Description of Pashtuns by Niccolao Manucci (1638–1717)

Niccolao Manucci (1638–1717) was a Venetian traveller who worked in the Mughal court and spent almost 60 years in India. He gives the following description of Pashtuns:-

The Pathans might collect eighty thousand horse and much infantry. But they are scattered in different parts of the kingdom and differ from the Pathans who live beyond the river [Indus] and to the west of it, about whom the Mogul has to be very careful, for at one time they claimed the crown.”

These [the Pathans] for the greater part serve as soldiers; others are merchants; and they resort to no other occupations. They are very avaricious and foolhardy. When they come to court, they are well-clad and well-armed, caracolling on fine horses richly caparisoned, posing as persons of some consideration, and followed by several servants borrowed or hired for the day. On reaching their house they divest themselves of all this finery, and, tying a scanty cloth round their loins and wrapping a rag round their head, they take their seat on a mat, and live on quichire (kichrl) — i.e., rice and lentils — or badly-cooked cow’s flesh of low quality, which is very abundant in the Mogul country and very cheap. In this manner they put by money and grow into merchants. They are very jealous about their women, are not very literate, fond of the chase and of dogs, dextrous with bows. They hate the Moguls so much that they will not intermarry with them; they are extremely pretentious, each one thinking himself greater than the rest, and decline to concede to others any superiority.”

In spite of these dissensions they are all of one race, descended from an ancient prince called Pasto (Pashto). He had many sons — I notice there were six-and-thirty of them — who divided the kingdom at his death. It lay on the farther side of the Indus, towards the west. They proclaimed these as separate principalities, their descendants taking the name of their ancestor. One calls himself Issofzaj (Yusufzai) — that is, ‘Son of Joseph’; others are Mahomedzaj (Muhammadzai), Iszai (Isazai), Surina (Suranis of Bannu?), Pane (Panni), Massuani(?), Coatro (?), Lody (Lodi). In this manner they entitle themselves after their ancient princes, and the name of Pathan has come down from the first prince, Pasto. Their language differs from the speech of India. They follow the Mahomedan faith, yet there is a difference in their sects, for some venerate Muhammad, others ‘Ali, others ‘Usman, and others some other disciple of the false prophet. [“Storia do Mogor”, English translation, Vol-2, p-453]

History of Pashtuns
A Pashtun chieftain, 1816 (c). Delhi school of painting, an early 19th century, probably by Ghulam Ali Khan. Source
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