Mardan is situated north of the Kabul River between 34° 32' North and 72° 24' East in the heart of Gandhara about 64 km from Peshawar and was a great centre of Mahayana Buddhism. Most of the important Gandharan sites (Takht Bhai, Jamal Garhi, Sahri Bahlol and Shahbaz Garhi are located in this District.
A great volume of the Gandharan collection in the Peshawar, Mardan, Lahore and Karachi museums come from the sites located in the Mardan region. The discovery and excavation of the Sanghao Cave in District Mardan by Dr. A.H Dani in 1963 pushed the history of mankind in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as back as 40,000 years ago. King Asoka (3rd century BC) inscribed the creed of Buddhism on the rocks at Shahbaz Garhi, Mardan, and popularized the religion of peace and transquility.
But it was during the time of Scythoparthians (1st century BC) and Kushanas (Ist century AD) that the real expansion of Buddhism took place and a new era was ushered in. Hundred of stupas and monasteries were erected for the propagation of the law of Dhamma. Chinese and Korean travelers and pilgrims, who came here, recorded the existence of these sites. Survey conducted by the Directorate in the Mardan District brought to light over 400 sites, including stupas and monasteries reminding us of the great glory of ancient Gandhara. The Gandharan sites of Takht Bhai (which is on the World Heritage list), Sahri Bahlol, Jamal Garhi, Thareli, Kashmir Smast and Asoka Rock.
Edicts at Shahbazgarhi are all located in Mardan District. The idea to open a museum in the Mardan region emanated from the fertile mind of Sahibzada Riaz Noor the than commissioner Mardan Division who took a practical step in this regard he established the Mardan Museum in the Town Hall Mardan in 1990.
Peshawar Museum provided 137 antiquities to start the display work. While some others were recovered from the law enforcement agencies and through excavations at the sites of Safiabad, Hund, Katlang, Rustam and Baja and were displayed in the main hall, measuring 50 x 22 square feet was completed in April 1991. Peshawar Museum donated 22 showcases for the display. With the establishment of the Directorate of NWFP in 1992 Mardan Museum came under its administrative control.
Presently Mardan Museum has a total collection of 413 artifacts including 258 Gandharan sculptures, 127 coins of Kushan, Later Kushan, Kushano-Sassanin and Hindu Shahi dynasties, 6 terracotta animal figurines 5 mercury containers, 10 household objects and 13 agricultural tools. The subject matter of the Gandharan schist stone sculptures in the Mardan Museum are the queen Maya dream, the birth of Siddhartha, bathing scene, the great departure, the first sermon at Sarnath, the conversion of Kasyapa offering to Buddha, distribution of the relics, worship of the wheel of law, stupa and alms bowl, Buddha with worshippers and monks, the wheel of law pose (Dharma charka mudra), garland bearers,
Buddha seated under arches in meditation pose (Dhayana mudra) Corinthian, Persepolitan and Asokan capitals, broken architectural pilasters, harmika, dome, yushthi, chatras or umbrellas, spacers, floral and geometrical decorative elements from votive and large stupas, broken pedestals with Buddha and Bodhisattava feet, broken hands in different postures, figures of sheep, lion, horse, peacock, Ichthyocentaurs and a seated figure of Ardoksho. The stucco sculptures include a seated Buddha in meditation pose (Dhayana mudra), head of Buddha, Bodhisattva and common folk.
Though, the collection of the Museum has excavated antiquities from Safiabad in Mardan and Hund in Swabi, confiscated antiquities from Katlang, Rustam and Baja and some donated objects make up the present collection of Mardan Museum.