Pashtun traders in Sri Lanka

A 1911 Census report described Pashtun or Afghan traders in Sri lanka as follows: 

“They are well-known figures in the streets of Colombo and Kandy and in estate bazaars. They are tall and well formed. Their strongly marked features and heavy eyebrows usually give their faces a somewhat savage expression. Their complexion is ruddy; the beard is usually worn short, as also is the hair. Their dress is distinctive—a loose tunic, baggy drawers, and thick boots. Their headdress is wound in rolls round the head, generally over a small skull-cap. There are some excellent wrestlers amongst them. They have their own chiefs and settle disputes amongst themselves. They wander all over the East and are even found in Chinese Turkestan and Australia. Their occupation they usually give as cloth sellers or horse traders, but their principal business is usury; they are the petty money lenders of the country. Their calculation of the rate of interest to be paid is simple and effective. Payment has generally to be made one month from the date of the loan; failure to pay on the due date entails double payment, and the principal goes on doubling from month to month. The debtor very often finds difficulty in meeting his creditor on the day of payment. These usurers seldom go to court but exercise a considerable amount of petty tyranny.” (“Ceylon at the Census of 1911” By Sir Edward, Superintendent of Census, Ceylon)

Afghan in Sri Lanka
An Afghan (Pashtun) in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), 1881 (c). Photo by William Skeen.
Muslims in Sri Lanka
A Pashtun trader inscribed as ‘Pattaniya'”, Sri Lanka, 1830 (c). One of sixty-three drawings from an Album depicting Sinhalese occupations and castes. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Source

Pathan moneylender
An illustration of a moneylender (on right), Kandy, Sri Lanka, 1898. By Christian Wilhelm Allers. Source

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