Swastika – The Enigmatic Universal Symbol

Ancient symbols have a sense of mystery and awe wrapped around it – like the Swastika. The initial impression might revolve around its use by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party, which has stigmatized its use in the Western culture. But interestingly, Swastika has been a sacred symbol in various ancient civilizations around the world during different times for over 3000 years, representing life, sun, fire, power, strength and good luck.

In India it remains one of the important religious symbols, mainly used in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. In Jainism, the Swastika delineates the seventh saint and the four arms placed clockwise stand for the four possible places of rebirth: the animal or plant world, hell, earth, or the spirit world.

Swastika is an equilateral cross with arms bent at right angles, all in the same direction, usually the right, or clockwise

Swastika has been a sacred symbol in various ancient civilizations around the world during different times for over 3000 years

In Buddhism a swastika represents resignation, and you will often see statues of Buddha with this symbol on the chest or on the sole of the feet. The throne of the Dalai Lama is decorated with four Swastikas and you find it throughout Tibet and Nepal on everyday items and as a marking denoting monasteries.

While to the Hindus, swastika symbolizes night, magic, purity, and goddess Kali. The Swastika is used to mark the opening pages of their account books, thresholds, doors, offerings, or even carved on the temple facade. We used it on our wedding card as a good luck symbol and it was part of the wedding ritual as well.

The word swastika is derived from the Sanskrit svastika when literally translated from its root, means ‘well- being.’ But it has a negative connotation attached to it due to the Nazi connection. One symbol with two meanings?

Swastika painted on the shaven head of a hindu boy during a initiation ritual

Swastika painted on the shaven head of a Hindu boy during a initiation ritual

Swastika is used on auspicious occasions in India as a sign of good luck and well-being

Swastika is used on auspicious occasions in India as a sign of good luck and well-being, here its used on a wedding card

swastika on the door of a jain temple

Swastika on the door of a Jain temple

buddhist swastika japan

Swastika seen on a Buddhist temple in Japan

Use of Swastika by the Nazis

Nazi Swastika symbol on their flag

Since World War II, the swastika is often associated with the flag of Nazi Germany in the Western world.

The swastika was a symbol for the Aryans, one of the oldest race who settled in Iran and Northern India. They believed themselves to be a pure race, superior to the other surrounding cultures.

Since the Nazis regarded themselves to have Aryan roots, they used the swastika as their symbol.Adolf Hitler stated: “As National Socialists, we see our program in our flag. In red, we see the social idea of the movement; in white, the nationalistic idea; in the swastika, the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man, and, by the same token, the victory of the idea of creative work, which as such always has been and always will be anti-Semitic.” This way the swastika became a symbol of hate, violence, death, and murder, people started associating it with negativity.

Even in the early twentieth century, the swastika was a common decoration that often adorned cigarette cases, postcards, coins, and buildings. During World War I, the swastika could even be found on the shoulder patches of the American 45th Division and on the Finnish air force until after World War II.

The different names of swastika in different cultures

The different names of swastika in different cultures

A universal symbol

swastika symbol used on pottery vase and tomb

Swastika symbol used on pottery Europe – Neolithic (top left), Greek vase in 700 BC (bottom left), and on medieval tombstones in Bosnia

Earliest archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization of Ancient India.
Artifacts like pottery and coins from ancient Troy, dating back to 1,000 BCE, had the symbol on them!

Atena with swastikas, Greece(top left), Carvings on a stone, Eqypt (top right) and Stone from St Tecla’s Hillfort, Spain - Late Iron Age

Atena with swastikas, Greece(top left), Carvings on a stone, Eqypt (top right) and Stone from St Tecla’s Hillfort, Spain – Late Iron Age

Native American Agricultural School basketball team in 1909

Native American Agricultural School basketball team in 1909 had swastika on their t-shirts

The Celts in Ireland and Scotland frequently used to carve it on their tombstones, and the Scandanavians used it as a symbol of ‘Thor’s hammer.’ The Greeks associated the Swastika with the sun god Apollo, and it was painted on clothes, houses, ceramics and many other items.

Among various Native American tribes, the swastika carried different meanings. To the Hopi it represented the wandering Hopi clan; to the Navajo it was a symbol for a whirling log that represented a legend used in healing rituals. But the Navajo tribe, and many others, have renounced the symbol and don’t use the swastika in their artwork again, because of its association.

Swastika symbol on navajo woven blanket

To the Navajo swastika was one symbol for a whirling log (tsil no’oli), a sacred image representing a legend that was used in healing rituals, and was also used as a decorative design on blankets

For the Mayans the Swastika stood for creation and for the Incas and Aztecs it represented the four seasons due to its four arms, the centre symbolizing the sun. The Swastika is found in many Mesoamerican works of art, which shows it must have circulated.

Chinese called it, ‘WAN’ Zi, and its included as part of the Chinese script in the form of the character. It represents infinity in Tibet and China. Japanese named it ‘MAN’ Ji, and is used on Japanese maps (left-facing and horizontal), to mark the location of a Buddhist temple. The swastika, in the Japanese sense, can mean a number of positive things from strength to compassion.

Oceania Christchurch cathedral in New Zealand

Oceania Christchurch cathedral in New Zealand

In Armenia swastika is the ancient symbol of eternal light (i.e. God), while in Finland the swastika was often used in traditional folk art products or on textiles and wood. The swastika was also used by the Finnish Air Force until 1945, but is still used in air force flags.

swastika in saint petersburg army medical college

Swastika seen in St Petersburg Army Medical college

Swastika has been widely used by so many cultures over the centuries, appearing in different forms (clockwise or counter clockwise) with various meanings attached to it. It’s like the universal symbol that has united the world on a common ground which is positivity, leaving aside the Nazi factor.

The swastika symbol had an extraordinary survival, in space and time, having reached the present day. Some might even argue that it remained deeply inside in what CG Jung called the “collective unconscious,” that is, the supposed part of the mind that records and conserves the psychological heritage of all mankind.


Swastika, a pictorial atlas
Swastika in Russia
Swastika history

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Bhavika is a nature-loving, spiritual being and co-founder of Fractal Enlightenment, who thrives to help fellow beings re-connect with nature and their inner selves. Thank you for being part of this journey.

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  1. I. - January 11, 2014, 6:57 pm Reply

    None of the above. Svastika is a chakra, seen in energetic body, a vortex of energy/particles in inter-dimension, usually in astral realm. Svastika is implanteted into a student’s astral body by a master. Svastika rotates in both directions, in-taking and out-flowing the energy between space and energetic body. One can have many svastikas in one’s energetic body. Those with the third eye open to that level can see the rotating svastikas in our bodies – if any. Svastika is a necessary instrument for anyone who wishes to ascend from material plane within only one life time. Finally, extraordinary individuae can create one’s very own svastika just by one’s very own will. This is why one may see svastikas drawn on images of buddhas and saints. Cheers.

  2. Vicky - February 25, 2014, 9:01 pm Reply

    Swastika flag designed by Hitler himself, God damn his eternal disgrace, on summer 1920 as his flag movement.
    For the people of Israel the icon indicates the extermination of six million Jews by the Nazi oppressor. Hatred of Israel was one of his major elements plans.
    Hitler’s name remains eternal disgrace in our history.
    I was unpleasantly surprised that you bring a post and talk on the icon if you talked about any other country icon.
    IS there something wrong with you?

  3. Nenad S - March 3, 2014, 7:51 pm Reply

    First dated record is from Vinca culture, located in Serbia.
    It is 8000 years old. The symbols are mostly considered as constituting the oldest excavated example of “proto-writing” in the world; that is, they probably conveyed a message but did not encode language, predating the development of writing proper by more than a millennium.


  4. ChuckO'Tay - March 5, 2014, 4:23 am Reply

    Use and Ab-Use. I wonder about some angry posts. Use and Abuse are 2 sides of the same Medal. Sith and Jedi using the same “force” What is true about the Swastika-Symbol is also true about words like “Socialism” and “Communism”. These words meaning “living social” and “living like an Community”. The Abuse of these words is the restriction of personal freedoms or creating of any kind of dictatorship. I know this from inside of the “socialist” country where I was growing up. I don’t know about any country that really practiced “communism” but I cannot damn the word .
    Other examples: an european nazi-organisation is using an (beautiful) celtic cross and many man and women who call themselves Christians practicing an way of blaming and hurting people.

    For the german nazi-flag: one “dislike”.

  5. Kevin - May 20, 2014, 1:29 am Reply

    It’s intriguing that while millions of people associate the swastika with evil because the Nazis co-opted it, millions more still associate its with it roots of energy and life. May we continue to choose life!

  6. John - June 10, 2014, 4:04 am Reply

    Please do some serious critical research…. 6 million Jews were NOT gassed. There is not one autopsy that proves one person was gassed. There is 0 physical evidence that even 1 person was gassed to death. Only “words” and words as we know are not the truth. The sky is purple. Look at the sky, it is not purple, but I said it was, but that does not make it true.

  7. Tobi - July 20, 2014, 6:47 am Reply

    Danke, das einmal mehr das schöne Symbol der Swastika in Erinnerung gerufen wird. Klar ist es mit negativen Ereignissen beschmutzt worden, aber das Symbol steht eigentlich für das Gute. Hitler hat ja auch geglaubt, er würde Gutes tun…Die Swastika ist nicht nur ein mystisches Symbol, sondern auch ein sehr vernünftiges Symbol, denn es verherrlicht die Proportion an sich. Der rechte Winkel ist etwas sehr menschliches und erinnert uns an eine Welt der sicheren Geborgenheit. Für mich ist es ein gutes Zeichen und dazu noch so einfach zu merken. Es begleitet mein Leben. Ich werde Hitler und seine Taten nicht vergessen. Sie waren zum großteil abartig unmenschlich. Es gibt ja aber noch das Ying-Yang, welches zuläßt, das in allem Guten auch etwas Schlechtes ist und in allem Schlechten noch etwas Gutes zu finden ist. Jedenfalls ist die Swastika, wenn man Hitler ausklammert, ein Symbol für das Glück und das ist auch gut so. Glück denen, die daran glauben !

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