|Regions with significant populations|
|• Pakistan • India • Nepal|
|• Urdu • Hindi • Gujarati • Punjabi • Seraiki|
|• Islam 100% •|
|Related ethnic groups|
|• Dhobi • Muslim Teli • Shaikh|
The Muslim Dhobi are a Muslim community that is traditionally involved in washing clothes in South Asia. They are considered to be Muslim converts from the Hindu Dhobi caste, and are found in North India and Pakistan. The community is also known as Charhoa and Gazar in Pakistan and Hawari in India.
In India, they continue to depend on their traditional occupation of washing clothes. The more enterprising elements within the group have set up dry cleaning businesses. Many in rural areas are tenant farmers. The community are distributed throughout North India and South India, with concentrations in Delhi, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.Also in south Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh they found. Although they live in multi-caste and multi-religious villages, they occupy distinct quarters in towns and villages. A Dhobi settlement in often referred to as a dhobighat. Each of their settlement contains a traditional caste council, which resolves disputes within the community, and deals with issues such as elopement, theft and adultery. Like other Muslim artisan castes, they have set a caste association, the All-India Jamiat al-Hawareen, which acts as a pressure group for the community.
The Dhobi community also live in Bakar Gunj, old city Kila and C.B. Gunj. The Nagar Nigam Corprator Noor Jahan Begum without Israr Ahmad.[clarification needed]
The Dhobi are an endogamous community, marrying among themselves, or occasionally with members of other artisan castes such as the Hajjam. The Dhobi are largely Sunni Muslim, and are fairly orthodox, although a small minority in Haryana are Shia. In North India, the Dhobi community are Urdu speaking, as well as speaking various local dialects such as Khari Boli and Awadhi. The Dhobi consist of a number of endogamous sub-groups, called biradaris. Marriages tend to take place within the biradaris, and theoractical all those within the biradari descend from a common ancestor. Important biradaris include the Chhonkar, Sarohe and Ujjania in western Uttar Pradesh, Mathuria, Bahraichia and Delhiwala or Dilliwal in Awadh. The Dilliwal now form a distinct group from other Dhobis, with virtually no intermarriage now taking place between them and other Dhobis.
In Delhi, they have two sub-divisions, the Shehri and Agharia. The Sheri trace their origin to Old Delhi, while the Agharia are originally from villages near Meerut and Hapur. They live in the localities of Farash Khana, Jama Masjid, Chitli Qabar, Lal Darwaza and Sheesh Mahal, all in Old Delhi. A large number of Delhi Dhobis emigrated to Pakistan, at the time of the independence of Pakistan in 1947. After the independence of India, their traditional occupation has suffered. Traditionally, all clothes were delivered to the Dhobi. This is no longer the case, and those Dhobis still involved in their traditional are those who have started to pick work from hotels and hospitals.
In Haryana,the community is found throughout the state. They speak Haryanvi, with educated members of the community speaking Urdu. The community is split along sectarian lines, with there being both Sunni and Shia among the Dhobi. They are also further divided into clans, known as gotras, such as the Bhatti, Khokhar, Taga and Bhelim. The Dhobi are strictly endogamous, and practice gotra exogamy. This practice is fairly common among the Haryana Muslims. Their main occupation remains the washing and dyeing of clothes, although increasingly many Dhobi are now agricultural labourers. The community has informal caste councils at village level, while Haryana also has a state chapter of the All-India Jamiat al-Hawareen. Like other Haryana Muslims, the community has been greatly reduced in numbers by migration to Pakistan at the time of the independence of Pakistan in 1947.
In Gujarat, the Dhobi claim to have immigrated from Rajasthan, and settled throughout Gujarat. They speak Gujarati and Kutchi, and are Sunni Muslim. The Dhobi are strictly endogamous and marry close kins. Like other Gujarati Muslims communities, they have their own caste association, the Dhobi Muslim Jamat. The Dhobi are a landless community, with their traditional occupation remains washing and cleaning of clothes. A few successful Dhobi have started their own businesses. The community are found mainly in Baroda, Ahmedabad, Banaskantha and Kaira districts.
The Dilliwal Shaikh are a community of Muslim Dhobis, who are found in the cities of Lucknow, Kanpur and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. They are said to have migrated from Delhi some three centuries ago, and their name literally means someone from Delhi. In Lucknow, they are found mainly in the neighbourhoods of Nalbandi Tola, Aghameel Deon, Billojpura, Gopalganj and Wazirganj. The Dilliwal are strictly endogamous, and do not intermarry with other Dhobi clans. They specialize in washing the chikan cloth, a special type of fabric found in the Awadh region. Each of their settlement contains a caste council, that maintains social control, and resolves any intra community dispute. The Dilliwal speak Awadhi, and follow the Sunni sect of Islam.
In Pakistan, the Punjab Dhobi are mainly a rural community. The Dhobi are an artisan caste, receiving a fixed share of the agricultural produce for their services. The Gazar sub-division, found in southern Punjab, have taken to agriculture. The Gazar and Charhoa are Seraiki speaking, while the Dhobi in central Punjab speak Punjabi.
The Delhiwal Dhobi of Karachi are now a successful community, with many members operating dry cleaners, servicing hotels and other industries. The community now use the self-designation Shaikh, and form an important community with the Muhajir ethnic groups.
- People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part Two edited by A Hasan & J C Das pages 1029 to 1032
- People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII edited by A Hasan & J C Das page 1031
- People of India Volume XX Delhi edited by T K Ghosh and S Nath pages 176 to 182
- People of India Haryana Volume XXIII edited by M.L Sharma and A.K Bhatia pages 154 to 158
- People of India Gujarat Volume XXI Part One edited by R.B Lal, P.B.S.V Padmanabham, G Krishnan & M Azeez Mohideen pages 334-337
- People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part Two edited by A Hasan & J C Das pages 452 to 454 Manohar Publications
- Chaudhary, Muhammad Azam (1999). Justice in Practice: Legal Ethnography of a Pakistani Punjabi Village. Oxford University Press. pp. 7–9.