The Swastika

The Swastika is a sacred symbol, a symbol of peace, to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. Prior to Nazi Germany it was also a “good luck” symbol in the west.
The image to the left shows Jackie Bouvier (later Jackie Kennedy/Onassis) as a child dressed in a costume which included a swastika. More images of swastikas can be seen at the “reclaim the swastika” site. These include more pre-Nazi western swastikas, such as 1920s Coca Cola lucky key ring. Hindus still use the swastika today. The picture to the right shows a swastika symbol in a modern UK Hindu mandir. The swastika is behind a Murti of Ganesh, and the swastika is associated with Ganesh and good luck.

There have been moves by German politicians to call for a Europe-wide swastika ban. Naturally this has been opposed by Hindus and others. In my opinion there is no justification in calling for a ban on the swastika. The Nazis used the symbol of the eagle and the cross in addition to the swastik, but nobody has called for a ban on these symbols. In fact it is because these symbols are used in other contexts that they are not automatically associated with Nazis.

Whereas I believe that the swastika should be freely used, there has to be some responsibility by those using it in the west. Because of the association with Nazis, I don’t think it would be right, for example, to have a swastika in isolation as a decoration. People seeing this would probably assume Nazi rather than Hindu connections, and be offended. Using the swastika in conjunction with other obviously Hindu symbols should not be a problem, a swastika on Ganesh’s palm for example could not reasonably be mistaken as a Nazi symbol.

There should also be more education as to the real meaning of the swastika, particularly in schools. The next generation should not grow up without knowing that the swastika is a holy symbol to more than a billion people in the world. Eventually, like the eagle and the cross, the swastika will be reclaimed and seen as a positive symbol, with the Nazi usage being an unfortunate event in history.

19 responses to “The Swastika

  1. I have symbols of the swastika on the enterence of my home. We should not let a group of people like the nazis hijack our sacred symbol and make us feel ashamed of it. The symbol of the swastika has been used for good for 5,000 years and has been associated with racism for 90 years.

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  3. The swastika has already been high jacked, especially when, in the words of WP columnist Michael Gerson,
    “Nazism is not a useful symbol for everything that makes us angry, from Iraq to abortion. It is a historical movement, unique in the ambitions of its cruelty. Those who doubt this uniqueness should read Saul Friedlander’s “Nazi Germany and the Jews, Vol. 2: The Years of Extermination,” which records the Nazi terror with the same meticulousness that the Germans displayed in producing it. Nazism was the “beard game,” in which the beards and sidelocks of Jews were pulled off or set afire before audiences of cheering soldiers. It was the practice of making elderly Jews dance around a fire of burning Torah scrolls. It was whole orphanages deported to death camps, and pits full of corpses, and ancient communities erased from human memory, and death factories issuing a thick smoke of souls, and a mother trading her gold ring for a glass of water to give her dying child.”

    It is still a hateful symbol because recent memory attaches such feelings and emotions.

    • Nobody is disputing that the Nazis were terrible and did terrible things. This has nothing to do with the swastika, however. Remember the Nazis doing these things were also using the sign of the cross and the sign of the eagle. Does this mean that America should abandon the use of the Eagle emblem or Christians the cross?

      If you go into most Mandirs and many Buddhist temples you will see the Swastika used as a positive symbol without any thought of Nazism. You are not going to stop this, so it is better if people are aware of the positive connotation.

  4. 1 info : The Original swastika(as in Sanathana Dharma) is the one that has its “upper pointer” in clockwise direction.

    __ —-> clockwise
    l_ l__
    __ l l

    The nazis used its mirror image…i.e the pointer is in anti-clockwise direction

  5. 1 info : The Original swastika(as in Sanathana Dharma) is the one that has its “upper pointer” in clockwise direction.

    __ —-> clockwise
    __l l

    The nazis used its mirror image…i.e the pointer is in anti-clockwise direction

    • True Hindu,
      That is very commonly quoted, but is actually not true. The idea that Nazis used a backward Swastika was part alliedof WWII propaganda. As you can see from this and other images the Nazis predominantly also used the right-handed swastika.

      At least they usually put it at a 45 degree angle, which helps distinguish it from the Hindu swastika.

      • well ok

        yup 45 degree angle can help distinguish

        Another differentiation is that 4 dots are placed in between each 4 sections of the Original Swastika

  6. In India it is very common to see the Swastika and the Star of David in Juxtaposition.In fact when we draw the swastika,the Nazis are the last thing that enters our mind.I am not sure if I have mentioned this before,but I had an experience with a Jew[I did not know he was one]who was interested in kolams[Hindu floor drawings].I drew a Swastik Kolam as it is usually done to start anything,when he mentioned that as a jew this symbol stood for hate.While I could understand his pain,i nevertheless found it bewildering that people think such ideology of hate exists in India because of our use of the Swastik.I explained to him that it was hitler who misused our symbol and not the otherway round;In our country and tradition ,it is considered auspicious and that it is wrong to associate this with him who misused it for only the past few decades when we had been using it for the past few millenia.

  7. Thank you for bringing this issue to the web. And a very special thank you for the Jackie pic. The west needs a picture which is worth a thousand words, in this case as far as I am concerned it is worth a trillion words. But I digress.

    It is sad, nay pathetic, that the Nazis usurped a sacred Hindu symbol and it is now reviled by anyone who thinks they know anything. Had this happened to another symbol closer to the hearts of westerners we would have seen massive indignation and condemnation (uprisings?) against anyone who reviled their symbol. But it is just as well because there is a relentless and undefeatable strength in the fact that Hinduism (which is NOT a religion but a way of life, and a gateway to true forms of religion no matter their origin), and it encompasses any and every religion that is not a cult. Hinduism has thrived for more than 5000 years, despite WAVES of invaders, centuries of foreign domination, the arrival of well meaning missionaries, mass conversions and those who thought of people of color as the white man’s burden.

    Hinduism (or Vedanta if you will) has done so without seeking (or attempting) conversions, preaching or using any of the instruments used by those who seek to convert everyone to their set of beliefs. Hinduism contains within it any and every faith, because it does not seek to persuade anyone to enter it’s pathways. It is a true democracy of the spirit no matter who you are or what you believe in. And effortlessly confers upon us the true freedoms of our universe.

    Given the preceding the condemnation of the swastika is an excellent example of a brazen and stubborn weakness of a time in history. Of course the Holocaust is indelibly imprinted in the mind of anyone with even a shadow of education and will never be forgotten. And this is especially so because it is a powerful example of the fact that human depravity can so systematically sink lower than what we ordinarily think of as conceivable. A corruption and acute abuse of human capabilities

    The Hindu swastika will survive this condemnation as Hinduism has so much else for thousands of years.

    “Satyameva Jayate” (Sanskrit for “Truth Alone Triumphs”).


    • I am not convinced of this, except maybe at a subconscious level. Really people in the West who are not associated with Sanatana Dharma do associate the swastika with Nazism . It is even misused by well-meaning people, who use a broken or crossed out swastika to symbolise opposition of Neo-Nazis and the extreme right. It is also still used by evil far-right Neo-Nazis.

      I remember when I was very young (three or four) I drew some swastikas thinking that I had invented a pattern. I showed them to my grandmother, who very kindly said “that was very clever but you must never draw them, because they were used by a very bad man called Hitler. If you draw them people will think you like him”. That was a long time ago and my grandmother had lived through WW2, but really not much has changed. A lot of people now know that the Swastika is used by Hindus and Buddhists in a way that is not connected with Nazism (most haven’t even heard of Jains), but still primarily see it as a symbol of fascism and the far right.

  9. @ Γεώργιος Γεωργιάδης| . Namaste. Interesting , you wrote-
    “THE FOREMOST SYMBOL OF THE TRADITIONAL RELIGION (HINDUISM IS A BRANCH OF IT) “. Well whats the core doctrinal philosophy of this traditional religion, is it called sanatana dharma from the Indian region or is it something entirely different. To me you are referring to SD.

  10. ” A lot of people now know that the Swastika is used by Hindus and Buddhists in a way that is not connected with Nazism (most haven’t even heard of Jains), but still primarily see it as a symbol of fascism and the far right.” Sadly Europeans live in a self obsessed existence. For them life begins and ends withing the confines of european history, happenings in rest of the planet is unnecessary detail !!

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  12. Rex Curry, the renowned historian, made many discoveries, and one of his top discoveries was that Nazis used the swastika symbol to represent crossed “S” letters for their “socialism.” Nazis did not call themselves “Nazis” (they called themselves “socialists”), and they did not call their symbol a “swastika” (they called it a Hakenkreuz, or hooked cross).

    Thank you for your interesting article about the symbol. It is a shame that the misnomer “swastika” was applied to the German socialist symbol (the “Hakenkreuz” or hooked cross) to rehabilitate socialism and also to distance the Christian Cross, all by slandering a foreign symbol (the swastika) instead. People who actually want to rehabilitate the “swastika” will explain the above in order to distinguish the “swastika” from the “Hakenkreuz.” Most people who read this will continue to slander the foreign symbol and word (swastika), as if they too desire to rehabilitate “socialism,” to promote/protect the Christian cross.

    In that sense, Hitler did not damage the swastika, as he did not call his symbol a swastika. Other people gave Hitler’s symbol that name in order to damage Hinduism, and cover-up for the cross and socialism.

    The misnomer “swastika” was done (and continues to be done) to cover up Nazism’s origin in American Christian Socialism, via Francis Bellamy (author of the “Pledge of Allegiance” -the origin of the Nazi salute and Nazi behavior) and his cousin Edward Bellamy (author of “Looking Backward” -the origin of the National Socialist movement) – see the work of Dr. Curry.

    German socialists used their symbol to represent crossed “S” letters for “socialism” (the name of their group and what they called themselves) and that is why it was turned 45 degrees from the horizontal and always pointed in the “S” letter direction. It was similar to other symbols of German socialism (i.e. the SS symbol is two “S” letters for “Schutzstaffel”; the VW is a “V” and a “W” for “Volkswagen”; the SA symbol is an “S” and an “A” for “Sturmabteilung”; and the NSV symbol is an “N,” an “S,” and a “V,” for “NationalsozialistischeVolkswohlfahrt”) – again, see Dr. Curry’s work.

    In the book “Swastika the earliest known symbol and its migrations” by Thomas Wilson (published in 1894 at page 771) Professor Max Muller cautioned against the use of the term “swastika” and said “I do not like the use of the word svastika outside of India. It is a word of Indian origin and has its history and definite meaning in India. * * * The occurrence of such crosses in different parts of the world may or may not point to a common origin, but if they are once called Svastika the vulgus profanum will at once jump to the conclusion that they all come from India, and it will take some time to weed out such prejudice.” It is amusing that Muller labeled so many people in the world today as “vulgus profanum” and that his prediction was amazingly accurate.

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