[ An End to Intolerance (Volume 5 -- June 1997) ]


Nazi Swastika or
Ancient Symbol?
Time to Learn
the Difference


By Chirag Badlani

During a religious holiday of mine, my mother and I went to the store, Staples, to make color copies of a few Gods to give to our temple. On one of the pictures, there was a very religious Hindu symbol, resembling a Nazi swastika, yet the arms faced the opposite direction.

[ Ancient Symbol ]

When we went on line to pay for the copies, the people behind us, not noticing the differentiation between the two signs, starting talking to each other, saying that my mother and I were Nazis. Quite appalled, my mother turned around and calmly explained to them that it was not a Nazi symbol, that the symbol first belonged to many different cultures before the Nazis adopted it. She explained the religious meaning and the people behind us said they were sorry and stated, "Oh, I never knew that."

I have realized that many people, not only in this country, but in the entire world, do not know about the meaning of the swastika and that it was not only the symbol of Nazi Germany.

The swastika is an equilateral cross with arms bent at right angles, all in the same direction, usually the right, or clockwise. The swastika is a symbol of prosperity and good fortune and is widely dispersed in both the ancient and modern world. It originally represented the revolving sun, fire, or life. The word swastika is derived from the Sanskrit swastika which means, "conducive to well- being". The swastika was widely utilized in ancient Mesopotamian coinage as well as appearing in early Christian and Byzantium art, where it was known as the gammadion cross. The swastika also appeared in South and Central America, widely used in Mayan art during that time period.

In North America, the swastika was a symbol used by the Navajos. The swastika still continues today to be an extensively used sign in Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism. In Buddhism, a swastika represents resignation. In Jainism, it delineates their seventh saint, and the four arms are also used to remind the worshiper of the four possible places of rebirth; the animal or plant world, in Hell, on Earth, or in the spirit world. To Hindus, the swastika with the arms bent to the left is called the sathio or sauvastika, which symbolizes night, magic, purity, and the destructive goddess Kali. In both Hinduism and Jainism, the swastika or sathio is used to mark the opening pages or their account books, thresholds, doors, and offerings.

The swastika was a symbol for the Aryan people, a name which, in Sanskrit means "noble". The Aryans were a group of people who settled in Iran and Northern India. They believed themselves to be a pure race, superior to the other surrounding cultures. When the Germans looked for a symbol, they looked for a symbol which represented the purity which they believed they contained. The Nazis regarded themselves as "Aryans" and tried to steal the accomplishments of these pre-historic people.

In Nazi Germany, the swastika with its arms turned clockwise became the national symbol. In 1910, a poet and nationalist Guido von List suggested that the swastika as a symbol for all anti-Semitic organizations. When the National Socialist Party was formed in 1919, it adopted the ancient symbol, the swastika, giving it the worst meaning possible, destroying the good symbolism which the swastika had held for thousands of years prior.

In 1935, the black swastika on a white circle with a crimson background became the national symbol of Germany. The major difference between the Nazi swastika and the ancient symbol of many different cultures, is that the Nazi swastika is at a slant, while the ancient swastika is rested flat.

Today, whenever the ancient symbol is used, it is automatically assumed by most people that it is a Nazi symbol and that the people who use it are Nazis. When the Nazis took the ancient symbol, they erased the good meaning of the swastika, the symbol of purity and of life. The racist people of today further degrade the meaning of the ancient symbol by spray painting the swastika on people houses, cars, and even schools.

In my eighth grade World of Difference class, we watched a video about a high school art student who painted the swastika and displayed it in his school's art gallery. We then had a debate on whether the painting should come down or not. Because most people are ignorant to the fact that the swastika was not only a Nazi symbol, symbolizing death and destruction, the class decided to take the painting down and in actuality, the boy was forced to take it down. This is a prime example of how the world delineates the swastika as a bad symbol, and how the Nazis destroyed the meaning of the symbol by adopting it as their own.

The swastika symbolizes so much more than what the Nazis planned. The swastika existed as a symbol of good fortune thousands of years before the Nazis even existed. The symbol is to many cultures an important one, representing their history and beliefs. The Nazis, by taking the swastika, annihilated the significance of the ancient symbol. Today, the swastika is to most people a symbol of evil, a symbol of demise, and a symbol of ruination. It is extremely depressing to find that although the swastika is a symbol of life, and symbol of joy, it has been made a symbol of evil, something the people of the ancient world never intended it to be.



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