Mardan Pakistan is the last city on the plains before the terrain rises sharply to reach Malakand, Dir, Swat, and Central Asia.
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Mardan City Distance and Location
Mardan City is 145 km from Islamabad and takes 2 hours to get there.
How to get to Mardan
- Take the Islamabad Peshawar Motorway and exit the Rashakai interchange at Risalpur.
- To come back, take the Swat Motorway to reach Karnal Sher Khan Interchange of Islamabad- Peshawar Motorway.
History of Mardan City, of Pakistan
Mardan in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan has an ancient past, going back to the Paleolithic period 30,000 years back.
Sanghao Caves, Katlang Road
Workmen tools, stone shards found in the cave complex of Sanghao on the Mardan – Katlang road have been dated back 30,000 years.
Sangaho Caves are 50 km or 1.0 hours from City Centre.
Then came the first settlements along the bank of streams flowing down from the peaks up north, today is known as Seri Behlol (the city of Behlol).
Fragments in Seri Behlol have been dated back to Mesolithic Period (15000 years), but the relatively recent town was enclosed in a stone wall by the Kushan rulers of the 1st century.
Even today figurines, potsherds, and ornaments are found from the yet to be excavated site of Seri Behlol, Mardan.
The ancient name of Mardan
The ancient name of this city was probably Behlol, from the archeological ruins of the same name, Seri Behlol.
Climate and Weather
It is understandable that Mardan would be an old settlement as several small rivers and streams criss-crosswise this plain at the foothills of Hindukush Mountains.
The climate is excellent for growing crops.
Where there is water, there is a good crop and when you have a good crop, you have kings and priests taking over to steal from people.
This is what happened to this city as well.
Mardan the Centre of Gandhara Kingdom
This plain has exchanged hands with several kingdoms and the most famous was the Gandhara Kushan Kingdom (1st to 5th century).
Asoka edict at Shahbaz Garhi
King Asoka’s edict at Shahbaz Garhi and the Buddhist monastery at Jamal Garhi support my theory.
Asoka converted to Buddhism from Hinduism to protect his political power from Greco-Bactrian invaders, who preferred this religion.
King Asoka tried developing a secular society based on civilized law that was accommodating to other religions and the environment.
Evidence of his secular outlook can be gauged from the town he developed in Sirkap, Taxila that had temples of various religions, including Jainism.
Instructions etched in stone at Shahbaz Garhi tell his followers to be kind to animals and plants and live a decent, virtuous life.
Buddhist Monastery of Jamal Garhi
Jamal Garhi was probably the last stop for Buddhist monks before they climbed up to the Swat Valley from the Mardan plains.
The peculiar feature of Jamal Garhi is that you get a 360-degree view of Mardan for several hundred miles while standing on top of the ancient conference hall.
Jamal Garhi is 16 km and 0.5 hours from the city Centre.
I could have joined the swat motorway from Jamal Garhi, but I chose to turn back and see the rest of Mardan too.
Sacred Gandhara Grave Culture of Jamal Garhi
Then, the sacred burial ground at Jamal Garhi points to a connection with the Oxus River people who bury their dead the same way.
One unmarked stone slab as the headstone, one slab at the foot, and if it is a lady, a slab in the middle is how these ancient people buried their dead.
Buddhist Monastery of Takht e Bahi
When the marauding hordes of white Huns descended into the Indus Valley, they burned the great Buddhist Monastery of Takht I Bhai to show who the new boss is.
As Hinduism was already on the retreat from this higher plateau, Huns were exceptionally harsh with the dominant religion at the time, Buddhism.
The current name of Mardan is derived from a religious figure in the recent past, called Mardan Shah.
After Huns tore up the area around Mardan in the 4th century, Muslims came 500 years later and converted the non-committal local population.
The local crowd was dillydallying between Buddhism and Hinduism, depending on who ruled their location.
British Colonials in Mardan
British formally established a cantonment in the 19th century at Mardan to support their suppression missions up North – it didn’t work.
Now, the city is a combination of prehistoric, to ancient to colonial – so take your pick.
Coming back from Jamal Garhi and Takht Bahi, first up is;
Bacha Khan Monument
This monument was pointing toward the sky like a spaceship.
I thought Bacha Khan was for equal rights for all genders and religions – how does the monument reflect that? I can’t say.
It is beautiful though.
Guides Memorial Arch
The deep in the Centre of the old city is the guides’ memorial arch built by the British.
This arch has the names of Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh soldiers of the guides’ cavalry who were killed protecting the Queen’s representative to Afghanistan, Louis Cavagnari in 1879.
This started the 2nd Anglo-Afghan War.
This monument is a lovely park now and with the best flower bloom in spring.
Lutheran Church of Mardan
Adjacent to the Arch is the Lutheran Church where Sir Winston Churchill the racist came to pray too.
It has an old school that was established for Anglo children who ruled the land, which is now Pakistan.
Guides Mess Mardan
Coming back from the monument,
I went to see the new museum at the historic Guides Mess, of the Pakistan Army (Punjab Regiment Center, Mardan)
Not everyone is allowed in; I wish they would.
The guide mess has old life-sized paintings and weapons that were used in historic battles by the British Army.
It has a beautiful historic Church close to the central square as well.
Driving on the Charsadda road, I came across Mardan Museum.
Building this museum was the idea of a local Commissioner who had no place to keep the rare smuggled artifacts returned by foreign governments.
One artifact they didn’t return was the scroll of Gandhara civilization smuggled somewhere from the same area, which is now in the USA.
The most interesting exhibition in the museum is the Gandhara Gallery.
Other Archeological Museums near Mardan
Close to Mardan Museum are two other museums
- Pushkalavati Museum Charsadda is 50 km or 1.0 hours from Mardan
- Hund Museum, Swabi is also 50 km or 1.0 hours from Mardan
Mardan is a guy country
While I was in Mardan City, I didn’t see a single lady on the roads, while they were thousands of guys milling about their business.
To inquire further into this conundrum, I visited these universities.
- University of Engineering and Technology Mardan – Nope, no women here.
- Bacha Khan Mardan Medical College – Saw some women here.
Where did the women go?
Someone told people in Mardan notoriously prefer men – I asked no further.
Famous Qasim Chappali Kabab at Mardan
Now that I had spent a few hours at Mardan, I needed to grab some lunch.
Mardan is famous for its tasty chappal kebabs, and I had some made for myself as well.
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