Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The misunderstood Swastika

Recently a news caught my attention, that a Pretend City Children's Musuem decided to put back the Swastika they had on display on a model Hindu home. The swastika was part of a decoration that is hung on the doors of many Hindu families. After protest from a few locals, they pulled it down. How could they have a model Hindu home, without this really ancient symbol?

Swastika is such an auspicious symbol in India that it is drawn (with hand) at every important occasion, wedding, prayer, festival. Every religious book or calendar has it. In any drawing of a deity, the swastika is a must. Shopkeepers have it on either sides of the shop entrance!

But thanks to one event some 60 years back in Europe, this symbol that was revered and held dear all over the world has become the most tabooed word. To dispel this misunderstanding, here are two pictures from an American greeting card that speaks fondly of this symbol. I had found these almost a decade back, but now the internet is providing many more images of its abundant and peaceful use in Western world as well.

Four Ls make a swastika. But that is NOT the real meaning :)

Birthday wish swastika.

The word Swastika, स्वस्तिक, is made from Sanskrit words su + asti = well + being (सु + अस्ति = स्वस्ति) or all be well. the -ka suffix makes it a symbol, i.e. swastika is one that symbolizes well being, brings well being, good fortune.

Next to OM ॐ, swastika is the most ubiquitous and revered symbol in one of the oldest living tradition of India.

Below, on the boon and fearlessness-bestowing right hand of "lord ganesha" (गणेश) is the swastika. On his trunk is the symbol OM. Lord Ganesh is the most revered and first-prayed-to god (Adi-pUjyam आदि-पूज्यम्) among the various manifestations of the divine force.

Lord Ganesh - first-prayed-to bestows well-being through swastika

The symbol is so ingrained in the art and culture of India, that it is even mingled with the next most 'artified' symbol, that of Lord Ganesh himself. Lord Ganesh is made from so many variety of things and in so many ways that it amazes the mind of any artist. A simple lump of clay, or a beetle-nut can signify Ganesh. So can a coconut. Ganesh have been made of banana leaves, or artfully in simple black and white with Swastika as below.

Lord Ganesh and Swastika combined artfully.

The word 'swasti' appears even the Vedas and Upanishads. It is found in many shAnti-pATha-s (शान्ति-पाठ), including e.g. in the Mudaka Upanishad (muNDaka-upaniShad मुण्डक-उपनिषद्) -

Which roughly translates -
May we hear good with the ears, and see good with the eyes. May our body be strong and healthy, may we sing praises. Indra, who is well-praised, is good for/to us. Pusha (pooShaa, pUShA, पूषा), the all knowing, is good for/to us. Tarkshya (tArkShya, तार्क्ष्य), the all saving is good for/to us. Brihaspati (bRihaspati, बृहस्पति) is good for/to us. Let there be three fold peace.

Here the word 'swasti' is used four times, in lines 3 and 4, as the first word of each half - स्वस्ति

It is good that the Pretend City Children's Museum has woken up to the possibility of dire ignorance, and chosen to honor a tradition that predates script, not just scriptures. For the Vedas were not written, but composed and remembered and preserved and transmitted orally.

Rejoice the symbol of good wishes, well being and favorite of all cultures till about half a century back. Let not our blinding ignorance due to one man take out the anger on this millennia old symbol. After all, the inquisition and witch-hunt of European Dark Ages has not led to any hatred or ban for the cross.

If you do step in India, swastika will of course be in your face all over - from the front of an auto rickshaw to the back of a truck, and even at your office on a festival occasion. Smile,, when you see it, for the well wishes of the universe, from all eight (four arms, and four diagonal corners) directions is being bestowed on you.
Swastika with four diagonal corners.

Some more references to the symbol. These images have been collected from various sites on the internet. Many thanks to the owners -

coronado naval base, san diego

It is only a sign from good luck land.

Good luck sign of a hundred lands - sky and sunset glow!

Even the US flag!!

Kuber yantra with OM and swastika border.

Welcome sign

Dalai Lama

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Anonymous said...


shashi said...

js, those who have misunderstood the swastika don't see the difference at all between hindu or nazi symbols.

take for example the news article about the Pretend City Children's Museum, who pulled down a Hindu swastika from the model Hindu home they had setup to EDUCATE children! if an organization claiming to educate children can't seem to note he difference, what can we say of others.

this site may offer some more information. i personally have no idea of its authenticity, so use your own judgment.

also, please try to avoid all caps in your comments :)

shashi said...

also from

Although the swastika was an ancient symbol, Professor Curry discovered that it was also used sometimes by German National Socialists to represent "S" letters for their "socialism." Curry changed the way that people view the symbol of the horrid National Socialist German Workers' Party. Hitler altered his own signature to use the same stylized "S" letter for "socialist" and similar alphabetic symbolism still shows on Volkswagens.

Dr. Curry showed that many modern myths about swastikas use the false belief that Nazis called their symbol a "swastika." German National Socialists did not call their symbol a "swastika."

Professor Curry showed that many modern myths use a false belief that Nazis called themselves "Nazis." The myths cause widespread ignorance of the etymology of the word "Nazi." Party members called themselves "National Socialists," not "Nazis."

Rajiv said...

Shashi ji,
Thanks for the post.

Swastika was taboo in Europe thanks to Hitler's use of it. But he used reverted swastika. One of my German friends commented on that, "Such a pervert mind!"


shashi said...

rajiv, as mentioned in the comment above, those who have misunderstood the swastika don't see the difference at all between hindu or nazi symbols.

take for example the news article about the Pretend City Children's Museum, who pulled down a Hindu swastika from the model Hindu home they had setup to EDUCATE children! if an organization claiming to educate children can't seem to note he difference, what can we say of others.

Anonymous said...

A very good blog. Excellent post. I knew all that controversy but I hadn't seen before the images.
Greetings from Spain

Anonymous said...

I like the picture of the swastika in Jew town. A place in Cochin where the Indian Jewish community lives.

Anonymous said...

आर्य शशिकान्त, नमो नमः ।
A couple of respondenets above have claimed that the Nazis used the reverse or reverted Svastika. This claim is unfortunately born of ignorance. There are many videos (check the DVD "Occult History of the Third Reich", for example) and innumerable pictures available, where you can see the Nazis parading with dozens of flags bearing proper, i.e. clock-wise and straight - as in India - Svastikas. Along with the normal shape, they also used the clock-wise svastika symbol turned at 45 degrees. Incidentally you can also find the svastikas turned at 45 degrees at thousands of places in India. The third shape of the svastika symbol the Nazis used was the so-called suvastika (the anti-clockwise svastika). This suvastika symbol is also found at many places in India, it being mainly used for symmetry while showing two svastikas in Hinduism; alone it is found rarely in Hinduism. However, it is quite prevalent - more than svastika - in later Buddhhism, especially outside India and also among the Jains of India. Where the Nazi symbol differed with the various svastikas used in India & Buddhist world, was the color,the purpose & meaning of the symbol. The Nazis always used black color, while in India, svastikas of all shapes, orientation and sizes are shown either in red (vermillion) or saffron color of the Dawn (Uṣā).

In short, the Nazis used the same svastikas as used in India, but only with the black color. Both in India of today and the Nazi Germany of yore, svastika is shown as clock-wise and anti-clock-wise (suvastika as some call it) both straight and turned at 45 degrees -- thereby giving total four variations of svastika symbol.

In German, svastika is called Hakenkreuz (Haken+Kreuz = hooked cross). It has also found at dozens of archeaological sites all across the globe and therefore, Hindus+Buddhists+Jains cannot lay exclusive claim on the use of this symbol. What is unmistakable is that the Svastika was always used as positive sign.

Nobody really knows how and why the Nazis chose the svastika symbol. However it is conjectured that because of their false doctrine of Aryan race and the svastika being closely associated with it, they chose it.

Incidentally, the German word for Aryan is "Arier" and the German dictionaries give its meaning as "originally the description of ancient Indians and Iranians (Persians)".

To conclude, the Nazis didn't call themselves National Socialists :-), but नात्स्योनाल झोत्सिआलिस्ट. Nazi (नात्सि) is the abbreviation thereof.

~ Manu
॥ सत्यमेव जयते ॥

shashi said...

@anon, good observation.
check out this site -

It does have some points that are worth knowing. may answer some of your questions about why the word swastika was chosen.

I think that in English speaking parts (UK US etc) saying "Hakenkreuz" would have been a bit difficult. And since the swastika was already in use, the shape, name etc. It was easy for them to pick up on this word than Hakenkreuz. Same for नात्स्योनाल झोत्सिआलिस्ट, it doesn't gel well in English. Names and words do get different pronunciation across languages.

As for "It has also found at dozens of archeaological sites all across the globe and therefore, Hindus+Buddhists+Jains cannot lay exclusive claim on the use of this symbol" - I think among the societies still alive, these three are the only one who still use it for religious purposes.

These are the largest population to use it. Sure, many society living with nature may also be using it if their practices were not wiped out by 'urban' religions, but that doesn't mean Indian religions don't have a claim on Swastika :)

Anonymous said...

Thank God the NAZI's in Hitler's Germany did not pick the Om symbol for their propaganda also otherwise the results would have been obvious. The Indian Jews, which are much older compared to those in Europe, did not associate anything evil to Swastika because they did not have a Holocaust experience.

Anonymous said...

हरिः ॐ!
"Hindu Dharma" is a book, which contains English translation of certain invaluable and engrossing speeches of Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji of Kanchi Kamakoti peetham. Information below is taken from there.
We speak of the "Hindu religion", but the religion denoted by the term did not in fact have such a name originally. In none of our ancient sastras does the term "Hindu religion" occur. Foreigners gave the name “Hindu” to us. People from the West came to our land across the Sindhu River, which they called "Indus" or "Hind" and the land adjacent to it by the name "India". The religion of this land came to be called "Hindu". However it is, "Hinduism" was not the name of our religion in the distant past. Nor was it known as "Vaidika Mata" (Vedic religion or as "sanatana dharma" (the ancient or timeless religion). Our basic texts do not refer to our faith by any name. It dawned on me at once why our religion had no name. When there are a number of religions they have to be identified by different names. But when there is only one, where is the problem of identifying it? "Buddhism" the religion founded by Gautama Buddha. Mahavira founded Jainism, Christianity by Jesus Christ.
Our religion predating all these had spread all over the world. Since there was no other religion to speak about then it was not necessary to give it a name. If ours is primeval religion, the question arises as to who established it? Was it Vyasa, or was it Krishna Paramatma the founder of our religion? But both Vyasa and Krishna state that the Vedas existed before them. If that were the case, the seers who gave us the Vedic mantras are the founders of our religion? But they declare: " We did not create the Vedas. It is true that the mantras became manifest to the world through us. That is why we are mentioned as the 'mantra risis'. But the mantras were not composed by us but revealed to us. When we sat meditating with our minds under control, the mantras were perceived by us in space. Indeed we saw them (hence the term mantra-drastas). We did not compose them. All sounds originate in space. From them arose creation. According to science, the cosmos was produced from the vibrations in space. By virtue of their austerities the sages had the gift of seeing the mantras in space, the mantras that liberate men from this creation. The Vedas are not the work of any human author and are the very breath of the Paramatma in his form as space. The sages saw them and made a gift of them to the world. If we know this truth, we must feel happy that we have the great good fortune to be heirs to a religion that is eternal, a religion containing the Vedas, which are the very breath of the Paramatma.
So with this I understand that the humanity belongs to the ORIGINAL DHARMA by default. Later the others founded Religions for whatever were the reasons at that time. Since the 'Swasti vachanam’ is from the VEDAS, it automatically belongs to the HUMANITY. So positive use of 'swastika' is beneficial and negative will result in adversity as it is with anything in the world. For example using a ‘Knife’.

This is what I learnt from this posting. I do not believe that ‘swastika’ ‘Om’ ‘Geeta’ ‘Vedas’ etc. belongs to any one sect, cult or religion. Who ever want to implement will take ownership. If I say, VEDAS are mine: then I must practice what the VEDAS are teaching at least to some extent. Check the link below to see how the Europeans including Germans are Learning, Chanting, Teaching and propagating VEDAM.

I am sorry if I am off topic. I really like this BLOG as I get lots of information from different learned sources. Thanks for that. With regards to all



Amrita said...

Very enlightening information! Thank you all. Namaste

Amrita said...

Very interesting and informative information. Thank you all! Namaste

amw1066 said...

although i enjoyed the article, i find the following section to be in extremely poor taste: "But thanks to a small event some 60 years back in Europe,..." although the exact numbers can never be known, an estimated ***ELEVEN MILLION*** people were killed in the Holocaust. it's believed that about 6 million of the 11 were jews or 2 of every 3 european jews. i'm not jewish but i'd hardly call the deaths of ***ELEVEN MILLION*** people 'a small event'. especially when we take the time to reflect on the demographics of the other 5 million victims.....roma/romani, homosexuals, people w/physical,mental&emotional disabilities, communists, catholics and slavic peoples.....

shashi said...

amw1066, the use of the word 'small' was satirical, because in the history of India, many more Hindus have been massacred during the centuries of invasions. Western, Islamic historians/travelers have also documented the carnage, so it is not merely exaggeration by Hindus. To highlight that fact, that after so many 'events' against Hindus, it is the Hindu (universal) symbol that gets maligned due to one event. When you look at the history of the Swastika, holocaust is very recent and not unique.

It is not meant to insult or belittle anyone, but things should be seen from other perspectives as well. The article is about swastika, not holocaust.

Daniel Ruth said...

The Germans DID call themselves National Socialists. They never called themselves Nazis, nor Fascists. The term "Nazi" is a slang abbreviation of the first two syllables of the first word "National" (of their entire name "National Socialist German Workers Party") as it is pronounced in German. They never called themselves "Nazis." This misleading use of words ties into the swastika problem. The German socialists did not call their symbol a "swastika." They called it a Hakenkreuz (hooked cross) because it was a type of cross, and they used it to represent crossed S-letters for their socialist dogma, their party (see the new book "Pledge of Allegiance + Swastika Secrets" by the author Ian Tinny explaining the work of the historian Dr. Rex Curry, available on Amazon and Kindle). German socialists always used their symbol in the S-letter direction, and if you see a photo of it another way it is because the photo has either been flipped or it is a photo showing the symbol being viewed from behind (and thus flipped in orientation). There are many examples of similar stylized alphabetical symbolism under German socialsits, including the SS Division, the NSV, the SA, and even the Volkswagen logo (the letters V and W meshed for the word "volkswagen"). People who want to support or rehabilitate the swastika need to stop referring to the German socialist symbol as a swastika. If you do that you are perpetuating the myth and the confusion. The German symbol was referred to as a hooked cross in Germany and elsewhere, but people did not want to defame the Christian cross, so they deliberately began calling the German symbol a swastika (even though German socialists never referred to it as a swastika) in order to defame a foreign symbol, and to cover-up the truth, that it was viewed as a type of cross and as alphabetical symbolism for socialism. Don't perpetuate the lies.

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