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Massage (parimaddana or ucchadana) and limb rubbing (sambahana) were already well-known during the Buddha’s time. Attentive children would massage their aged parents limbs (A.I,62) and sensual massage that stopped just short of being sexual was also known (A.IV,54), a fact confirmed by the Kama Sutra.

The Buddha forbade monks from having massages for pleasure (D.I,7) although he seems to have approved of therapeutic massage. On one occasion he is recorded as having been ‘oiled’ (sinehetha) over several days when he was suffering from a particular illness (Vin.I,279). The meaning of this term is not clear. It may refer to the Ayurvedic practice of administering medicine in oil applied to the skin or to an oil massage.

Massage is still an art, sometimes a performing art, in India. Have a look at this truly impressive performance: