Dhobi Khana at Veli in Fort Kochi, is where the Tamil-speaking Vannan community carry out laundry works, the profession practiced by the community traditionally.
This practice of the Vannan community has been traced back to the colonial period. Story goes that the Vannans were brought by the King of Kochi from Coimbatore and Tirunelveli to wash the army uniforms of the Portuguese or the Dutch. In 1975, with the support of Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA), Vannans established a ‘Dhobhi Khana’ at Veli near Fort Kochi, a place specifically set aside to wash and dry clothes. This was set-up in the form of a sangham or a society. Prior to that, they carried out their work near the ponds at Veli. It is said that there were 70 ponds in 13 acres of land which were owned by the Vannans.
The first sight that welcomes us on entering the Dhobi Khana is a group of men and women ironing clothes. While some still use the traditional charcoal iron, a few have changed to the electrical iron. There are around 40 to 45 cubicles in two-to-three acres of land. Each cubicle is given to a different family and a pool of water is also provided for each cubicle. Grey-haired men can be seen washing clothes in each cubicle. They use the traditional method of soaking the clothes in bleach and detergent water. Soaked clothes are washed by beating on a laundry stone. Starching the clothes is also done by dipping the clothes in starch obtained from boiled rice.