Even this comes from India

When you next encounter everything-comes-from-India Auntie or Uncle, you can turn their fixation to your advantage.

Beti: Auntieji, you know, there is another area where India was ahead of the rest of the world.
Auntie: Yes, beti?
Beti: And it was mentioned in the Vedas, ages before any western source mentioned it.
Auntie: Yes yes, that is how it always is. What area of scientific advancement are you talking?
Beti: Auntieji, I am referring to kissing. Snogging. Mouth Mashing. Tonsil Field Hockeying. Two desis each kissing the apple sequentially in a Bollywood movie, except there is no apple and there was no Bollywood.
Auntie: Hai Ram! Chi!
Beti: But it’s in the Vedas, Auntieji! The very first written references to kissing. It was written about, in Sanskrit, long before it was written anywhere else! How can it be a bad thing then?

Unsurprisingly, this news isn’t something that is coming out of a BJP research center, it’s coming from Texas A&M University anthropologist Vaughn Bryant who says:

The earliest written record of humans’ kissing appears in Vedic Sanskrit texts — in India — from around 1500 B.C., where certain passages refer to lovers “setting mouth to mouth,” [Link]

“References to kissing did not appear until 1500 BC when historians found four major texts in Vedic Sanskrit literature of India that suggested an early form of kissing. There are references to the custom of rubbing and pressing noses together. This practice, it is recorded, was a sign of affection, especially between lovers. This is not kissing as we know it today, but we believe it may have been its earliest beginning. About 500 to 1,000 years later, the epic Mahabharata, contained references suggesting that affection between people was expressed by lip kissing. Later, the Kama Sutra, a classic text on erotica, contained many examples of erotic kissing and kissing techniques.” [Link]

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p>Of course, for all I know, teenagers were arrested for kissing in public then too

More than 100 couples were arrested in Mumbai for being found by police in “objectionable positions,” including kissing and holding hands. “We have no objection to them sitting and talking but kissing and other things, of which I cannot speak, are not. They can hire a room. This is India, not England,” said retired government officer Ramesh Dhatrak, 65. [Link]

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p>Personally, I think everybody should chill out and have some dark chocolate, despite the objections of some. Chocolate, while Indian, did not originally come from the subcontinent. Maybe these puritans are really proponents of foreign things over domestic .

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p>Related posts: Do Not Touch!, Delhi sex clip portends sexual revolution? Everyone’s having sex except you the youths! they are having the SEX! No sex please, we’re Indian, Might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb, ShameShame! Paint a Vulgar Picture, Shilpa.

80 thoughts on “Even this comes from India

  1. It seems perfectly logical for an anthropology researcher to concern himself with social customs, including kissing.

    I guess that brings forth a more interesting question of where in such branches of science one draws the ‘gone too far to be of any use’ line. I guess it’s not immediately obvious to me what learning about kissing mores of ancient people is going to achieve except bragging rights and maybe someone can throw more light.

  2. I guess it’s not immediately obvious to me what learning about kissing mores of ancient people is going to achieve except bragging rights and maybe someone can throw more light.

    The ways in which humans express emotion and affection are intimately connected with their social mores, and can often help paint a picture of a culture in ways that just history and literature do not. Also, sexual practices have always been the province of anthropology studies.

    And that’s basically the extent to which I can speak on the subject!

  3. Hema #52

    And you do speak wisely, I agree with what you said.

    Plus on second thoughts, it does not make sense to judge everything done for the pursuit of knowledge and learning on the basis of a quantifiable practicality and utility.

  4. They have researchers working around the clock trying to figure out how to make the perfect seedless watermelon.

  5. The ways in which humans express emotion and affection are intimately connected with their social mores, and can often help paint a picture of a culture in ways that just history and literature do not. Precisely. Anthropology is certainly an area where the Vedas can be used.

    In fact, because of various problems (see comment #39, or better yet, read the history books), the Vedas are, essentially, ‘unsatisfactory’ as ‘historical source material’.

  6. For what it’s worth, my bit on how readily Indians kiss – I went strolling through a park in central Kolkata a couple of months ago and was, ahem, shocked to my prudish ABCD toes. I mean, the place was crowded – no, the place was stuffed, crammed, overflowing – with young couples in various stages of clinch. I started to get extremely uncomfortable mid-walk. Everywhere I looked, whether it be at a bush, a tree, a bench, there was a cluster of couples groping and necking. In some cases, there were four or five couples all gathered in a little grove of bushes. All of the couples were clothed, of course, but some of them looked like they were doing a lot more than kissing. The only place I could have looked without feeling like a voyeur would have been the sky.

    No one got arrested. There were police hanging out right outside the park (maybe they like the view).

    Amitabh – I’m so impressed you remember those verses! They’re from a well-known folksong entitled Ami Ek Jajabar that goes ‘ami ek jajabar, bhulechhi nijjer ghar’ – my rough translation: I’m a gypsy, I’ve forgotten my own home. Perhaps there are bengalis out there who can translate it better. The song’s about a man who travels the world.

  7. DQ, I was just reading an article in the Economist about the moral police in India and these lines made me crack up:

    Illicit lovers also favour protected monuments and ruins, where an entrance fee can buy a little privacy. At Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial, a peerless example of British civic baroque architecture, this correspondent faced a surprising sight. Under the sombre gaze of Britain’s tubby empress, immortalised in bronze, scores of young couples lay writhing on the lawn.

  8. I’ve been to Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial, as well as the Nandan Cinema complex, I don’t remember seeing any of that mess.

  9. Under the sombre gaze of Britain’s tubby empress, immortalised in bronze, scores of young couples lay writhing on the lawn.
    I’ve been to Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial, as well as the Nandan Cinema complex, I don’t remember seeing any of that mess.

    Maybe it’s a fertility rite performed on special occassions for “Victoria Ma”, whose “tubbiness” is viewed as a sign of fecundity

  10. Everywhere I looked, whether it be at a bush, a tree, a bench, there was a cluster of couples groping and necking. In some cases, there were four or five couples all gathered in a little grove of bushes.

    DQ, were they taking turns with each other? In that case it may have simply been a harmless kissing-yoga class :)

  11. I lived in Mumbai for 12 years, there is nothing I have not seen (and sometimes experienced..ahem;-)) on the beaches, parks, movie halls, shady restaurants with cublices that fit 2, which charges by the hour. Kissing is a decent and honorable act as compared to what goes on when the light is dimmed, sun goes down, and behind the bushes. The next time you see someone resting his or head on someone’s lap, it is not what you think ;-) . Positions and possibilites are endless, fabric provides little hinderance if manipulated the right way.

    The moral police have double standards, when it is convenient, they make a big issue, else they don’t care. Also it helps to keep some small denomination money handy to shoo off the urchins or bribe the nosy kind.

  12. “This is India, not England,” said retired government officer Ramesh Dhatrak, 65.

    i love it!

    i thought it was too cold to snog outside in england?!

  13. “Even This Comes From India”

    ….. You got the “even” right, but where is the “only”?

    Even This Comes From India Only.

    … or alternately…

    Even This Comes From India Itself.

  14. Let’s differentiate between kissing and kissing in public. Indians kiss as readily in amorous situations as anybody else. The debate is about doing the same in public. But public display of affection between the sexes is simply not a part of Indian and other Eastern cultures. There is nothing wrong with that.

    I do think it’s a problem for children to grow up without ever seeing any kind of physical affection between their parents in the home.

    I wouldn’t want to see my parents “making out” – but if I grew up without ever seeing them hug, hold hands, or kiss each other in greeting, or even so much as not even patting each other affectionately on the back or whatever, well, I think it would have adversely affected me and my ideas about man/woman relationships.

  15. Illicit lovers also favour protected monuments and ruins, where an entrance fee can buy a little privacy. At Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial, a peerless example of British civic baroque architecture, this correspondent faced a surprising sight. Under the sombre gaze of Britain’s tubby empress, immortalised in bronze, scores of young couples lay writhing on the lawn.

    Doesn’t “illicit” mean illegal or immoral? Like in the case of a married man with a woman other than his wife? Why would they use the word “illicit” in this case?

  16. “I wouldn’t want to see my parents “making out” – but if I grew up without ever seeing them hug, hold hands, or kiss each other in greeting, or even so much as not even patting each other affectionately on the back or whatever, well, I think it would have adversely affected me and my ideas about man/woman relationships.”

    It might have adversely affected YOU, but to say that it is having a similar effect on the psyche of a billion-plus children being raised, as we speak, by physically non-demonstrative Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese, Japanese, Malays, SriLankans, Indonesians, Arabs and Africans is to say that the westerns way of raising children is the only right way. And that is preposterous.

    Having said that, I would still agree with your overall premise that love between a man and a woman needs to be conveyed to children. But love and affection have very different expressions in different cultures. This is hardly the place to catalog all the various Indian expressions of marital bliss, but hopefully, you have spent enough time among perfectly normal Indian families to have detected a strong presence of love and affection, without the obligatory kissing, hugging, and other overt western gestures such as mommy sitting in daddy’s lap while junior plays with his train set and sissy with her Barbie.

  17. I wouldn’t want to see my parents “making out” – but if I grew up without ever seeing them hug, hold hands, or kiss each other in greeting, or even so much as not even patting each other affectionately on the back or whatever, well, I think it would have adversely affected me and my ideas about man/woman relationships.

    I don’t know if that’s generalizable to everyone. I mean, I didn’t grow up with any expectation that my parents would express their affection physically in any way. I’m almost certain they never even held hands. On the other hand, it was always clear to me that my parents did have affection for each other. For example, my parents have nicknames for each other. As a kid, I thought they were silly, but now I think it’s kind of cute.

  18. PG, I do think it’s a problem for children to grow up without ever seeing any kind of physical affection between their parents in the home. So, according to you, all gay kids born in heterosexual households have ‘a problem’?

  19. For example, my parents have nicknames for each other

    I grew up (mostly) in the desh, and my parents also had nicknames for each other – my father invented one for my mother, but my mother used the nickname his family had always used for him. One form their semi-PDAs took was the following. My father’s job would sometimes take him away for several days to weeks at a time, and when we were kids, my father would always kiss my mother the first thing he did when he got back, whether we were right there watching or not. Later, as we grew up, this stopped. I wish it hadn’t. I think this might have forever affected my sense of ‘how much physical affection and public display thereof’ is just right between men and women. :)

    However, it’s quite clear that my parents were quite off-the-chart in their semi-public displays of affection in front of us kids – from what people are reporting, even more so for middle-class desi parents in the desh.

  20. i thought it was too cold to snog outside in england?!

    It’s never too cold to snog in england!

  21. Risible,

    Now that you mention it, I may have missed the rotations in my attempts to look oblivious….

    Thank God it was kissing yoga and not tantric yoga.

  22. Kissing in public is not a morality issue, in my opinion. I am interested in it purely as a cultural phenomenon. There must be deep seated cultural reasons, beyond a simplistic sexual repression often associated with India, why it is a rarity in India and other Asian societies. I wouldn’t look too deeply in Hinduism for an answer. I am very familiar with Indo-Caribbean Hindus, most of them fairly staunch, including your auntie. However, in their culture, public kissing is not only acceptable but kissing total strangers as a part of greeting Latino style is actually expected. It is obviously a learned behavior, which is surprising considering most of the islands with Indian population were British colonies, not Spanish. Go figure!

    Take into consideration the African influence in the Carribbean when looking for an answer to this.

  23. The next time someone tries to pull the “it’s not in our culture” bit, simply refer them to the story in the Padma Purana in which Arjuna (in a female form named Arjuni) faints at the sight of Krishna’s dangly bits, and the two proceed to get it on. Apparently as the story goes, Arjuna gets thoroughly depressed at the thought of having to turn back into a man, so Krishna tells him that the only way it can continue is if Arjuna shuts up about it, since their oh-so-harsh world will never understand. I’m still planning on using that one of these days.

    Arjuna was not male at that time but female – a different person. I don’t see any homosexuality there.

    Find a reference where two men in male forms or two women in female forms are getting it on…. then you might have a case.

  24. PG, I do think it’s a problem for children to grow up without ever seeing any kind of physical affection between their parents in the home.
    So, according to you, all gay kids born in heterosexual households have ‘a problem’?

    No. Seeing the affection between their parents teaches them how to behave with their own future partners.

  25. I grew up (mostly) in the desh, and my parents also had nicknames for each other – my father invented one for my mother, but my mother used the nickname his family had always used for him.

    It’s a tradition in some regions of India for the husband to give a “new” name to the wife soon after marriage.

    It’s to signify a new identity as a wife.

  26. @ PG: I think it was kind of implied that perhaps the relationship continued after that, implying a possibly homosexual relationship, rather than it being an overt one.

  27. @ PG: I think it was kind of implied that perhaps the relationship continued after that, implying a possibly homosexual relationship, rather than it being an overt one.

    Ridiculous. There are no references in any shastra, either Puranic or Itihasa like the Mahabharat, wherein Krishna is described as having any kind of homosexual relationship.

    However, what you will find is the concept of “gopi bhav”, wherein saints and sages throughout the ages (both male and female) aspire to serve Krishna in an amorous relationship upon the death of their material bodies, liberation of their soul (jeevs are prakruti, or feminine in nature), and the attainment of a spiritual body in the eternal world. That body would be a female one in order to engage in the madhurya-rasa, or the amorous relationship of Lover and Beloved with the Deity Krishna. One cannot engage in the amorous relationship in a male form with a male Deity, hence, the death of the material body and the birth of the spiritual (female) one.

    One who has read even a little bit of “krishna lore” knows this.

  28. PG (#77): THIS I think you are right about. I confess I don’t know a lot of lore, but then neither do the so many people, all with different agendas, who make all kinds of claims about ‘what’s in the Vedas’ or ‘what’s in the Puranas’ or whatever. It’s precisely the lack of real, in-depth knowledge on everybody’s part that allows all kinds of claims (many false) to be made.