After the death of Gautama Buddha, Koliyans of Ramagaam obtained almost one tenth of Buddha's relics and they constructed a Stupa over the relics. At a later stage the Koliyans shifted to the Kumaon region. Till date they are primarily known because of their association with Buddha. Several places belonging to the Koliya tribe are mentioned in literature. Places like Uttara, Kakkarapatta, Sajjanela, Haliddavasana and Sapuga. These regions were either visited by Buddha or his disciples.
Legend of Koliya Tribe
There is an interesting account associated with the origin of the Koliya tribe. Rama, a king from Benaras was afflicted with leprosy. As a result he was disliked by the women of the court. He handed over his kingdom to his eldest son and headed towards a forest. His disease was cured when he was living in the forest. There he met Piya, daughter of Okkaha. She, too, was suffering from leprosy. Rama cured her and they married. With the help from his son in Varanasi they built a new town in the wood. They had 32 sons. The city was thereon named as Kolanagara, and because the site was discovered on a tiger-track it was also called "Vyagghapajja". The descendants of this king are known as Koliyas.
A quarrel once arose between the two tribes regarding the right to the waters of the Rohini, 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 Buddhas stay in the neighbourhood, he lived alternately in Kapilavastu and in Koliyanagara.
Culture of Koliya Tribe
According to the Kunala Jataka, 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 Koliyas' nearest neighbour were the Sakyans. The territories of the Sakyans and the Koliyans were adjacent, separated by the river Rohini. The Kshatriyas of both the tribes intermarried and both were related to Buddha. Both clans were very proud of the purity of their royal blood and had practised this tradition of inter-marriage since ancient times.
For example, Suddhodana's paternal aunt was married to the Koliyan ruler Anjana. Their daughters, Mahamaya and Mahapajapati Gotami, were married to Suddhodana, the chief of the Sakyans. Similarly, Yashodhara, daughter of Suppabuddha, who was Anjana’s son, was married to the Sakyan prince, Gautama Buddha. Thus, the two royal families were related by marriage bonds between maternal and paternal cousins since ancient times. In spite of such close blood-ties, there would be occasional rifts between the two royal families, which sometimes turned into open hostility.