There are some beautiful museums in the world which attract millions of visitors. The region of Mardan is rich in culture and especially Gandhara remains are matchless. The people of Mardan had the idea of a museum for a long time and they were keen to preserve the heritage. For this reason they formed National Heritage Preservation Societies in the past. Ultimately with the interest of the local Government Officials and the then commissioner of Mardan, Mr R N Sahibzada, the proposal of building a museum in Mardan was made in 1990. The museum was opened in April1991.
The original name is Takht-i-Bahi. This town is situated 15 km from Mardan on Swat Malakand road. In 1908/9 the ancient Buddhist history was discovered in the mountains. Large numbers of buildings look beautiful on top of the mountains.
Unfortunately the possessions of the houses and buildings have been taken away illegally and maybe decorating some famous buildings in the rest of the world. The population is expanding and new houses are approaching the site. If ignored for a few more years, the tourist and historic attractions will disappear.
Cultural heritage has a great historical significance. It represents the taste and theme of the time. The Guides Memorial Mardan also has a very relevant historical importance. It was built by the British in 1892 in memory of their soldiers who sacrificed their lives in defence of Queen’s Residency in Kabul on September 23rd 1879.This historical memorial was built in the centre of Mardan city.
Gandhara (The land of fragrance), situated in the North West of Pakistan, has a very rich cultural heritage. During explorations, surveys and excavations at various places in Gandhara, different archaeological sites are unearthed. These are dated to different eras. One such unique site is of the Asota Stonehenge. This site is 30 km North East of Mardan and just 3 km from Shiva Bus Stop on Mardan Swabi Road. There is a small link road to Buner.
The Stonehenge is in the form a circle of 21 slabs of Limestone. So far no proper scientific research has been done on this site. The stone slabs were brought here from Karamar Hills. This would have been a very tough and challenging job. After visiting the stones many questions rise in the minds of the visitors.Who were those people? Why was it built? How was it built? What is the significance of each and every single stone?
The human activities had started very early in Gandhara in the Pre-historic era. It is evident from different sites in Gandhara. It can be dated to Late Neolithic (5000 B.C) and early Bronze Age (3000 B.C).The human being was simple and lived in simple muddy houses. One thing is obvious that man was socially developed and there was a concept of religion.
There is an ancient cemetery close to this circle of stones. There is no clear record of this cemetery. It is possible that each stone might have been put in the memories of the brave ones or some prominent persons. It is also possible that each stone may just represent one grave. More theories can be established if this cemetery is excavated.
The common myth which runs in the villagers is that in this town that once there was a wedding ceremony. People had come from the surrounding villages. They came across robbers who started to loot them and possibly harm them physically. The victims prayed to God to protect them from the looters. Their prayers were accepted. But they themselves were turned into stones. So the robbers could not harm them. The Locals identify different slabs as bride, bridegroom and other people of the wedding party.
A systematic study and research of these stones will give some clues that how the ancient mankind used the sky for astronomy, the Sun, the Moon, the stars and its changing position. And how they measured time, days and nights and prepared a calendar of years. Stonehenge had already been discovered in different part of the world. Bull Ring, Arbor low, East Moors, Ring Cairns, Cumbria,, Long Meg,, Caster ton , Elva Plain, Casterligg, Salisbury England, Causeway in Ireland, France, Cardesa and Dakar Senegal.
Asota site is unique. It has not been preserved like Stonehenge in England. It could have been a big tourist attraction. But instead it has faced destruction due to the lack of interest by the local authorities and the department of Tourism in Pakistan. Very soon it will disappear and a precious chapter in the history of mankind will be closed.