I find thematic museums very interesting. So when I first read about the Delhi’s Sulabh Toilet Museum in the TIME magazine, I kept this place at the back of my mind to visit when I’m in Delhi next. This rather unique toilet museum has featured as the third weirdest museum in the world and that was reason enough for a visit!
Visiting Delhi’s Toilet Museum
I was backpacking in Himachal Pradesh for eight days when I had half a day spare in Delhi before boarding the flight back home. So here I was!
It’s surprising that Delhi’s Sulabh Toilet Museum finds mention in the TIME magazine, but back home, no one knows about the place. I wouldn’t blame the locals though. The toilet museum is at one end of the city in Dwarka. Hunting down the place is no easy feat and you have to look for the Sulabh office instead of the museum.
This museum is not ‘shitty’
Weird museums don’t find many takers. Often such museums are run by passionate people who have a purpose beyond profits. The Sulabh International is a non-profit initiative founded by Bindheshwar Pathak. He’s an innovator of sorts, making low cost toilets with the objective to provide sanitation facilities across India. His centre takes orders to make toilets. You’ll find many of the centre’s innovative and low cost models on display for visitors at the toilet museum.
The museum is housed in a small room within the office. A staff representative will act as a guide and run you through India’s 4500 year old history of toilets in 10mins. Then you’re left on your own to explore the place.
There’s a laboratory where experiments are carried out using biodegradable resources to create models like solar toilet and electric toilet. Another section has replicas, some with interesting stories. I saw a 1920 replica where the upper level of the toilet was used by the management and the lower level by employees. There’s a toilet shaped as a bookcase, built by a French for the English taking a dig at their literature. Other weird replicas include a table-top toilet, wax toilet and sofa cum toilet. The one that stood out is the ‘Rumble Throne‘ of the French Monarch. According to a legend, French King Louis XIV held audiences while sitting on the toilet, hidden inside a throne, so he didn’t waste any time.
I also learnt that John Harrington invented the flush toilet, although Leonardo Da Vinci had a prototype way before Harrington but scrapped it. John Harrington ended his career because he was ridiculed among his peers for this absurd device.
India’s history of toilets
You’ll be surprised to know that toilet etiquette is mentioned in the Manusmriti Vishnupuran (Aryan code of toilets) – 1500 BC India. There was a code of conduct for sanitation like urination to be done at a distance of 10 hands and defecation at a distance of 100 hands from the source of water.
The Indus Valley Civilisation pioneered the toilet culture in 2500 BC. Excavations in the Harrappa area have shown a highly developed drainage system. Dholavira near Kutch is a prominent archaeological site from the Indus civilisation that has been appreciated for its sanitation arrangements and conservation methods like water reservoirs, underground drains, wells, bathrooms and terracotta pipes.
Town planners across the world were impressed with our drainage systems from the Harrapa, and use them as a prototype to build their city drainage facilities. Sadly for India, with the decline of Indus Valley Civilisation, the toilet culture never recovered. And we face the brunt till date…
Travel Guide: Sulabh Toilet Museum Delhi
- The Sulabh Toilet Museum is open on all days except public holidays between 9am and 6pm
- Entry is free inside the Sulabh Toilet Museum and guide facility is complimentary
- Photography is allowed inside the Sulabh Toilet Museum
- The Sulabh Toilet Museum is located in Dwarka, 25mins from the Delhi airport. Four Points by Sheraton is quite close to the airport and an ideal stay option around the area.
- Check the latest accommodation prices in Delhi on Booking.com or Agoda
- Looking for travel gear, packing essentials and books to read on your trip, visit Amazon
- Need guidance to plan your Delhi trip? I’m here to help. Write to me
Check out my stories on other offbeat museums across India
Pune: Darshan Museum dedicated to a Sindhi saint
Lonavala: Wax Museum
Mumbai: RBI Monetary Museum
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