Mardan, the land of hospitality, was a great center of Mahayana Buddhism. The Mardan Museum Pakistan is home to some of the most precious sculptures and icons from the Gandhara civilization. Located in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, the Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of this ancient civilization.
It is small but houses an extensive collection of Gandharan sculptures dating back to the 3rd century B.C. Sculptures and icons from different periods are on display, providing a detailed overview of this unique style of art development.
The Mardan Museum is a must-see for anyone interested in the Gandhara civilization or Pakistani history. It is a fascinating glimpse into the past and provides essential insight into the culture and heritage of Pakistan. To learn more about this mesmerizing Museum, keep reading!
Who Inaugurated the Present Building of Mardan Museum?
Previously in 1991, a single gallery was occupying the Mardan Museum. As the Museum lacked space, the provincial government requested the Mardan district government to provide a portion of land to accommodate other artifacts. As a result, the authorities built three galleries in 2006. Former Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, inaugurated the present building of the Mardan Museum Pakistan in 2009.
Galleries in Mardan Museum
Mardan Museum houses three extensive galleries, Gandhara Gallery, an Ethnological Gallery, and Islamic Gallery. Currently, the Museum is showcasing a vast collection of 413 artifacts, including 127 coins of Kushan, 258 Gandharan sculptures, six terracotta animal figurines, ancient coins of Hindu Shahi dynasties, traditional Jewelry, household objects, weapons, old musical instruments, and much more. Additionally, ten household objects, 13 agricultural tools, Buddha with Worshippers and Monks, Buddha seated beneath arches in the Dhyana mudra (meditation position), Corinthian, Broken Architectural Pilasters, Figures of Sheep, Lion, Horse, Peacock, Ichthyocentaurs, Floral, Spacers, and Umbrellas decorative elements from Votive and Large stupas. All these artifacts are excavated from Safiabad in Mardan and Hund in Swabi. It is one of the most famous museums for its agricultural history
This gallery showcases various artifacts depicting Gandhara Art and civilization. The Buddhist art of Gandhara appeared in the region of Mardan in the first century B.C. and stuck around till the 8th century A.D. Its purpose was to communicate the religion to the followers of the Buddha. During the time of Kanishka, thousands of Buddha images came into existence. Individual images were shrined for worship in chapels of the monasteries and sometimes in the niches of the stupas. It was the Mahayana spirit in the hearts of the sculptors of this region who produced thousands of images by working day and night with untiring zeal. The Gandhara gallery is displaying the following relics:
The Gandhara gallery displays Numerous sculptures of Gandhara art. The materials used to make sculptures are green phyllite and gray-blue mica schist. The artists of Gandhara also used stucco, terracotta, and bronze. The sculptures are either seated or standing. The hands of Buddha are in the gestures of reassurance, meditation, preaching, and earth-touching. Buddha is always in a simple monastic robe with a halo.
Life Scenes of Buddha
In Gandhara art, the most critical aspect is the worldly life of Buddha. The sculptors have beautifully carved all the episodes from Buddha’s birth to death. He appears in a princely costume with ornaments. There are various panels displayed in the Mardan Museum showing:
· The birth of the Buddha and the dream of Queen Maya.
· The enlightenment period during which Buddha meditated for forty days and reached the sense of omniscience.
· The earth-touching gesture depicts the moment of enlightenment.
· The gesture of raising one hand while delivering the first sermon at Sarnath.
· During the death time of the Buddha, he abandoned his physical body to acquire a blissful state of ecstasy.
Various panels are displayed depicting palace scenes of the time of Buddha. The Buddha is standing or sitting with his devotees and followers around him. Preaching to the followers with one hand raised is very prominent. Worshippers and monks are present around Buddha.
Individual images of Buddha
Individual images of Buddha show the Buddha standing or sitting with his arms crossed and eyes closed, meditating and praying. He seems to be unaware of his surroundings. Various stucco heads of Buddha are also beautifully placed.
Bejeweled Heads of Bodhisattva
Prince Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, better known as Buddha, had to pass through the stage of Bodhisattva to reach the moment of enlightenment. Before this, he was a Bodhisattva, meaning” one who is on the way to enlightenment.” Many Bejeweled Heads of Bodhisattva are on display in the Mardan Museum, discovered during an excavation of a stupa at Takht-i-Bahi. Jeweled crowns on the heads depict a royal stature. The expression on the faces of Bodhisattva shows gentleness and kindness. The eyes are closed and deliver a sense of serenity.
Gandhara art has deeply influenced the Mardan district’s life, art, and architecture because it flourished for many centuries. When we study the sculptures carefully, they reflect an interesting life about two thousand years ago. The collection of Architectural elements features Broken Architectural Pilasters, Umbrellas, domes, Harmika, Yushthi, geometrical and floral patterns from huge and votive stupas, broken hands in various postures, seated figure of Ardoksho (goddess of Kushan empire) and Broken Pedestals with Buddha and Bodhisattva Feet.
The Ethnological Gallery of Mardan Museum features the ethnological history of the Mardan District. Visitors can observe Pashtun culture and arts through special features on display.
A significant portion of the Museum’s collection includes household objects in metal and wood stone, including spoons, samovar teapots, and glasses. Many Charpai beds, also called woven rope beds, are also on display.
One of the most important treasures at the Mardan Museum is its collection of Jewelry. The Museum’s gallery includes earrings, pendants, finger rings, necklaces, bangles, bracelets, head ornaments, and shoulder ornaments. The intricate detailing on each piece is a testimony to the skills and expertise of the local craftsmen and women with fantastic talent who create this age-old traditional art.
Among the various weapons displayed are swords, muzzle-loaded guns, and pistols. The exhibition shows the culture and tradition of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The embroidery works displayed at the Mardan Museum are intricately patterned silk shirts, and multi-colored woven shawls embody their definitive history. Each unique handcrafted piece tells a story about rich traditions while preserving them for future generations.
The Museum features musical instruments, including the sitar, tabla, tambourine, flute, drum, and harmonium. Various spiritual teachers popularized these instruments when they came to India from Persia during medieval times.
It is the most prestigious gallery exhibiting a collection of old and ancient handwritten Holy Quran in various writing styles of Arabic Language. The copies of the Holy Book are all beautifully and meticulously displayed on the glass shelves.
Manuscripts of the 8th to 13th Century
The Islamic gallery features old Manuscripts of the Quran from the 8th to 13th Centuries excavated from the Mardan and Hund regions. Museum Authorities mentioned the authors’ names, and publication dates, on the manuscripts.
Calligraphic Specimens of The Quran
Calligraphy is considered the most significant and highly regarded element of Islamic Art. Ancient Calligraphic Specimens of The Quran are displayed in the Islamic gallery to show the affiliation of people of old times to their religion. The prominent calligraphic designs used are Naskh and Nastaliq.
Poetry written in different languages embellishes the gallery’s walls, including Persian and Urdu poetry of Rumi and Allama Iqbal. The Sufi culture of Central Asia influenced both poets, which might have contributed to their thoughts on philosophy and mysticism.
Religious Text in Arabic and Persian Language
Religious Texts written in Arabic and Persian, mostly verses from the Holy Quran, are also on display in this gallery.
How to Reach Murdan Museum?
The quickest and most convenient way to get to the Mardan Museum Pakistan is from the train station or bus terminal. From there it will cost you a few hundred rupees to take a taxi to the town hall, where you can get to the Mardan Museum. A must-see with children, it would be a wonderful lifetime experience.
Mardan Museum Entry Ticket and Timings
Locals have to pay an entrance fee of PKR 10. If you arrive by vehicle, you must pay a parking fee of PKR 50. The museum staff can give you more details on admission costs for foreigners. The ticket provides access to a beautifully curated collection. The Museum is open every day from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Location of Mardan Museum:
Mardan Museum is located in the Mardan district near the Town hall in the heart of Gandhara between 34° 32′ North and 72° 24′ East, north of the Kabul River, 64 km from Peshawar in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The region includes Mardan city, which is a popular tourist destination. Along with Peshawar, Mardan is one of Pakistan’s most important archaeological sites and was once home to ancient Buddhist relics.
Why is the Mardan museum famous?
Mardan Museum Pakistan is not just a regional museum. It is an archeological site. Mardan is usually famous for Gandhara and Buddhist Art as Mardan became an important center for Buddhist activity in the 1st Century C.E. The archeological artifacts of the museum date back to 600 BC, one thousand years before the advent of Islam in Afghanistan and vicinities.
Who built the Mardan museum?
The Commissioner of the Mardan Division, Sahibzada Riaz Noor, provided the vision of opening a historical museum in Mardan to preserve the cultural heritage of this region. Sahibzada Riaz Noor oversaw the construction of the Museum, which opened in a Mardan town hall auditorium in 1991 and features up to 90 Gandhara sculptures. Peshawar Museum contributed 137 artifacts to start the display work. In response to a request from the provincial government in 2006, the Mardan district government donated some land to construct a museum to house the excavations from archaeological sites.
Now You have virtually visited the splendors of the Mardan Museum. This Museum has everything from the Gandharan sculptures of the 3rd century B.C. to modern times. With its rich collection of artifacts, the Museum offers a glimpse into the old civilizations of this region. Visitors can also explore a collection of coins, and Artistic treasures, including paintings, sculptures, and other artifacts depicting Buddhist beliefs.
The Mardan Museum in Pakistan is truly remarkable and worth visiting if you are in the area! Please note that you must pay an additional fee to bring a camera to the Museum.