History

Toilet is part of history of human hygiene which is a critical chapter in the history of human civilization and which cannot be isolated to be accorded unimportant position in history. Toilet is a critical link between order and disorder and between good and bad environment.

In my own country i.e. India, how can any one ignore the subject of toilet when the society is faced with human excretions of the order of 900 million liters of urine and 135 million kilograms of fecal matter per day with totally inadequate system of its collection and disposal. The society, thus, has a constant threat of health hazards and epidemics. As many as 600 out of 900 million people do open defecation. Sewerage facilities are available to no more than 30 per cent of population in urban areas and only 3 per cent of rural population has access to pour flush latrines.

Seeing this challenge, I think the subject of toilet is as important if not more than other social challenges like literacy, poverty, education and employment. Rather subject of toilet is more important because lack of excremental hygiene is a national health hazard while in other problems the implications are relatively closer to only those who suffer from unemployment, illiteracy and poverty. I thus view a study of the history of toilet an important subject matter.

As long as man did not have an established abode, he did not have a toilet. He excreted wherever he felt like doing so. When he learnt to have a fixed house, he moved toilet to courtyard and then within his home. Once this was done, it became a challenge to deal with smell and the need was felt to have a toilet, which can intake human wastes and dispose these of out of the house instantly and, thus, help maintain cleanliness. Man tried various ways to do so i.e. chamber pots, which were cleaned manually by the servants or slaves, toilets protruding out of the top floor of the house or the castle and disposal of wastes in the river below, or common toilets with holes on the top and flowing river or stream underneath or just enter the river or stream and dispose of the waste of the human body. While the rich used luxurious toilet chairs or close stools the poor defecated on the roads, in the jungle or straight into the river.

It was only in the 16th century that a technological breakthrough came about and which helped the human beings to have clean toilets in houses. This breakthrough did not come about easily and human race had to live in unsanitary conditions for thousands of years. For all to know the history of toilet we have established in New Delhi the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets with the help of curators like Dr. Fritz Lischka from Austria and 80 to 90 other professionals around the world. The museum traces history of toilet for the last 4500 years.