Museum of wax models, the museum of artifacts and antique articles, the museum of arms and weapons and many such museums are already prevalent in the world. But nowhere has anyone seen a museum of toilets, which was established in the year 1992 by Shri Bindeshwar Pathak. The museum is located in Palam, New Delhi. Those who have heard and read about this for the first time must be questioning the very idea of opening such a museum. The story of the museum of toilets begins with an idea to exhibit the varieties of toilets from all around the world and from ancient times.
Image source- sulabhtoiletmuseum.org
India has seen growth in many areas, but the cleanliness target in India is still lagging behind. To encourage people to take up good sanitation habits, Dr. Pathak started a program called Sulabh International, which helps in the construction and maintenance of toilets in the rural and semi-urban areas in the country. He also founded the Museum of toilets that showcase the toilet systems of all many countries of the world. Embassies of many countries were approached through letters for fetching the information about the toilet systems in their respective countries and also if any, information was available regarding ancient toilet systems in their countries.
A lot of search-research was conducted to establish the museum and bring in ample information about the toilets. After three years of consistent research, sufficient information was collected in the form of books, magazines, photographs, etc. each information is placed chronologically and creatively. Some models are also placed which depict the toilets of various styles and country culture. The rare toilet systems used around the world from 2500 B.C are depicted here with the help of models and pictures. Chamber pots, bidets toilet furniture, privies, water closets from 1145 to the present times are shown in the museum. The efforts of depicting these toilet systems of countries all around the world also exhibit the technology of both present and past times, social customs related toilet, sanitary conditions, toilet etiquettes, administrative and legislative decisions related to a toilet of all the times.
Toilets systems of the past times
People would be surprised to know that there were also poems written that were related to the toilet. The museum has such a collection of poems. The English people were used to the toilets when they would go on camping and hunting. Such toilet commodes were made up in the shape of the treasure chest and they were mobile commodes, specially designed for the time of camping and hunting. It also shows how toilet systems worked before the times when water closets were not invented. The most surprising feature of the toilets of the past times was that some of them, especially belonging to the big and royal clans, were ornamentally decorated.
In fact, the Roman emperors would use a toilet made up of gold and silver. The first use and invention of the flush system are depicted here. The flush system was invented by Sir John Harrington, who was one of the courtiers of Queen Elizabeth I. the evolution of toilet systems and technological developments in it are shown by various region, like Lothal, from the Indus Valley Civilization. Significant changes and development of the sewerage systems and drainage systems of the world are also shown. The early developments in the technology of Europe are shown. This museum has been included in the list of world’s ten weirdest museums.
Image source- blessedquietness.com
Aims and objectives of establishing the museum
The knowledge provided through the museum would help sanitation experts to deal with the modern civilization’s problems of sanitation. It would also help the manufacturers of toilets systems and equipment to develop the technology further to address the needs of the modern civilization and the future generations. A major part belongs to the increase of knowledge of the researchers who gets to know about the technology of the past era, the drainage system, the kind of social customs regarding sanitation etc. for the students it is of immense help, as it shows them the trends of the past times and early developments in the sanitation. Policy makers are benefitted in the way of getting knowledge about how to administer and legislate in the case of sanitation.
People who like to visit in groups, if they inform the management of the museum beforehand, then the group is provided with complete guidance about the museum. Also, they are guided through the tour of the museum with a trained volunteer for the specific interests of the groups, including sign interpretations.
The development of the toilet system
There has not been much study conducted on toilet systems anywhere in the world, due to inhibitions like – this is something menial, does not require attention, etc. though, the founder of the Museum of toilets has confirmed the views of certain activists and social reformers of the past times and present times who kept on urging people to use proper sanitation facilities. Such scholars also kept urging to their respective governments about the need to develop proper facilities for public toilets. In Roman civilization and Harappan civilization, toilet facilities were very well-developed, which has been confirmed from archaeological excavations. There have been stories about the cures of diseases through human and animal excreta. How can the governments and people think this issue is a trivial issue when it is of such importance. A Proper system of defecation is directly connected with hygiene.
If the hygiene of any country is to be maintained, then both public toilets and household toilets are to be developed. The population of every country has faced problems of open defecations and government has come out with solutions as well. India has also faced this problem for a long period. During the British rule, India was considered as an unhygienic country because open defecation had become a norm here. Moreover, people were not willing to accept change in this habit. Now has the time come when India should change this habit by rooting out this problem from its nib. Sulabh International has been successful in meeting the challenge of development of toilets all over the country, specifically in rural areas. Still, a lot has to be improved as the impoverished population in some remote areas has not been able to free itself from the unhygienic habits of open defecation due to various factors.
When looked upon from a larger context, it is not only India that has been facing such issues, but there have been many countries in the world that have faced the problem of open defecation in the past and are now enabled to live a healthier life by accepting the hygienic trends of sanitation.
© Sheela Joby