TOILETS ARE SO DAMN HOT RIGHT NOW
toi·let ( P ) Pronunciation Key (toilt)
A fixture for defecation and urination, consisting of a bowl fitted with a hinged seat and connected to a waste pipe and a flushing apparatus; a privy.
A room or booth containing such a fixture.
The act or process of dressing or grooming oneself.
Dress; attire; costume.
The cleansing of a body area as part of a surgical or medical procedure.
Archaic. A dressing table.
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.
The perusal of literature brings home the fact that we have only fragmentary information on the subject of toilet as a private secluded place to help the body relieve its waste. Sitting type toilets in human history appeared quite early. In the remains of Harappa civilization in India, at a place called Lothal 62 kilometers from the city of Ahmedabad in Western India) and in the year 2500 BC, the people had water borne toilets in each house and which was linked with drains covered with burnt clay bricks. To facilitate operations and maintenance, it had manhole covers, chambers etc. It was the finest form of sanitary engineering. But with the decline of Indus valley civilization, the science of sanitary engineering disappeared from India. From then on, the toilets in India remained primitive and open defecation became rampant.
The archaeological excavations confirm existence of sitting type toilets in Egypt (2100 BC) also. Though we have been able to mechanize the working of these toilets, the form and basic format of the toilet system remains the same. In Rome, public bath-cum-toilets were also well developed. There were holes in the floor and beneath was a flowing water. When the Romans traveled they constructed the toilets for their use. The stools were keyhole type so that these could be used for defecation as well as urination. Excavations in Sri Lanka and Thailand too have brought out a contraption in which urine was separated and allowed to flow while the other portion was used at the same time for defecation.
Historical evidence exists that Greeks relieved themselves out of the houses. There was no shyness in use of toilet. It was frequent to see at dinner parties in Rome slaves bringing in urine pots made of silver; while members of the royalty used it but continued the play at the same time. Whatever little information is available about history of toilets in India, it was quite primitive. This practice of covering waste with earth continued till the Mughal era, where in the forts of Delhi and Agra one can see remnants of such methodologies to dispose of human waste.
It was also popular in those days to emphasize on the medicinal values of human waste. Urine was supposed to have many therapeutic values. Some quacks even claimed that by study of urine they could confidently say whether a young girl was virgin or not. Hiroshi Umino reports that a Pharaoh got his eye cured by use of urine of a woman, whom he later married. It was also widely believed that the dung of a donkey mixed with night soil removes black pustules or urine of a eunuch can help make women fertile. For oral care it was advised to relieve oneself on one's feet because the divine liquid gives the required cure. In the Indian scriptures there are stories about the strength of wrestlers. If a wrestler defecates too much, he is relatively weak because he cannot digest all what he eats. Similarly, a perfect saint has no need to defecate, for he eats as much as he can digest or he is able to digest all that he eats. So not to defecate was considered saintly while in other societies not to defecate was considered manly. Blown Bettelheim states that men of Chaga tribe blocked their anus during the ceremony of attaining of manhood and pretended as if they did not defecate at all. This was also one way of establishing superiority over women. The ancient Greeks it is reported had similar beliefs. Swallowing something and not taking them out was considered as source of power and authority.
In Middle Ages, people used to throw excreta from their houses on the roads below.
Between the period 500 to 1500 AD was a dark age from the point of view of human hygiene. It was an era of cesspools and human excreta all around. Rich man's housing and forts in India had protrusions in which defecation was done and the excrements fell into the open ground or the river below. The forts of Jaiselmer in India and big houses on the banks of rivers bear testimony to this fact. In Europe it was an era of chamber pots, cesspools and close stools. So were the toilets protruding out of the castles and the excrements from which fell into the river.