The special name given in the books to a World ruler. The world itself means "Turner of the Wheel," the Wheel (Cakka) being the well known Indian symbol of empire. There are certain stock epithets used to describe a Cakka-vatti:
More than one thousand sons are his; his dominions extend throughout the earth to its ocean bounds (sāgarapariyantam); and is established not by the scourge, nor by the sword, but by righteousness (adandena asatthena dhammen'eva abhivijiva). Particulars are found chiefly in the Mahāsudassana, Mahāpadāna, Cakkavattisīhanāda, Bālapandita and Ambattha Suttas. See also S.v.98.
From the Mahāpadāna Sutta it would appear that the birth of a Cakka-vatti is attended by the same miracles as that of the birth of a Buddha. A Cakka-vatti's youth is the same as that of Buddha; he, too, possesses on his body the Mahāpurisalakkhanāni, and sooth-sayers are able to predict at the child's birth only that one of two destinies await him.
Of the Seven Treasures of a Cakka-vatti, the Cakkaratana is the chief. When he has traversed the Four Continents:
accompanied by the Cakkaratana, received the allegiance of all the inhabitants and admonished them to lead the righteous life, he returns to his own native city.
After the Wheel, other Treasures make their appearance:
(For descriptions of these see D.ii.174f; DA.ii.624f; MA.ii.941f ).
Judging from the story of Mahāsudassana, who is the typical Cakka-vatti, the World emperor has also four other gifts (iddhi):
When the Cakka-vatti is about to die the Wheel slips down from its place and sinks down slightly. When the king sees this he leaves the household life, and retires into homelessness, to taste the joys of contemplation, having handed over the kingdom to his eldest son. At the king's death, the Elephant, the Horse and the Gem return to where they came from, the Woman loses her beauty, the Treasurer his divine vision, and the Adviser his efficiency (DA.ii.635).
Cakka-vattis are rare in the world, and are born in kappas in which Buddhas do not arise (SA.iii.131). The Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta, however, gives the names of seven who succeeded one another. In the case of each of them the Wheel disappeared, but, when his successor practised the Ariyan duty of a Cakka-vatti, honouring the Dhamma and following it to perfection, the Wheel re-appeared. In the case of the seventh his virtues gradually disappeared through forgetfulness; crime spread, among his subjects, and the Wheel vanished for ever.
In the earlier literature the term Cakka-vatti seems to have been reserved for a World ruler; but later three sorts of Cakka-vattis are mentioned:
No woman can become a Cakka-vatti (the reasons for this are given at AA.i.254).
A Cakka-vatti is, as worthy of a thūpa as a Buddha. D.ii.143.