Sulabh International Museum of Toilets
Sulabh International Museum of Toilets is situated at Mahavir Enclave that lies on the main Palam-Dabri Road in South-west Delhi. It is easily accessible by local transport and by cycle rickshaws from Dwarka Mor Metro Station. Though it is difficult to digest this fact that there could be a Museum of Toilets too but this should not be impossible to believe as many a times we forget that without hygienic toilets, we would probably be deemed as nomadic and uncivilised people.
The Sulabh International Museum of Toilets is a unique invention and probably one of its kinds in India which was founded by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak who also founded the non-profit NGO named Sulabh International Social Service Organisation with the vision to educate people on the importance of Sanitation in our daily lives. The Museum of toilets was conceptualised and it took shape after he chose the massive Campus of his Mahavir Enclave Central Office to home the museum building along with the assistance of United Nation's Social and Economic Council. He meticulously studied and researched on the evolution of toilets, their designs and usage from the ancient period up till the late 19th Century from all corners of the Globe including India. Most of the detailed information and photographs of Toilets used in all respective Countries were furnished by professionals from different Embassies and High Commissions.
The Sulabh International Museum of Toilets showcases the designs and evolution of toilets right from 2,500 BC onwards and hence makes it a very interesting and unforgettable experience to visit and view some of the rarest photographs and exhibition of a unique collection of Chamber Pots used by women between 1794 AD and 1800 AD, Water Closets, Bidets, Toilet furniture and Privies or Outdoor Toilets dating from 1145 AD onwards, Toilets made of stone and bath with ornate carvings and beautifully painted commodes and urinals, French made Commodes seen in the shape of a Stool covered with Books, Austrian Toilets made of porcelain and Vienna's exquisitely decorated urinals, A replica of King Louis XIII's Throne, Toilets made during the 1990s and the latest Toilet design seen in the shape of a Microwave are all displayed here. This museum also shares information on toilet etiquette, technologies used in toilets, laws and customs, objects, pictures, odes of poems written about toilets especially the story of Akbar and one of his nine jewels named Birbal and also a display of a worldwide collection of humour filled scatological facts that will definitely leave you rolling with oodles of laughter.
In earlier days, talking about toilets was not a welcomed subject due to it being a more private affair and better left in seclusion, however, to perpetuate more facts about toilets and their evolution, the sitting type of toilets did exist centuries ago and excavations completed by ASI about 62 km from Ahmadabad in India revealed the remains of the sitting toilets constructed by the Harappa Civilisation that bear evidence of this fact which dates over 2,500 BC ago. Findings revealed that the Harappans used water based toilets attached to every house which were linked to a huge drain with burnt clay brick covers. It also had manmade covered holes leading to massive chambers to assist in maintaining the sanitation of drains and hence was known as one of the best sanitation techniques. After the decline of the Indus Valley Civilisation, Indians resorted to the primitive style of defecation in the open. Another excavation in Egypt also confirms the existence of sitting toilets dating back to 2,100 BC.
Through the ancient years, the Romans also developed the Bath-cum-toilets concept wherein holes were dug up on the floors through which water is seen flowing. Romans also constructed their own toilets while travelling that uses the basic concept of a stool with a key hole which could be used for urination and defecation. Excavations in Thailand and Sri Lanka also revealed the use a stool designed with a keyhole style attached with a certain contraption that separated the urine to allow it to flow away while the other part was used for defecation.
In contrary to the Romans and Asians, the Greeks believed in open defecation outside their homes. If you could travel back in time, you would notice Slaves carrying Silver made urine Pots for the Royalties to relief themselves especially during Dinner Parties. In Fact, during the Mughal era, human wastes were covered with mud or earth and evidence of such methods are seen even today in the remains within the Forts of Agra and Delhi. Between 500 and 1,500 AD, humans would defecate in cess pools, close stools and chamber pots and sometimes anywhere and everywhere possible with no shyness and maintenance of hygiene. In India, the rich would defecate from their Forts or Havelis that would fall onto the open grounds or the river below. Evidence of this fact is seen even today outside the Huge Mansions and Forts in Jaisalmer especially next to the banks of the river. In Europe, Castles were built with toilets that would protrude outside through which human waste would fall onto the river below.
In 1596, John Harrington invented Water Closets which cost about 6 Shillings and 8 Pence; however, most of the people did not use this style for over 182 years due to a huge cultural gap. Many still used Earth Closets and Pan Closets which required manual cleaning and usage of Cess Pools, Chamber pots and Close Stools were still prevalent. In 1739, J. F. Brondel introduced the Valve type Flush system on toilets which was perfected later through improvement in technology by Alexander Cummings in 1775, Joseph Preiser in 1777 followed by Joseph Bramah in 1778 and later by S. S. Helior who invented 'Optims', a flush type toilet in 1870 which was a definite improvement over the previous style and was extensively adopted by many countries.
Earlier, the concept of constructing luxurious and massive 'Gusalkhanas' or 'Bathrooms' were established in 1556 by the Mughal Emperors in India, however, the commoners still lived under unhygienic conditions due to open defecation. Later, the concept of a Flush toilet system was introduced in India due to the British Raj Rule and It is the only system used across the world even today but with obvious improvements. Disposing of Human waste was still a concern for many and Sulabh International pioneered a new technology of using twin pour flush latrines and making Biogas plants out of Human waste. This concept is being used since the past 25 years which deemed as one of the solutions to recycle human waste into Biogas, Electricity and Fertilisers. Though its usage and mechanism may differ but we can clearly summarise that the basic concept of a toilet style system remains unchanged through the centuries.
The Sulabh International Museum of Toilets offers free entry to all visitors between 1030 hours and 1630 hours from Mondays to Saturdays only as it remains closed on all Sundays while Photography is also not chargeable.