Talking about toilets is thought of as vulgar, even in these modern times. And that’s the case with documentation of our ancient Indian toilets.
The Nobel Prize winner for Medicine (1913) Charles Richet connects this silence to the hatred that arises from noxiousness and lack of knowledge about the use of human waste.
There is very little knowledge about Indian toilets and waste management. On the basis of this knowledge, let’s discuss Ancient Indian Toilets.
Toilets in Harappan Civilization
In the expedition of Harappan civilization, at a place called Lothal, historians found people had water-borne toilets in each house which was linked with drains covered with burnt clay bricks.
There were manhole covers, chambers, etc., to facilitate operations and maintenance. Unfortunately, with the end of the Indus Valley Civilization, sanitary engineering disappeared.
According to the contents of sacred scriptures and other literature, since the beginning of civilization, the disposal of night-soil(defecate) was by a particular caste of Indian Society.
During the Puran period, scavenging started and the work of cleaning and carrying the human excreta was allotted to one of the 15 castes.
During the Kushan period, the cities were well planned with the proper drainage system. After attending to the nature call, it was compulsory to go river or pond for a bath.
Rules related to Defecation
There are some rules written in Indian books. They explain the importance of proper sanitation and management of waste.
Some of them are:
- Urination ought to be done at least at a distance of 10 hands from the source of water.
- Defecation to be done at a distance of 100 hands from the source of water.
- At least 40 hands distance is to be maintained while urinating near a river or a temple and defecation at least at a distance of 400 hands.
- Urination and defecation ought not to be done in running water or a river. Water should be taken in hand and wash to be done away from the river.
Toilets in Medieval History
All the kings, royals, and elite class used to have toilets in special chambers built in the royal palace. These toilets were connected to large septic tanks with a closed lid. When the tank gets filled, then the Shudra(Untouchables) was used to clean and empty it.
When King used to be away from his palace, his servants used to carry small toilets. They used to wash it right after defecation.
There was the practice of covering waste with the earth continued till the Mughal era.