India has seen many modernizations over the past fifty years. Roads have been paved, gas stations have sprung up, sewers have been built. But one thing that has yet to change - and will likely withstand change for some time to come - is the Indian toilet. "Western-style" toilets can be found, in the homes of the rich and West-emulating, but in almost all residences and certainly all public toilets the Indian toilet reigns supreme. If you ever plan to visit India, the following information will be vital.

The Indian toilet is, basically, a glorified hole in the ground attached to a drainage system. The hole is surrounded by a porcelain attachment consisting of a slope leading to the hole and footrests. A quick-n-dirty ascii diagram:

__/   \__
|-|   |-|
|-|   |-|
|-| O |-|

Off to the sides are where one places one's feet. Facing away from the hole, one squats and does one's business. After having completed one's business, one fills the nearby bucket with water and (if necessary) washes one's rear - no toilet paper here. One also makes sure that all the remnants of one's business are washed into the hole. It is also usually customary to wash one's feet, too (keep in mind that no one wears shoes in India - it's all about sandals).


  • Squatting slants one's body in such a way as to make bowel movements much easier, and constipation is less of a problem.
  • Washing one's rear with water generally cleans it better than toilet paper, if leaving one's hands less than sanitary. But thats what sinks and soap are for.
  • Western-style toilets break, overflow, and whatnot. These don't.


  • Squatting is very difficult for India's growing senior population, and the houses of old people are more and more frequently equipped with Western-style toilets.
  • The Western toilet is not just a poop terminal - one can sit there for hours, lost in thought. Not in this toilet.
  • If, perchance, one slips or falls, well, that's just disgusting.

To question the origin of this toilet, it is worth mentioning that this garnished hole in the ground also exists in the country of Turkey and is known locally as the Alaturka toilet; as opposed to the Western can-cousin which is referred to as the Alafranga toilet.

Although most public toilets are still fashioned as such for hygienic purposes, the Western toilet has become the prevalent tool of relief in almost all middle class homes in Turkey. Still, a lot of flats and houses do come with a spare Alaturka toilet and it is not as of yet a reason for Turks to gasp when they see one.

As an aside, the cleansing of the rear end by hand with water remains the wrapping-up act of choice. The tradition has been carried over to the adopted Western toilet with the addition of a thin pipe protruding from the back of the bowl. The pipe (taharet valve) can be turned on and off by the use of a valve next to the cistern.

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