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Published: June 26th 2009
Sulabh International Museum of Toilets
Believe it or not but this museum really is a highlight of any visit to Delhi
Sulabh International Museum of Toilets
I have a soft spot for museums focused on just one thing or a theme. I usually call them "theme museums". For instance, I have visited a tractor museum in Sweden, I have been to an adorable teddy bear museum
in Skagen, Denmark and I have once been a guest at a coca museum
. However, it seems like this kind of museums don't always draw a big crowd. More than once when I have heard of an interesting "theme museum" I find it to be closed when I get there. That was the case with the pasta museum in Rome, the vodka museum in St Petersburg and the Phallological Museum
in Iceland (where they have dried and stuffed penises).
Often these museums are created by a single individual who has a passion he or she wish to share with others. People with a passion can often give you interesting anecdotes and insights into subjects that you otherwise wouldn't have known anything about. I find that if you visit these museums with an open mind you get rewarded.
In Delhi you can find a very odd "theme museum". It's a museum about toilets. The museum is situated in one large room
This toilet uses heat coils to dry the faeces and urine into ash.
at Sulabh International
Complex in Delhi. In the museum there are texts on the history of sanitation and examples of toilets from various places in the World.
What I find to be the most interesting part of this museum is the various unusual toilets that are on display. Some of these toilets are real functional toilets. One example of such a toilet is the Incinolet. If was developed by an American company and uses heat coils to dry the faeces and urine. What is left after the heating process is ash which can easily be disposed of in the garbage for instance.
Another example is an automatic toilet seat. You only have to push a button and the toilet washes and dries your private parts.
Some other toilets they have in the museum are non-functional replicas. They have a replica of a combination of toilet and royal throne used by the French king Louis XIV
. The toilet is hidden inside the throne and can be accessed by lifting a lid. According to legend it was not unheard of that the king actually held audiences while sitting on the toilet doing what you normally do on a toilet.
You only have to push a button and the toilet wash and dry your private parts.
the museum they have several other examples of toilets disguised as other kind of furniture. One example is a toilet hidden inside a table. It looks like a table but in reality it is a toilet. Another example is a toilet hidden in a couch. It looks like a nice soft couch but in reality it is a toilet. One of the more amusing examples of these "hidden toilets" is a toilet disguised as a pile of books. It looks like a pile of books but in reality it is a toilet. The amusing part of this toilet is that it is a French toilet and the titles of the books are all British. And the obvious message here is of course that to the French British litterature is crap.
The part of the museum that deals with the history of sanitation is mainly illustrated with photos. They show photos from Mohenjo-daro
in Pakistan. Mohenjo-daro was the capital of the Indus Valley Civilization
. This civilization had its heydays at roughly the same time as the Pharaohs in Egypt built the pyramids. One of the more interesting features of the city Mohenjo-daro is the well developed sanitation system. They had public baths,
Throne and toilet
They have a replica of a combined toilet and throne used by the French king Louis XIV. The toilet is hidden inside the throne and can be accessed by lifting a lid.
underground sewer and even some toilets with running water. All this in a city built more than 4000 years ago.
In comparison they have pictures from medieval Europe where the common practice was to dispose of body waste by dumping it into the street. These unsanitary habits continued well into the 14th and 15th century and caused plagues and other diseases to spread.
In the museum they also have an illustration of an Austrian Bucket Man. It is the earliest known example of a portable toilet
. The Bucket Man walked around in the streets with a potty and a large cloak. When a person needed his services he unbuckled the cloak and held it up like a small tent over the potty. The customer hid under the cloak while doing whatever he or she had to do. Today portable toilets look quite different. You can actually see examples of portable toilets on a blog entry we made when we were in Gothenburg
. I promise that it is just a coincidence that this entry is about toilets and that we happen to have photos of toilets on another blog entry.
All over the walls in the museum they have photos of toilets
Toilet hidden inside a table
A toilet hidden inside a table. It looks like a table but in reality it is a toilet.
from all over the World, toilets that for one reason or another are special. One photo is of a Urilift, a night-time only public urinal. This kind of urinal is in use in London and Belfast among other cities. In areas with many nightclubs there is often a lack of urinals at night-time when people are partying and drinking a lot. So in the daytime this urinal is hidden below street level. At night-time the urinal is raised to street level and can be used by the party people when they have to have a leak.
One photo shows the most expensive toilet in the World - a toilet installed by NASA in the International Space Station, ISS, a few years ago. The price of this toilet was 19 million dollars. Part of the reason this particular toilet is so expensive is that every single toilet on earth needs gravity to function. A toilet in ISS must function in weightless conditions, i.e. where there is no gravity.
Near the photo of the toilet in the ISS is a photo of the largest toilet complex in the World. It can be found in the city Chongqing in China. It
Toilet hidden inside a table
You lift the top of "the table" and you find your commode
is called the Porcelain Palace
. It contains more than 1000 toilets and urinals. Many of the urinals are unique, designed by artists specially for this toilet complex.
In the museum they have a section of one wall dedicated to toilets designed with a sense of humour. There is a photo of a urinal with a Guillotine attached to it. For a man the thought of having your penis cut off is a nightmare. So many men would probably hesitate to use that urinal.
There is one photo of a public lavatory where the walls are made from one way mirrors. When you are outside you can't see in but when you are inside you can see perfectly what is happening around you. When you are using it probably feels like you don't have any walls around you at all! According to the museum this toilet is in Switzerland. But that might not be true. They have taken the story directly from the Internet and stories on the Internet have a tendency of not always be totally accurate.
The urinals in Commerzbank in Frankfurt are fitted with windows that give you a splendid view of the city. On the
Toilet hidden in a couch
A toilet hidden in a couch. It looks like a nice soft couch but in reality it is a toilet.
other side of the street, slightly below the room with the urinals in Commerzbank, is a building where another bank has its headquarters. When you use the urinal in Commerzbank you get the illusion of urinating on the other building. That is, it feels like you are pi**ing on the other bank.
In Seoul in South Korea is the headquarters of the World Toilet Association. I can hardly believe that there actually is such a thing as the World Toilet Association. The building where they have their headquarters is actually shaped like a toilet bowl.
The museum is run by the organization Sulabh International. Sulabh International is a non-profitable organization with the aim to provide toilets to people who live in such poor areas that they can't afford to have a normal toilet. The design of the toilets is based on a very simple structure that needs a minimum of maintenance. The toilets are built from whatever local material that is available to make them as cheap as possible. The toilets are eco-friendly and they use natural processes to turn waste into fertilizer. So the toilets they make are also environmental friendly.
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