Dress and appearance of 16th-century Pashtuns during the reign of Sher Shah Suri

One of the few resources that provides some clue to the dress of Pashtuns in the 16th century is a set of illustrations called the Codex Casanatense, created by a Portuguese. Two of its illustrations depict Pashtun male and female archers. The inscription reads: “People called Pathans, very warlike, for their women also accompany them to fight in war “. The Pashtuns depicted in these paintings are most likely from Pakhtunkhwa/Afghanistan, but they could also be Pashtuns from the Sur Empire of India. They could also be the Pashtun soldiers employed by the Sultans of Gujarat.

The dress of the Pashtun women is most likely work of artist’s imagination. The gown of the Pashtun men resembles that of the Khorasani man in another painting in the same album.

Pashtuns of Pakhtunkhwa are referred to as Pathan (with “Pathanas” and “Pathanes” spellings) in some other 16th century Portuguese sources. One of it was authored by Antonio Monserrate who accompanied Mughal emperor Akbar to Peshawar and Kabul in 1582. The reason is that Indian people used the term ‘Pathan’ for Pashtuns, and the Portuguese in India were borrowing that word from them.

Pashtuns are described as a warlike people, a reputation they still carry to this day. The Dilazak, once a numerous tribe of Pashtuns, were reputed to be great archers. It was not customary for Pashtun women to participate in the offensive campaigns of their men. They were not amazons. However, under some rare circumstances, Pashtun women might have ridden along with their men in battle, the reputation of which had reached the ears of the Portuguese author of the Codex Casanatense. Pashtun women participating in battles was rare but not unheard of. Check this blogpost for an account of a Pashtun female warrior.

Pashtuns or Pathan of 16th century

Pashtuns or Pathan of 16th century

Khorasan people
Khorasani couple
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1 thought on “Dress and appearance of 16th-century Pashtuns during the reign of Sher Shah Suri”

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