On Ukkaṭṭhā, Pokkharasāti, and the Kosalan brahmins

The location Ukkaṭṭhā appears only a few times in the canon. But it always features some extraordinary event.

  • It is the location of MN 1, where the Buddha gives an astonishing breakdown of existence, leaving the mendicants—all brahmins according to the commentary—displeased. This is the only time a discourse is directly set here.
  • It is also the location of MN 49, where the Buddha reports that he had stayed there. This discourse, taking up similar existential themes as MN 1, pits the Buddha directly in a cosmic battle with Brahmā.
  • At the end of DN 14, the Buddha recalls staying there, from where, as in MN 49, he ascended various Brahmā realms.
  • In AN 4.36, the Buddha is travelling between Ukkaṭṭhā and Setavyā when the brahmin Doṇa saw the thousand-spoked wheels on his footprints. Following the Buddha, he asked if he were a god, which the Buddha denied. The thousand-spoked wheels are one of the marks of a great man, attributed to Brahmanical lore in the suttas, and this is the only place they are actually seen by someone outside of the context of the 32 marks.

Which raises the question: why is such an obscure location the setting for three such astonishing teachings, all of which share, implicitly or explicitly, a repudiation of Brahmanism?

There is one other sutta where the place appears. This is DN 3 Ambaṭṭhasutta. The Buddha is staying at a village of the Kosalan brahmins named Icchānaṅgala. From the research of Lauren Bausch, we know that the Kosalan brahmins developed a distinctive philosophy that was closely intertwined with the origins of Buddhism.

Icchānaṅgala is not far from Sāvatthī to the east. Ukkaṭṭhā must be nearby too, for the leading brahmin Pokkharasāti is staying there when he hears of the Buddha’s arrival. The events of DN 3 are pivotal: Pokkharasāti is embarrassed by the behavior of his precocious student Ambaṭṭha and then converts to Buddhism. Several of the suttas that follow refer to this conversion, so it must have been a major event that rippled through the brahmanical community.

Indeed, it seems to be no exaggeration to say that, for the suttas, the home of Pokkharasāti at Ukkaṭṭhā was the primary center of Kosalan Brahmanism. Pokkharasāti’s endorsement of the Buddha was not just one conversion among many, but was the starting point of the acceptance of Buddhism among the intellectual and spiritual elite.

Thus while it seems the Buddha visited there rarely, it became the setting for some of his most celebrated encounters with brahmins.


Now at that time the brahmin Pokkharasāti was living in Ukkaṭṭhā. It was a crown property given by King Pasenadi of Kosala, teeming with living creatures, full of hay, wood, water, and grain, a royal park granted to a brahmin.
DN 3

Is it clear if this gift of King Pasanedi refers to the village of Ukkaṭṭhā or to the personal propety of Pokkharasāti? It’s not directly called the “brahmin village” but it would make sense if it were one.



The Chinese parallel agrees with placing MN1 in Ukkaṭṭhā. From a footnote of Bh. Analayo’s comparison:

EĀ 44.6 agrees with MN 1 in locating the discourse at Ukkaṭṭhā ( ), a town in the district of Kosala, situated in the foothills of the Himālaya (cf. Malalasekera 1937/1995: 329).

And Bh. Bodhi also links MN1 and MN49:

Bodhi in Ñānamoli 1995/2005: 1246 note 499 points out that MN 1 takes place at the same location and has a subject matter similar to MN 49, so that MN 49 can be seen “as a dramatic representation of the same ideas set forth by the Mūlapariyāya in abstract philosophical terms”


Yes, it is, all the terms in the sentence are declined the same showing that they refer to the same object, namely Ukkaṭṭhā. But you’re right that the texts don’t refer to it as a “village”, but rather as a park. Probably it was an extensive property that included some settlements. The Buddha is said to have stayed in or near Ukkaṭṭhā at the Subhaga Forest, so there were different regions in it.

There’s a pretty good Wikipedia article on the topic of brahmadeya.

One reference I missed in the original article was that the story of Doṇa also took place near there, I will add it to the OP.

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