This article by Neela Chari gives a detailed background of the Swastika – its significance for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and many other communities, how it got conflated with the hated Nazi symbol, Hakenkreuz, and how this conflation is affecting the legitimate use of the Swastika symbol.
The Swastika is a sacred symbol that has been around for centuries and is used by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and many other communities. This symbol is very popular in Asian countries and is respected and honored. Similar-looking symbols under different names have appeared in the world almost 10,000 years ago. These symbols are all non-violent, and always represent well-being and good luck.
This article aims to provide the reader with background on the history and use of the Swastika symbol to understand better the current criticism of this symbol in the western world. Many critics of the Swastika are well-intentioned, and it is reasonable to assume that once they understand the larger context of the Swastika, they may understand our concerns. Therefore, it is imperative that we become knowledgeable ourselves and share this information widely.
The Swastika is a Sanskrit word derived from the adjective “su” meaning “good,” the verb “asti” meaning “being” with the affix “ka,” which collectively means “one who possesses well-being or prosperity.” The evidence for this is found in history and religions across the globe. For over a millennium, the Swastika was peacefully passed from generation to generation, tribe to tribe, people to people, and nation to nation. Then, in the 1930s – 40s, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party radically altered its meaning for many in the West. Hitler had distinctly crafted his Nazi symbol, which he named “Hakenkreuz” (hooked cross) in his book, “Mein Kompf.” Hakenkreuz was by no means the sacred Swastika in much the same way as the burning cross used by Ku Klux Klan is not the Christian cross. However, despite its clear distinction from the Nazi symbol, the Swastika continues to be associated with the Nazi violence in the West.
As a result of this association, nations, tribes, religions, and people worldwide face uninformed criticism for their use of the Swastika. Restoring the sanctity of the Swastika is very important for millions of people worldwide. We must educate ourselves, actively support the safety of Jewish people, and regain the position of the sacred symbol of the Swastika for Hindus and all the people across the globe.
My Jewish Learning: The Swastika’s Origins. A Jewish perspective on the origin of Swastika and Hakenkreuz
New York Post: Jews, Hindus and Buddhists host event to discuss the meaning of the swastika, A major New York Jewish organization co-hosted an event in New York to debate a subject that most in the New York city assume has long been settled — whether the swastika is good or bad (November 2020)
Elder of Ziyon: A Swastika in a Jewish Newspaper 100 Years Ago. Onetime Jewish paper used swastika before it became associated with the Nazi regime
HinduWebSite: The Meaning And Significance Of Swastika In Hinduism
Stephen Knapp: Swastika: Its Real Meaning
Indian Country Today: Swastika Day Organizers Point to Symbol’s Native Origins
MehtaWorld: Hakenkreuz = Hooked Cross, NOT Swastika
Monidipa Bose Dey, Firstpost: Swastika is not Hitler’s chosen symbol, so why should Hindus take blame for it? (firstpost.com)
Nikunj Trivedi, CoHNA: Wrongfully Accused: The Swastika is not Hitler’s Hakenkreuz
World History Edu: Swastika Symbol: History of its usage and meaning across the world
Hinduism Facts: Swastika, Explains Hindu Roots of Swastika
ThoughtCo: Learn the History of the Swastika
The American Theosophist: The Swastika, December 1975
Seiyaku: Basque Cross and Nkontim Symbol (The Lauburu), Symbols similar to Swastika
T. Wilson, Smithsonian Institution: The Swastika: The Earliest Known Symbol and its Migrations; with Observations on the Migration of Certain Industries in Pre-Historic Times
The Free Press Journal: Swastika Row: Who is Simran Tatuskar and why did she apologise? Simran Tatuskar, a 21-year old student at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, became the focus of criticism when she called for the addition of the Hindu origins of the Nazi Swastika to the teaching curriculum (July 2020)
Adam E. Berkowitz: Hindu Fight to Reclaim Swastika as Ancient Symbol of “Well-Being”, Israel 365 News covers the Simran Tatuskar case
Todd Kaminsky: Kaminsky Introduces Bill To Ban Public Display Of Swastikas, The New York State Senate. Hindu organizations convinced the Senate to withdraw it. (May 2016)
Americans Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD): AHAD Demands that New York State Senate include the Nazi Hakenkreuz and NOT the sacred Swastika in New York school curriculum
HFHR: Outright banning of Swastika will be hurtful: Hindus for Human Rights; Hindus for Human Rights successfully guided the Australian government to not conflate Swastika with Nazi Hakenkreuz (October 2021)
Antonio Blumberg: The Swastika, An Ancient Symbol Of Prosperity, Struggles To Overcome Nazi Connections. Huffington Post writes about the mental anguish of an 18-year-old student, poet, and interfaith activist, whose name happens to be Swastika Jajoo (February 2015)
India TV: US university mulling banning sacred Hindu symbol swastika. George Washington University contemplates a ban on the swastika, a sacred symbol for Hindus and Buddhists, as authorities believe it resembles the Nazi symbol and may hurt the sensibilities of some Jewish students (April 2015)
Robert Manning: Oregon bans Confederate flag, other hate symbols from public schools. A temporary rule will ban the Swastika, among many other “hateful symbols” from the Oregon state’s public schools (September 2020)
Sam Ribakoff: New Assembly bill would expand hate crimes law, equalize penalties. Two Jewish members of the California State Assembly representing the Bay Area, Rebecca Bauer-Kahan and Marc Levine, have introduced legislation that would change hate crime laws by meting out the same punishment for using different “terror symbols,” such as swastikas, nooses, and burning crosses (March 2022)
Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN: Hindu group in US rejects criminalisation of swastika, saying its auspicious symbol was misappropriated by Nazis. Hindu American Foundation defends the swastika as a sacred symbol against the move by the Maryland House of Delegates to pass House Bill 0418 to ban it (April 2021)
OpIndia: India Today displays its Hinduphobia, equates Hindu Swastika to the Nazi Hakenkreuz and Russian symbol of war ‘Z’. Hindu phobic propagandists at India Today vilify the auspicious Hindu symbol of ‘Swastika’ by wrongly equating it with the Nazi symbol, Hakenkreuz (March 2022)
NBC News: South Asian Americans face a complicated relationship with the swastika. Hindus, Buddhists and Jains who grew up in the U.S. say they’ve often had to explain why they use the religious swastika, which at times has even been weaponized against them (March 2022)