A town in Kosala. It was regarded in the Buddha's time as one of the six great cities of India, the others being Campá, Rájagaha, Sávatthi, Kosambí and Benares (D.ii.146). It was probably the older capital of Kosala, and is mentioned as such in the Nandiyamiga Játaka. J.iii.270; cf. Mtu.i.348, 349, 350, where it is called the capital of King Sujáta of the Sákyan race. See also the Kumbha Játaka (J.ii.13), where Sáketa is mentioned as one of the places into which alcohol was introduced quite soon after its discovery by Sura and Varuna. According to the Mahánárada Kassapa Játaka (J.vi.228), it was the birthplace of Bijaka, aeons ago. In this context it is called Sáketá. According to a tradition, recorded in the Mahávastu, Sáketa was the city from which Sákyan princes were exiled when they founded Kapilavatthu. E. J. Thomas accepts this view (op. cit., 16f.).
The Dhammapada Commentary (DhA.i.386), however, states that the city was founded in the Buddha's time by Dhanańjaya, father of Visákhá, when, at the special invitation of Pasenadi, he went from Rájagaha to live in Kosala. On the way to Sávatthi with Pasenadi, Dhańanjaya pitched his camp for the night, and learning from the king that the site of the camp was in Kosalan territory and seven leagues from Sávatthi, Dhanańjaya obtained the king's permission to found a city there. And because the site was first inhabited in the evening (sáyam), the city came to be called Sáketa. The Divyávadána (211) has another explanation of the name, in connection with the coronation of Mandhátá (Svayam ágatam svayam ágatam Sáketa Sáketam iti sańjná samvrttá).
The reference is probably to a new settlement established by Dhanańjaya in the old city.
We also learn from the Visuddhimagga (p.390; but see below) that the distance from Sáketa to Sávatthi was seven leagues (yojanas), and there we are told that when the Buddha, at the invitation of Cúla subhaddá, went from Sávatthi to Sáketa, he resolved that the citizens of the two cities should be able to see each other. In the older books (E.g., Vin.i.253) however, the distance is given as six leagues. The town lay on the direct route between Sávatthi and Patitthána, and is mentioned (SN.vss.1011 1013) as the first stopping place out of Sávatthi. The distance between the two places could be covered in one day, with seven relays of horses (M.i.149), but the books contain several references (E.g., Vin.i.88, 89, 270; iii.212; iv. 63, 120) to the dangers of the journey when undertaken on foot. The road was infested with robbers, and the king had to maintain soldiers to protect travellers.
Midway between Sáketa and Sávatthi was Toranavatthu, and it is said (S.iv.374 ff) that, when Pasenadi went from the capital to Sáketa, he spent a night in Toranavatthu, where be visited Khemá Therí who lived there. Between Sáketa and Sávatthi was a broad river which could be crossed only by boat (Vin.iv.65, 228). Near Sáketa was the Ańjanavana, where the Buddha sometimes stayed during his visits to Sáketa and where he had several discussions e.g., with Kakudha (S.i.54), Mendasira (q.v.), and Kundaliya (S.v.73; see also Kálaka Sutta and Jará Sutta and Sáketa Sutta).
On other occasions he stayed at the Kálakáráma (A.ii.24) gifted to the Order by Kálaka(q.v.), and the Tikantakivana (A.iii.169), both of which were evidently near the city. Mention is also made (E.g., S.v.174, 298 f.; for Sáriputta, see also Vin.i.289) of Sáriputta, Moggallána and
Anuruddha staying together in Sáketa; Bhaddákápiláni (Vin.iv.292) also stayed there, so did Ananda. Once when Ananda was staying in the Migadáya in the Anjanavana, a nun, described as Jatilagáhiká (probably a follower of the Jatilas), visited him and questioned him regarding concentration. A.iv.427. Among others who lived in Sáketa were Jambugámikaputta, Gavampati, Mendasira, Uttara, Madhuvásettha and his son Mahánága, and Visákhá. Bhúta Thera (q.v.) was born in a suburb of Sáketa.
Buddhaghosa says (SNA.ii.532 f.; cf. DhA.iii.317f. and Saketa Játaka) that there lived at Sáketa a brahmin and his wife who, in five hundred lives, had been the parents of the Buddha. When the Buddha visited Sáketa they met him, and, owing to their fondness for him, came to be called Buddhapitá and Buddhamátá, their family being called Buddhakula.
According to some accounts (E.g., AA.ii.482; but see Cúla-Subhaddá), Anáthapindika’s daughter, Cúla-Subhaddá, was married to the son of Kálaka, a setthi of Sáketa. Kálaka was a follower of the Niganthas, but he allowed Subhaddá to invite the Buddha to a meal. She did this by scattering eight handfuls of jasmine-flowers into the air from her balcony. The Buddha read her thoughts, and went to Sáketa the next day with five hundred arahants. At Sakka's request, Vessavana (Vissakamma?) provided gabled chambers in which the Buddha and his monks travelled by air to Sáketa. At the end of the meal, the Buddha preached to Kálakasetthi, who became a sotápanna, and gave the Kálakáráma for the use of the monks.
The Vinaya (Vin.i.270f) mentions another setthi of Sáketa. His wife had suffered for seven years from a disease of the head, and even skilled physicians failed to cure her. Jívaka, on his way to Rájagaha, after finishing his studies in Takkasilá, visited Sáketa, heard of her illness, and offered to cure her. At first the setthi was sceptic, but in the end allowed Jívaka to attend on his wife. Jívaka cured her by the administration of ghee through the nose, and, as reward, received sixteen thousand kahápanas from her and her various kinsmen.
Sáketa, is supposed to be identical with Ayojjhá (CAGI. 405), but as both cities are mentioned in the Buddha's time, they are probably distinct. Rhys Davids thinks that possibly they adjoined each other "like London and Westminster" (Bud. India, p. 39. See also Sáketa Sutta, Sáketa Játaka, Sáketapańha). The site of Sáketa has been identified with the ruins of Suján Kot, on the Sai River, in the Unao district of the modern province of Oudh. The river referred to is probably the Sarayú, which flows into the Gharghara, a tributary of the Ganges.