Buddhist Monastery


This Buddhist Monastery sat on a commanding rocky hill 15km northwest of Mardan is by far NWFP's stand-out Gandharan site, and compares more than favourably with Taxila near Islamabad. It thrived between the 1st and 7th centuries AD before being abandoned, finally giving up its secrets to British archaeologists from 1907-13, who also reconstructed parts of the site.

You enter through a courtyard that at one time held at least 35 stupas and 30 little chapels with Buddha statues. A few statues have been left in situ, the rest are in the Peshawar Museum. The walls would have been plastered, but now reveal the amazing dry stone walling techniques that constructed the complex. Up the stairs to the south is the base of a huge stupa (the monastery's most important stupa) and more chapels; to the north a cloister surrounded by monks' cells and a refectory, kitchen and water tank. Beyond the central courtyard is a double row of sunken chambers, possibly for meditation.

The helpful chowkidar (caretaker), who has been here for over 30 years, speaks English well and will happily guide you around for a generous tip (around Rs100), as well as sell copies of a useful pamphlet (Rs40) on the site.

Uphill from the monastery are the ruins of a sizable village. The views across the plain, southwest to Peshawar and north into Swat, are wonderful in the morning or late afternoon light.