The Mahabharata, an epic poem written 3,000 years ago, is believed to include the first written description of mouth-to-mouth kissing. But anthropological studies done over the past century in India and elsewhere in Asia showed that kissing was far from universal and even seen as improper by many societies, said Elaine Hatfield, a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii.
Sanjay Srivastava, a professor of sociology at the Institute of Economic Growth at Delhi University, said: “Until recently, kissing was seen as Western and not an Indian thing to do. That has changed.”…
…A pivotal screen kiss reflected the changing romantic landscape here. Kissing scenes were banned by Indian film censors until the 1990s, and Shah Rukh Khan, a Bollywood heartthrob who is one of the world’s biggest movie stars, has been teasing Indian audiences in dozens of films since then by bringing his lips achingly close to those of his beautiful co-stars. But his lips never touched any of theirs until he kissed the Bollywood bombshell Katrina Kaif in “Jab Tak Hai Jaan,” which was released in December 2012.
Mr. Khan tried to soften the impact by saying in a published interview that his director made him do it. But the cultural Rubicon had been crossed.
“That kiss was an incredibly important moment,” Dr. Srivastava said. “Shah Rukh Khan defines what is mainstream. If he does it, it becomes acceptable.”
Kissing’s rise here may also reflect the growing power of young women in deciding who to marry, said Debra Lieberman, an assistant professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Miami. In many cases, “women are now able to select mates without having to negotiate as much with family members,” Dr. Lieberman said.
And Dr. Avdesh Sharma, a psychiatrist practicing in New Delhi, said that his younger female patients are far more insistent than their mothers were that their emotional needs be met. That often involves kissing, he said…
…Prakash Kothari, the founder of the department of sexual medicine at Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College in Mumbai, said that his female patients are much more demanding than they once were.
“For years, most Indian men used sex with their partners as a kind of sleeping pill, and few devoted any time to foreplay,” Dr. Kothari said. “Now, many women are able to ask for what they want.”