Sulabh International Museum of Toilets

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In a quiet courtyard in the suburbs of New Delhi, inside a low-slung concrete building, the assistant curator and guides of Sulabh International Museum of Toilets eagerly awaits for visitors. The museum is small, with just one long room, but it’s possibly the world’s only toilet museum, and it’s location in the Indian capital is all the more important.

Hygiene and sanitation is one of India’s most pressing issues. An astonishing 60% of the country’s 1.2 billion people defecate in the open because they do not have access to safe and private toilets. The numbers were probably worse in 1970 when Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, a humanitarian and social worker, introduced pay-to-use public toilets in a small village in Patna, Bihar. At first the people laughed at his idea, but now over 15 million people across the country use public toilets constructed by Sulabh International, a non-profit he founded.

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Photo credit: www.sulabhtoiletmuseum.org

Sulabh International’s mission is to promote safe sanitation habits and provide public toilet facilities throughout India. It builds and maintains hundreds of public toilets in major cities, including those outside tourist attractions such as the Red Fort in Delhi and the Taj Mahal in Agra, as well as towns and villages across the vast nation. With 50,000 volunteers devoted to the cause, Sulabh International is India’s largest nonprofit organization.

The museum, located in the offices of the organization, traces the history and development of toilet system around the world from the brick commodes of the ancient Harappan settlement near Pakistan, five thousand years ago, through the Middle Ages to the modern day toilet with electrically controlled flush system, through a series of privies, chamber-pots, toilet furniture, bidets and water closets, accompanied by a healthy number of images, drawings, photographs, and graphics. The museum also provides a chronological account of developments relating to technology, toilet related social customs, toilet etiquettes, prevailing sanitary conditions and legislative efforts of the times.

Among its most prized possessions is a flush pot devised in 1596 by Sir John Harrington, a courtier of Queen Elizabeth I, a gem-studded bided of Queen Victoria, table-top toilets from England and a couple of highly decorated commodes from Austria. Some of the toilets of these period were disguised. There is a French one that looks like a stack of books, and an English one which resembles a treasure chest.

Hanging on the walls are display boards with poems, comics, jokes and cartoons related to toilet humor. But one of its most amusing displays is a full-size replica throne from the court of the French King, Louis XIII, with a hidden commode underneath it. The King used it to relive himself while still in court.

The Sulabh International Museum of Toilets was opened in 1992, and since then it has welcomed some 100,000 visitors.

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Photo credit: Metro.co.uk

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Photo credit: Metro.co.uk

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Photo credit: www.sulabhtoiletmuseum.org

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Photo credit: www.sulabhtoiletmuseum.org

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Photo credit: www.sulabhtoiletmuseum.org

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Photo credit: www.sulabhtoiletmuseum.org

Sources: www.sulabhtoiletmuseum.org / Wikipedia / PRI.org

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1 comment:

  1. I know of at least one more and that is in Prague :). Great fun though!

    ReplyDelete

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