Take a pee break!
India's bizarre obsession with urine:
rhinos, tigers - nobody can escape.
Urine is once again on people's minds, after Nitin Gadkari made
public his penchant for recycling his urine to fertilize plants at his
Delhi bungalow. It seems Gadkari collects his urine in containers that
are tipped into 50-litre cans. This in turn is used to irrigate plants
and spur the growth of larger vegetables.As people mocked Gadkari,
Arghyam, an NGO run by Rohini Nilekani in Bengaluru came out in his
support on Wednesday (6) with a paper from the University of
Agricultural Sciences on the benefits of urine.
Pic courtesy: TV Tropes.org
Urine is one of those perennially surfacing topics in Indian media
and it is difficult for a year to go by without multiple references to
urine, whether of humans, cows, rhinos, tigers or elephants, of the
diseased or undiseased kind, medical therapies, recipes for consumption
and more. As a nation, Indians are obsessed. So it wasn't surprising
that this week's news also included an announcement that Rajasthan's
Health Minister Rajendra Rathore had inaugurated a cow urine refinery in
What exactly they will remove in the refining process is unclear.
Extracts from this factory will be used to clean Jaipur's SNS Hospital,
reports said. Rajasthan is of course one of the states more dedicated to
the cause of urine. It even has a cow minister, Otaram Devasi, who was
not present at this inauguration.
We also learned recently that Varthur Lake in Bengaluru had been
foaming suspiciously for months, leading people to wonder if it was
polluted by detergents. The truth lay in its stench. Scientists
announced last week that the lake's foam is from untold litres of old
urine that has been unable to find an outlet. In March, a guard at the
Delhi zoo was arrested for smuggling out rhinoceros urine to take him to
his ailing father. Chinese traditional medicine advocates tiger and
rhino urine for medicinal use. The zoo had good reason to be suspicious.
In 2001, a racket of rhino urine smuggling was exposed at Alipore Zoo
in Kolkata, where rhinos were drugged to make them urinate more and that
urine was sold for Rs 250 per litre.But the real roots of this lie in
1930, again in Calcutta, when the zoo was facing a financial crisis. A
report claims that the zoo management allowed customers to queue up to
watch their undiluted rhino urine be filled and sold - a practice that
brought the zoo back from the brink.Pee in powerGadkari joins a long
line of politicians convinced that their urine or cow urine is a
miraculous substance that can do anything from cure diseases to filling
Former Prime Minister Morarji Desai, for instance, regularly consumed
his own urine and attributed his long life to it. Ajit Pawar in 2013
controversially asked at the height of the drought that year if he
should fill the Ujjani dam in Solapur by urinating in it. He might have
been sarcastic (or drunk, though he denied it), but that did not prevent
a universal panning of his remark. Cow urine has had a more illustrious
and widespread set of followers, including Mohandas Gandhi, who
advocated drinking it regularly.
Now championed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in modern times,
cow urine is regularly hailed as everything from being a medical miracle
that can cure cancer to India's next popular drink in the form of soda.
Hapless government workers in Delhi have been threatened with floors
cleaned (or purified, reports were not clear) with cow urine.
There seems to be a difference between how people view faeces and
urine. Cow urine and dung is popular with caste Hindus because of their
belief in the holiness of the cow. But while the excreta of bovines
might be considered sacred, human excreta is still very much subject to
the rigours of caste, as the continuing prevalence of manual scavenging
shows. Human urine seems to have escaped the strictures of purity,
perhaps because a Sanskrit text, Damar Tantra exalts the practice. That
said, urine is still used as a weapon of humiliation. Cases abound.In
Krishnagiri in north Tamil Nadu, a group of non-Dalits attacked and
urinated in the mouth of a 20-year-old Dalit attending a temple festival
Pee for all
In 2012, Osmania University in Hyderabad saw a minor riot break out
after students held a beef and pork festival there. At a smaller version
of the festival a few months before that, protesters emptied bottles of
urine into the food.
A year after the Khairlanji massacre in 2006, a zilla parishad
teacher in the village was booked for sprinkling cow urine to "purify"
OBC and Scheduled Caste students. The teacher compared the ritual to
celebrating Ambedkar Jayanti or doing Saraswati Pooja.
The fixation is not limited to Hindus, or even India for that matter.
An aspiring election candidate in New Zealand, Joe Glenn, was dropped by
his party after he said on national television that drinking his own
urine had helped him to cure his arthritis.
Closer home, Sri Lanka's former Minister of Public Relations and
Public Affairs also admitted to drinking his own urine. Unlike others
who drank it neat, Mervyn Silva said he diluted his with water.India,
however, continues to lead the world in this matter. The world's first
conference on Urine Therapy was held in Goa in 1996 and attended by
around 100 people.
The largest delegation from a country outside India was Germany,
which had 28 practitioners. One such foreign votary is Harald Tietze, a
German author of books on papaya, the healing fruit and kombucha, the
miracle fungus. Urine, he says, is holy water, used extensively by
ancient cultures across the world. He draws from Damar Tantra to explain
Shivambu, the ingestion of one's own urine and how the appreciation of
one's own urine is akin to that of appreciating the tart scent of cheese
for the first time.Appropriately, he calls his urine the "water of life"
and others "holy water".
Pee to cure
There is one confirmed medical substance that can be extracted from
urine, urokinase. This has spurred a low key but very prevalent business
of human urine used in medicines. An obscure text called Chumbak
Chikitsa Ka Saral Adhyayan while expounding on the benefits of urine
therapy also claims that a Hyderabad-based marketing company has been
collecting urine from economically underprivileged pregnant women there.
They sell these capsules to buyers in Japan and Switzerland, which, the
text seems to suggest, makes the practice better.
An odd fact emerges from this. Between June 2013 and 2014, Bangalore
Air Cargo received around 110 ml of human urine from the United Kingdom,
amounting to around $4,200.
Given the relatively small quantity, it is likely this was used for
medical testing rather than consumption, but there is no explanation of
how or why it was valued that high.