The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







The Swastika in traditional form
The Swastika in traditional Hindu form

The swastika is an equilateral cross with its arms at right angles to either the right or left. It is traditionally oriented so that a main line is horizontal, though is occasionally found at a 45-degree angle to this, with the Hindu version typically featuring a dot in each quadrant.

The history of the swastika goes back to the origins of the Eurasian continent. The swastika is an important symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, among others, and was also used in Native American and Jewish faiths prior to World War II. By the early twentieth century it was regarded worldwide as symbol of good luck and auspiciousness. A swastika was featured on the spine of books by Rudyard Kipling and the symbol was used by Robert Baden-Powell's Boy Scout movement.

Since the rise of the Nazi Party, the swastika has been associated with fascism, the Second World War and the Holocaust in much of the world. Prior to this, it was particularly well-recognized in Germany from the archaeological work of Heinrich Schliemann, who discovered the symbol in the site of ancient Troy. Nazi use derived partly from earlier German volkisch nationalist movements, for which the swastika was a symbol of good fortune, and from the Nazis' interpretation that the "Aryans" (in the diffuse meaning of Nazi ideologists like Alfred Rosenberg) were a white master race originating in northern Europe. The swastika remains a core symbol of Neo-Nazi groups. Since the end of the Second World War, there have been failed attempts by individuals and groups to convince Westerners to look past the swastika's recent association with the Nazis to its prehistoric origins.


Etymology and alternative names

The word swastika is derived from the Sanskrit svastika, meaning any lucky or auspicious object, and in particular a mark made on persons and things to denote good luck. It is composed of su- (cognate with Greek ευ-), meaning "good, well" and asti a verbal abstract to the root as "to be"; svasti thus means "well-being". The suffix -ka forms a diminutive, and svastika might thus be translated literally as "little thing associated with well-being", corresponding roughly to "lucky charm", or "thing that is auspicious"ManWoman has attempted to rehabilitate the "gentle swastika".

Religion and mythology


Typical swastika.
Typical Hindu swastika.

The swastika is found all over Hindu temples, signs, altars, pictures and iconography in India and Nepal, where is remains very popular. It is considered to be the second most sacred symbol in Hinduism, behind the Aum symbol.

In Hinduism, the two symbols represent the two forms of the creator god Brahma: clockwise it represents the evolution of the universe (Pravritti), anti-clockwise it represents the involution of the universe (Nivritti). It is also seen as pointing in all four direction (North, East, South and West) and thus signifies stability and groundedness. Its use as a sun symbol can first be seen in its representation of Surya, the Hindu lord of the Sun. The swastika is considered extremely holy and auspicious by all Hindus, and is regularly used to decorate all sorts of items to do with Hindu culture. It is used in all Hindu yantras and religious designs. Throughout the subcontinent of India it can be seen on the sides of temples, written on religious scriptures, on gift items, and on letterhead. The Hindu God Ganesh is closely associated with the symbol of the swastika.

Amongst the Hindus of Bengal, it is common to see the name "swastika" applied to a slightly different symbol, which has the same significance as the common swastika, and both symbols are used as auspicious signs. This symbol looks something like a stick figure of a human beingNordland Reenactors".)

Taboo in Western Countries

Because of its use by Hitler and the Nazis and, in modern times, by neo-Nazis and other hate groups, for many people in the West, the swastika is associated primarily with Nazism, fascism, and white supremacy in general. Hence, outside historical contexts, it has become taboo in Western countries. For example, the German postwar criminal code makes the public showing of the Hakenkreuz (the swastika) and other Nazi symbols illegal and punishable, except for scholarly reasons.

The powerful symbolism acquired by the swastika has often been used in graphic design and propaganda as a means of drawing Nazi comparisons; examples include the cover of Stuart Eizenstat's 2003 book Imperfect Justice ,One of the world's great symbols strives for a comeback

  1. ^  Notes on the etymology and meaning of Swastika
  2. ^  [28]
  3. ^  Diagram with the proportions of the Nazi swastika
  4. ^  Sayagata 
  5. ^  Amiens Cathedral
  6. ^  Tockington Park Roman Villa
  7. ^  Shubho Nabobarsho
  8. ^  Ein Gedi: An Ancient Oasis Settlement
  9. ^  CJK Unified Ideographs
  10. ^  The History of an Ancient Human Symbol
  11. ^  The Fleur-de-lis and the Swastika
  12. ^  House of Commons Hansard Debates for 12 Jun 1996 (pt 41)
  13. ^  From Swastika to Thunderbird
  14. ^  History of the 45th Infantry Division
  15. ^  Order of the New Templars 1907
  16. ^  The flag of the Reichsbund Deutsche Jšgerschaft
  17. ^  Centred vs Offset Disc and Swastika 1933-1945
  18. ^  The flag of the 'Hitler Jugend
  19. ^ The Reichskriegsflagge)
  20. ^ 
  21. ^  Conversation with Stuart E. Eizenstat
  22. ^  BBC News: Swastika film poster escapes ban
  23. ^  Glossary of terms for the Society for Creative Anachronism
  24. ^  CBC News: Toy pandas bearing swastikas a cultural mix-up
  25. ^  City of Glendale report on the lamppost issue
  26. ^  Knowledge Base Article 833407
  27. ^  BBC News: Papers shocked at Harry stunt

Further external links

Last updated: 10-23-2005 10:50:53
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