Dhobi are a Hindu caste specialised in washing clothes. During my journey along the Yamuna river, I came across many of them especially at Allahabad, Agra and along the Ganges at Varanasi. However, it is during my stay around Balua Ghat at Allahabad that I took the opportunity of documenting them at work. Every morning and every evening when the temperature was the best I used to walk along the Yamuna river. They were always there working hard. The process was always the same, first washing linen in holes made in the ground before rinsing them in the river and slapping them on a stone to remove the stains. Then, there was something almost technical and meticulous about the way they lay each piece of linen on the ground.
This slideshow explores the life of some Dobhis at work along the Yamuna river at Balua Ghat. I would have liked to keep this post nice and not speak about the pollution in the Yamuna river in this particular place. However, the truth is that a few yards upstream, a grey stream filled with sewage joins the river. And despite some other Dobhis smiling and waving at me on the other side of the stream, I can say that the place had nothing enjoyable like most of the Balua ghat’s river bank which is full of rubbish left behind by worshippers or by people emptying their bin bags in the river. I felt that it was important to say so as there is nothing romantic about being a Dhobi spending a few hours a day washing traditionally some clothes in a polluted environment. It has a health impact. If you want to read further about the Yamuna river and its pollution, see my story Blue Yamuna.