pictures of different Bahas and Bahis in the valley, and different rituals add value to the book. However, the book could have been better, if the author has put a little more effort in editing also.

Book : The Sakyas
Author: Ajaya Kranti Shakya,
Published by Nepal Buddhist Development and Research Centre
Pages 272
Price Rs 350