Geometrical figure and ancient religious icon in the cultures of Eurasia

The swastika symbol, 卐 (right-facing or clockwise) or 卍 (left-facing, counterclockwise, or sauwastika), is an ancient religious icon in the cultures of Eurasia. It is used as a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Indian religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Hindu swastika

In the Western world, it was a symbol of auspiciousness and good luck until the 1930s when the right-facing tilted form became a feature of Nazi symbolism as an emblem of the Aryan race. As a result of World War II and the Holocaust, many people in the West still strongly associate it with Nazism and antisemitism. The swastika continues to be used as a symbol of good luck and prosperity in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain countries such as Nepal, India, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, China and Japan. It is also commonly used in Hindu marriage ceremonies.


  • When I was a schoolboy in England, the old bound volumes of Kipling in the library had gilt swastikas embossed on their covers. The symbol's 'hooks' were left-handed, as opposed to the right-handed ones of the Nazi hakenkreuz, but for a boy growing up after 1945 the shock of encountering the emblem at all was a memorable one. I later learned that in the mid-1930s Kipling had caused this 'signature' to be removed from all his future editions. Having initially sympathized with some of the early European fascist movements, he wanted to express his repudiation of Hitlerism (or 'the Hun,' as he would perhaps have preferred to say), and wanted no part in tainting the ancient Indian rune by association. In its origin it is a Hindu and Jainas symbol for light, and well worth rescuing.
  • This reversal of the swastika's meaning, from a sign of luck (always depicted on the hand of opulent Ganesh) to a sign of evil, is somewhat like the story of the Christian image of the devil : he is depicted with buck's horns, a clear reference to the horned god of Paganism (like the Pashupati on one of the Indus seals). The positive imagery of Paganism got integrated into Christian imagery, but then as the symbol of evil. Now that we are no longer bound by the compulsions of the missionary project, we may clear the horned god, as well as the swastika, of the evil aura with which outsiders have covered them... I think it is a matter of sensitivity to display those swastikas only in very modest ways, for as long as people who have lived through the horrors of the Nazi regime are with us... some time in the next century the Swastika may regain its rightful place as a profound and timeless symbol, untainted by the accidental and misconceived association with Nazism.
    • Elst, Koenraad. Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society (1991)
  • Contrary to what Indian secularists would like to insunate before ignorant Western press correspondents, Hindus have never strayed from the traditional use and interpretation of the swastika, and never allowed it to be tainted by the misunderstandings of semi-literate political agitators in Europe.
    • Elst, K. (2010). The saffron swastika: The notion of "Hindu fascism". p 942
  • The svastika, commonly used as an aniconic representation of the Buddha, is also homologous with the wheel. If the svastika is compared with the figure of the cross inscribed within a circle, the basic equivalence of the two symbols is apparent, the rotation of the wheel being indicated in the first case by the circumference of the circle and in the svastika by the lines at right angles to the four arms of the cross, which are to be thought of in the manner of ribbons streaming in the wind. Like the wheel, the svastika represents movement about a fixed and unmoving axis and, like the wheel, it is a symbol of the generation of universal cycles from a forever-Present Centre. It represents the generation of currents of energy, and is a symbol of the action of immutable Principle, the "unmoved mover", within manifestation.

External linksEdit

  •   Encyclopedic article on Swastika at Wikipedia
  •   Media related to Swastikas at Wikimedia Commons