India’s earliest sanitation systems date back to 2600 BC, during the Indus Valley Civilisation as excavations have shown. Yet the country and its citizens knowingly or unknowingly propagate the ideologies of British India when it comes to eradicating open defecation. That is, until recently.
Sacrosanct in ancient India
From the time of the Indus Valley Civilisation to British India, India witnessed the rise and fall of several imperial powers and dynasties, and with them their own practices and principles of sanitation. For instance, the Vedic Aryans had brick homes with water tanks, but the toilets were built outside. In the Kushana empire’s city of Chirand (in modern-day Bihar), open defecation was prohibited. Excavation of the ancient city revealed a well-planned drainage system with soak pits.
The Gupta dynasty and its cities were initially characterised by a haphazard settlement pattern where open defecation was a daily routine. Eventually sanitation became a concern of the state in the court of Chandragupta Maurya and toilets were constructed inside housing units. Those who defecated in the open were penalised. The practice continued during the Mughal rule, but in some parts of the empire open defecation became common.
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