In Mumbai, the Dhobi Ghat is known as the world’s largest outdoor laundry. It is a hive of activity and color. This is where Mumbai’s traditional laundrymen work in the open to wash clothes from different parts of the city.
A dhobi is a laundryman and at any given time there are between 8,000 to 10,000 dhobis at work in these stone basins that date back to British rule.
There are rows and rows of stone washing pens, each with its own flogging stone.
For the Dhobis, working here is generally a hereditary profession, with most of the washermen’s families doing this labor for the last 2 or maybe 3 generations and their technique has remained virtually the same. The soiled clothes are first soaked in boiling water with caustic soda and then “flogged” on a slab to get rid of dirt and stains.
After drying in the open, clothes are ironed with old charcoal presses with heavy wooden handles.
Most of the local people find it rather amusing that an activity as mundane as washing clothes arouses such curiosity in the tourists.
If you’d like to read more about it, see this site:
To watch the work, see this video:
And, of course, there is an English language Bollywood movie based upon the Dhobi Ghat: