Dhobi’s are one of the most important parts our lives. Well, these people are like life savers, at least for lazy bums like me who don’t like to wash and iron clothes. They are the sole reason that makes us look Chaka-Chak every morning with absolutely clean and ironed clothes. Thinking why am I discussing Dhobis? That is because today I am going to discuss one legendary place that is linked to them. Ok! Breaking the suspense, I am going to talk about Mumbai’s Dhobi Ghat, over 140 years old open air laundromat, this one place surely makes India proud as it is the world’s largest washerman colony. This is interesting, isn’t it? Don’t you want to know more? Then keep reading.
Photo by Carol Mitchell
The 140 Year Old Legendary Dhobhi Ghat
As I already mentioned earlier, this Dhobi Ghat located in Mumbai is over 140 years old. It is an open-air laundromat. It is estimated that every single day around half a million pieces of clothes are sent here from several hotels, hospitals, and homes.
Dhobi Ghat, is hyped as one of the largest open air laundry across the globe. It is located near Mahalaxmi railway station; hence it is also known as Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat Laundry. This massive laundry was built in 1890 during the British Raj. According to the Dhobi Kalyan & Audhyogik Vikas Cooperative Society (an apex body which represents the washermen), the annual turnover of this open air laundry is around 100 crores.
over 7,000 people work for around 18 to 20 hours every day. The way these washermen wash clothes is an interesting site, they scourge, scrub, dye and bleach bulks of clothes on pens made of concrete. Post that they dry them on ropes and neatly press them. As I said earlier around one lakh clothes are transported from here to the different parts of the city.
While most of the work here is done manually, there are some wealthier dhobis who have invested in large mechanical washing and drying machines.
The dhobis from this ghat collect clothes from almost every corner of the city. Their main clients are neighborhood laundries, wedding decorators, garment dealers, mid-sized hotels, clubs, and caterers.
Photo by Carol Mitchell
Dhobi Ghat And Its Increasing popularity
First time I came to know about the Dhobi Ghat was when I saw it in a Bollywood film. It was then when I got curious to know if really such place existed. Bollywood has surely played an important part in making this place popular.
The area around the Dhobhi Ghat stinks with garbage, but this hasn’t decreased it popularity. Every day several foreigners visit this place to see how all the work is done here. Try searching Dhobhi Ghat on Google, on typing dhobi ghat you would see the list of all the popular people who made a visit to this place and also shared their experiences about the largest washerman colony across the globe.
We spoke about Bollywood, well Aamir Khan’s wifey Kiran Rao is making a film on Mumbai’s dhobi ghat. One of the most popular films Munna Bhai – 3 also showcased this Dhobhi ghat in the film. Everyday “N” number of visitors standing on the Mahalakshmi bridge try to capture images of this place.
Photo by globalreachout
What’s New About This Old Place?
There was a rapid growth seen in industry and population during the mid-19th century. In around 1890-95, more number of English and Parsi people lived near the Mahalakshmi station, Mumbai dhobi ghat was built in that era to essentially wash clothes of these people.
Along with washing clothes, a separate location was allotted to dry those clothes. Currently, Mumbai dhobi ghat has 731 + stones, which is typically used for washing clothes. The Dhobi working here soak the clothes during the night in detergent water and wash them in the morning on this very stone.
So where do you think so many stones came from? There is another history associated with this. During the British era, more than 110 years ago, these stones were used to save the water. Also as a gutter to discharge the waste water.
The past was surely good, presently the washermen colony is flourishing, making more profit. But if you get to visit this place., the sight can be disappointing as you would see wastes compiled everywhere. The gutter is in a totally broken condition. Hundreds of people have been staying at this place for years, sadly they have to survive in really tough conditions.
Each day over 1 lakh clothes are being washed here, more than thousands of visitors come and go and in all that locals throw waste around that kind of remains forever.
Even today, traditional style of washing clothes is used to wash lakhs of clothes. One stone is for one family and each family practically relies on this financially. As we discussed earlier, there are around 731 stones here, and this is a livelihood for over 4 to 5 thousand people.
Apart from washing, other activities that form an important part of this massive laundry is drying, ironing, and delivery of clothes. This associated another three to four thousands of people for it. It can be an unbelievable and surprising fact, but dhobi ghat has graduate and double graduate people working in it.
If you plan to visit Mumbai’s Dhobhi Ghat then the best time to visit would be early morning and early afternoon. This is because during this time the dhobis are quite active and in action to take care of the washing load. Morning is about activity and early afternoons are the perfect time to watch the clothes dried beautifully. Seeing the clothes drying so systematically is surely awesome, it shows well they know their work.
While technology is advancing and we see washing machines a common part in every household, large hotels, and hospitals. The Dhobi Ghat business is sadly not as thriving as it used earlier.
Hope you like this blog post, do share your views in the comments section below.
Featured Photo by Carol Mitchell