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History of Dhobi Samaj

Small hostory of dhobi samaj



Total population
12,046,000[1] (only for Hindu Dhobis).
Madivala Machideva

Gadge Baba
ವೀರಭದ್ರ ಸ್ವಾಮಿ
A statue in Dharmapuri district depicting Veerabhadra
Tiru Kurippu Thonda Nayanar
Regions with significant populations
Uttar pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Maharastra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Karnataka, Sri Lanka, Gujarat, Kerala, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, UK, Nepal, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Hindi, Rajasthani, Haryanvi, Tamil, Malayalam, Sinhalese, Kannada, Telugu, Marathi.
Hinduism, Christianity, Muslim.
Related ethnic groups
Muslim Dhobis, Rajakas, Dalits.

Dhobi (English: washerman) is a caste group primarily belonging to India and Pakistan and are said to specialized in washing clothes.[2] The word Dhobi is derived from the Hindi word dhona, which means to wash. They are found throughout North India, Gujarat, Maharashtra as well as the Punjab province of Pakistan, where they are known as Gazar.[3] A dhobi is likely to be of many different origins, with those whose ancestors took the occupation of washing clothes evolving over time into a distinct caste bound by rules of endogamy. Most Dhobis follow the customs and traditions of the region they live, so for example those in North India speak Hindi, while those in Maharashtra speak Marathi.[4][5] The Dhobi rank themselves highest among the scheduled castes,The Census of 2001 returned Dhobis representing six per cent of the Scheduled Castes.[6]

Scope and job

Dhobis are an occupational caste grouping, and usually operate from door to door collecting dirty linen from households. After a `day or two, they return the linen washed, sometimes starched and ironed. Dhobis were the forerunners on the Indian subcontinent to modern professional dry cleaners. Since the dhobi charges are much less than those a dry cleaners, they are popular with most households.

Each dhobi marks a unique symbol or character on garments belonging to a particular household. This is marked in black indelible ink to prevent it from being washed off. Dhobis may wash the clothes themselves or outsource it to dhobis who only wash clothes. In Andhra Pradesh this caste is known as Rajaka (Chakali) and they make up 12% of the Andhra Pradesh population. There are Muslim Dhobis in Karnataka, they known as Agasar, Parit also, they speak Urdu and Kannada, and the Hindu dhobis are known as Madivala in karnataka. They are known as Madvala or Rajaka in the state of Goa, and have Other Backward Class status, while most Dhobis in North India have scheduled caste status.[7]


Indian Dhobies, c. 1905

Dhobies at work at Saidape, c. 1905

Dhobis of Karnataka

In Karnataka, there are Dhobis, they are also called as Agasa & Parit. Their population is concentrated mainly in kumta, sirsi, ankola, karwar, Bagalkot, Belgaum, Bijapur, Dharwar, Haveri, Davangere & Gadag districts. And their secondary language is Kannada. There are also Hindu dhobis, called Madivala, and their population is concentrated mainly in Davanagere,Chitradurga, Raichur and Shimoga districts.

Dhobis of Uttar Pradesh

Perhaps the second largest concentration of Dhobis after Andhra Pradesh(12% of total population of A.P.), is found in Uttar Pradesh. They have been granted scheduled caste status. The community is strictly endogamous, and practice clan exogamy. Their main clans, known as gotras, are the Ayodhyabasi, Mathur, Shrivastav, Belwar, Jaiswar, Belwar, Yadava & Chauhans from Ajmer Rajasthan, practice hypergamy, with clans of lower status giving girls in marriage to those of higher status, but not receiving girls. They speak various dialects of Hindi, such as Khari boli, Awadhi Bhojpuri and Braj Bhasha.[8]

The Dhobi are still involved in their traditional occupation, which is washing clothes. Traditionally, the community would wash clothes for particular families, and would receive grain and services from them. But with the growth of the cash economy, most Dhobi are now paid money for their services. A significant number of Dhobis are cultivators, and this particularly so in western Uttar Pradesh. They live in multi-caste villages, but occupy their own distinct quarters. Each of their settlements contains an informal caste council, known as a Biradari Panchayat. The Panchayat acts as instrument of social control, dealing with issues such as divorce and adultery.[8]

Dhobis of Rajasthan

The Dhobi of Rajasthan claim descent from Rajput community, and are known as Dhoba. Although the Dhobi are found throughout Rajasthan, their main concentration is in Ajmer District. The Dhobi speak Mewari, although most also understand Hindi. They have been granted Scheduled Caste status. Like other Hindu castes in Rajasthan, the Dhobi community is further divided into clans known as ataks. Their main ataks are the hathwal Chauhan, Marwara and Hilogia. Marriages are forbidden within the clan. Most Dhobi are still involved in their traditional occupation of washing clothes. They are exclusively Hindu and their tribal deity known as Ghatmata.[9]

Dhobis of Haryana

The Dhobi of Haryana are said to have originated from Punjab and Rajasthan. They are scattered throughout the state. Like other Hindu communities, they are divided into clans called gotras. Some of the major gotras are the hathwal~ Chauhan, Shukravar, Rajoria, Tonwar, Panwar, Badera, Satmase, Akhasriya, Mahavar and Basvadiya. These clan names are also used as surnames. Their main occupation remains washing of and drying of clothes.A small number of Dhobi are marginal farmers.They are classified as OBCs.[4]

Dhobis of Maharashtra

Mumbaikar dhobis at work in the Mahalaxmi area

In Maharashtra, the Dhobi are found throughout the state, and are also known as Parit. They claim to have originally belonged to the Rajput community, and in particular the Chauhan clan. The Dhobi have been listed as Other Backward Class (OBC). They speak Marathi among themselves, and Hindi with outsiders.[5]

The community are endogamous, and practice clan exogamy. Their main clans in Maharashtra are the Abidkar, Bannolkar, Belwarkar, Chawhan, Chilate, Chawlkar, Chewakar, Dudhmogre, Dhongde, Gaikwad, Ghousalkar, Harmekar, Hedulkar, Jangade, Kalyankar, Kanekar, Kalatkar, Lad, Malekar, Nandgaonkar, Nane, Pawar, Pabrekar, Palkar, Purwarkar, Salekar,Sardar, Sewane and Waskar. Marriage within the clan is prohibited.[5]

The Dhobi of Mumbai wash their linen in the Mahalaxmi area known as Dhobi Ghat. This area is strangely popular with foreign tourists looking for a piece of quintessential “Indian-ness”. Another region in South Mumbai, Dhobitalao, used to be a (now filled up) lake where British soldiers used to have their uniforms washed about 120 years ago.[5]

Dhobis of Punjab

The Dhobi of Punjab are said to have immigrated from the ancient city of Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh, and are now found throughout Punjab. They are further sub-divided into clans called gots from the Sanskrit gotra, and marriages are forbidden within the clan. Their main clans are the hathwal ~ Chauhan, Panwar, Tonwar and Rajoria. The Dhobi speak Punjabi, and their customs are similar to other Punjabi dalit castes. They are community still very much involved in their traditional occupation which is washing clothes. Some have also taken to other occupations such as dry cleaning, shop keeping, hosiery. A significant migration to the urban areas of Punjab and other parts of India has begun. Traditionally, the Dhobi lived in villages dominated by landowning castes such as the Jat, who acted as their patrons. This relationship has broken down, and any transaction now is made in cash. Each Dhobi settlement contains a biradari panchayat, which acts as instrument of social control, and resolves intra community disputes.[10]

Dhobis of UK

The Dhobis of the United Kingdom are predominantly based in Rugby, Warwickshire. They are known for their gatherings and great community spirit. The local Volleyball Club is the hub of their activities and they are responsible for the organisation of many community events. They also actively hold many charity events outside of their own scope on a regular basis. Midlands Rajput Volleyball Club (MRVC), aka Shree Rajput Dhobi Samaj Rugby.

The community also hold an annual sporting tournament. This includes other centres, from Leicester, London and even Preston.

The Dhobis in the UK are a far notion of what they were known for in India. Many are highly diverse professionals, ranging from Solicitors (Lawyers) to Politicians.

Dhobis of Tamil Nadu

The Tamil Dhobis are called “Vannar”, other names include Vannan, Panicker, Salavai thozhilale, Laundry man,Waserman etc. Majority of modern Kongu vannar, Tamil Vannar’s are part of the middle class. There are some Vannars considered as untouchable people. They are Thirumalai Vannar, Thondaiman Vannar, Erankuli Vannar, Muthirai Vannar, Puthirai Vannar, Pandiya Vannar, Theendu Vannar, Theenda Vannar,Solizya Vannar,etc. Puthirai Vannars have been classified as scheduled caste.[11]

Dhobis of Odisha

The state is having fair percentile of Dhobis in coastal belt i.e.. eastern Odisha (cuttack,puri,balasore,ganjam) and marginal percentile of population in central Odisha and western Odisha. They practise Hindu religion and as a community they follow all typical Oriya festivals like Rathayatra,raja,Sankranti along with national festivals like Holi and deewali. They worship mainly Lord Jagannath and their village deities. They have been classified as schedule caste.Their main surname is Sethy/Behera/Das/Seth throughout eastern Odisha and western Odisha. As per occupation is concerned,ninety percent of them were in to traditional laundering job till 1970.However awareness/ambition and mainly reservation gave them a comparative good position afterwards.Nowadays maximum of highly educated Oriya Dhobis are in to private sector software line/process plant/call centre/BPO. Fair percentile of Medicos/bureaucrats are easily traceable in Medical or in any government infrastructure in comparison to other Schedule-caste Oriyas.[12]

Dhobis of Andhra Pradesh

In the Andhra Pradesh state of India, the Rajakas form 12% of the total population and they are considered backward caste. Their nature of business is laundry and agriculture. Their social status need help and the community is requesting AP Government to move them into Schedule caste and Government promised them to move them into Schedule caste over and over again but ignoring them from long time. Primary reason for this is from this community there is no representation in any higher positions in politics,nor any sort of government representation. In other parts of country it is well known as Dhobi caste and there in schedule caste. Another statical information regarding Rajaka caste in Andhra Pradesh this community evenly spread across Andhra Pradesh (Coastal Andhra area and Rayalaseema Areas).[13]

Other uses

There are also streets called Dhobi (or Dhoby) Ghaut in Singapore and Penang (Malaysia), where Indian dhobis used to carry out their ancestral business.

Dhobi remains British Armed Forces slang for washing (i.e. “doing your dhobi”). In addition, washing powder is known as “dhobi dust”.and there are 11 states in India in which dhobis are taken in above casts

Sometimes, a colloquial verb “to dhobi” is used. The sentence “My clothes were stinking, so I took them off and dhobied them native fashion by bashing them on a wet rock” from The Gold of Malabar by Berkely Mather, an author who had spent many years in India.[14]

The word “dhobi” has been absorbed into the Malay language as “dobi” to mean “laundry“. So “kedai dobi” means “laundry shop”. A laundry shop in Malaysia may be owned by members of any group, not only Indian.

Dhobi itch or dhobi wallah’s itch refers to skin irritation caused by cleaning products and is an alternative name for jock itch.[15]

List of Notable persons

Historical People


President & Primeminister

Ministers & MP

  • Sajith Premadasa -is a Sri Lankan politician, current deputy Leader of the United National Party (UNP),and was the former Deputy Minister of Health Sri Lanka.[20]
  • Shyam Rajak – Bihar minister,National president ABDM.
  • Basavaraju Saraiah -Minister Government of Andhra pradesh.[21]
  • Arjun Charan Sethi – Minister orissa government of water resources.[22]
  • Rajesh Diwakar -Member of parliament of the BJP and has won the Indian general elections, 2014 from the Hathras (Lok Sabha constituency) uttarpradesh.
  • Lalit Mohan Suklabaidya -Member of parliament loksabha,Member of Indian national congress Assam.[23]
  • Kameshwar Baitha – He represented the Palamu constituency of Jharkhand and is a member of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha political party.[24]
  • Kailash Baitha – He represents the Bagaha constituency of Bihar and is a member of the Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)) political party.[25]
  • Yashvir Singh – Member of the Parliament (Samajwadi party) in Uttarpradhesh.[26]
  • Kamal Kishor – Member of the Parliament (congress party) in Uttarpradhesh.
  • Jaya Prada– Member of the Parliamen (Rashtriya Lok Dal) Uttar Pradesh.
  • Umakant Rajak – Minister of Jharkhand.[27]


  • Kamlesh Diwakar – Ex. MLA (BSP) Billaur Uttar Pradesh.[28]
  • M.Ethirajalu – Three times Legislative council(1960-1970) in Tamil Nadu.

Social Reformer

Warriors & Kings

  • Madivala Machideva – Legendary Great warrior on 12th century karnataga.[31]
  • Harsha – Harsha, was an Indian emperor who ruled northern India from 606 to 647 from his capital.[32]


  • Mamata – One Day International cricketer who represents India. She has played five ODIs.[33]
  • Mohammad yousuf – alias(yousuf youhana) yesteryear Pakistan cricket team captain.[34]

Cine field


  1. Saurabh singh says

    Achchhi jankari

    1. Karilingappa says

      Dear Sauabh Sir,

      Thanks for the information of dobhi/madival s history in Google.

      I proud to you and becouse of you. we are all in digital platform and your kind support and Needed.

      LL,B.and journalism
      Raichur 584101

      1. Sahil says

        A good knowledge about my culture.. thanku google

  2. KempaShetty says

    A good information my caste .I always struggle in Karnataka Madivala reservetion sc.

  3. R baitha says

    Please also put pics of baba saheb, ev ramasamy, Jyotiba phule and many others on this platform only gadgebaba can not solve our issues

  4. shubham kanojiya says

    mujhe to pta hi ni tha ki kannaujiya’s itne aage hai UK tak hum spread hain aur bhi other countries mein dhobi hain jo apne occupation ko kar rhe hai yaha tak film actreess aur big boss ki wife jya parda dhobi hain

  5. Prasad Hingankar says

    Good work, iformation is usefull, need to gather all our society and keep sharing our experience and stay united will be benficial for our community.

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