Dhobi Street

Dhobi Street
Dhobi Street

Dhobi Street, about 150 meters north of Dhobi Khana, near the Pallath Raman Hall at Fort Kochi, is the residence of the Tamil-speaking Vannan community. The community migrated to Kochi and settled here centuries ago. There is no one reliable record on the migration of the Vannans. Washermen by profession, it is believed that the King of Kochi invited the Vannans from Coimbatore and Tirunelveli to Kochi, offering them land for their settlement and laundry work. Though the year of the settlement of the Vannans is not known, it is assumed that the migration of the Vannans happened during the colonial period. It is said that from the 16th century with the Portuguese rule in Kochi, washermen were required to do the laundry of the Portuguese army men. Another narrative that refers to this migration says that it took place at the time of the Dutch rule. 

In 1975, with the support of Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA), Vannans established a ‘Dhobhi Khana’, a place to wash and dry clothes at Veli near Fort Kochi. 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. Adhering to their traditions, the Vannans do their laundry work manually, even to this day.

Dhobhi Street bears a strong resemblance to a typical village in Tamil Nadu. Houses have Tamil style of architecture. There are two temples of Goddess Mariyamman, one temple of Lord Siva, and one temple of Murugan on this street. Mulamkoottu, an eight day long festival, is celebrated every year in August by the Vannans, with traditional Tamil songs and dance. On 15th August, the last day of the celebrations, the Vannans move in a group, dancing and singing through the streets of Fort Kochi, till they reach the beach to take a holy dip in the sea. Though originally the Vannans are a Tamil-speaking community, they also speak Malayalam, the regional language. Presently about 70 Vannan families reside at Dhobi Street.