I was surprised to read we Indians invented the kiss. Indians were apparently smooching as long ago as 1500 BC. The Greeks picked up the habit when Alexander the Greek conquered Punjab in 326 BC; they passed it on to the Romans, who spread it throughout the western world. How did the Celts and the Goths and the other Europeans show their love before the Roman invasion? I wonder.
But once they started kissing, they never quit. It’s the Indians who turned shy. One hardly sees Indians kissing in public. There was a time when Indian movies did not show lovers kissing, instead they danced around trees! So I was surprised when I read this in a New York Times article which was reprinted yesterday in The Straits Times in Singapore:
"Vaughn Bryant, an anthropologist at Texas A&M, has traced the first recorded kiss back to India, somewhere around 1500 B.C., when early Vedic scriptures start to mention people "sniffing" with their mouths, and later texts describe lovers ‘setting mouth to mouth’. From there, he hypothesizes, the kiss spread westward when Alexander the Great conquered the Punjab in 326 B.C.
"The Romans were inveterate kissers, and along with Latin, the kiss became one of their chief exports."
I wonder how, from the earliest kissers, we regressed into a tongue-shy people unlikely to lock lips in public. It was a big change from the sexual liberation seen in ancient Indian sculptures. The sexual excesses might have provoked a cultural backlash, but society might have grown more conservative also with the coming of the Muslims. The Muslims enriched art and culture. They built the Taj Mahal. The finest Indian cuisine is Muslim. But Muslims are conservative. And their influence was bound to be felt on the rest of the country, as they were the rulers too.
But India was later conquered by the British, who did kiss in public; so why didn’t we follow their example? I don’t know. One possible reason: India spent centuries under Muslim rule, while the British Raj lasted less than 200 years.