Mumbai’s Traditional Dhobi Ghat : The Tradition Lives On Amidst the Washing Machine Era

About a decade ago, washing machines were not popular as an essential household appliance, since doing the laundry is a task every Indian woman is expected to do. In Mumbai, large families who can afford to pay for laundry services simply send their dirty clothes to a Dhobi Ghat. Here, traditional Indian laundrymen known as dhobis, perfunctorily wash clothes in concrete wash pens called ghats.

About Mumbai’s Dhobi Ghats

Actually. Mumbai’s Dhobi Ghats are still in active operations as local government authorities have invested on a R60 million project to make the traditional laundry business highly appealing as a tourist attraction. The location is actually one of India’s important heritage sites, as it was built in 1880 under the British government. The Dhobi Ghat is dubbed as the largest outdoor laundry area in the world, a remnant of a bygone era.

Travellers including tourists passing through the Mahalaxmi train station in central Mumbai, see hundreds of dhobis, submerged knee-deep inside the ghats, whilst hand-washing dirty clothes soaked in soapy water. The clothes are then transferred by trolleys into metal drums containing boiling water before the clean clothes are hung out to dry.

The traditional clothes cleaning business is a profession handed down by fathers, grandfathers and even great grandfathers to male members as their families have been born and raised in the area. Apparently, the right to access and pay rent for one of the original 731 “stones” or concrete wash pens is a heritage. The right to do so was staked by the original patriarch who set up the traditional laundry business.

Nowadays, many dhobis are using washing machines for lighter loads, similar to modern day laundromats. Even so, some insist they still engage in manual hand-washing. Most dhobis who still use the ghats, stoke coals to keep the metal drums of boiling water heated, usually when catering to Mumbai hotels and restaurants.

However, this method has drawn attention as having a negative environmental impact, especially now that there are energy-efficient washing machines available as options.

Popular Brands for Heavy Duty Clothes Washing

Currently, the most popular models of washing machine for heavy duty washing are the 8 kg front load types. The most recommended are the German-made Bosch and the LG Collins brand. First and foremost, these brands have been issued certifications for having met the Bureau of Energy Efficiency rating standards.

Both brands boast of capabilities to perform hygienic wash functions of killing up to 99.99% of bacteria carried by dirty clothes. The Bosch brand has the distinction of having a large paddle that increases the water churn and displacement motions.

The LG Collins front-loading 8.0 Kg washing machines are highly recommended for large growing families. Moreover, this brand has a waterproof touch panel, Child Lock feature and Baby Care wash option for washing delicate baby clothes.