You may know about Egyptian Swastika as a symbol of Hitler’s fascism. However, it has been used by different cultures and religions as a symbol of positivity and fortune. Here is the list of things you should know about it.
1. Oldest Known Religious Symbol
Swastika is a symbol that is almost 3000 years old. It has been used by different civilizations in India, China, Japan, Egypt, and parts of Europe. You can also find it in houses in Indonesia. Moreover, it has been in use by Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists for generations. Pottery found in Africa also had Swastika engraved. It is known by various names all over the world:
- Swastika in India,
- Wan in China,
- Gammadion in Greece, and
- Hakenkreuz in Germany.
2. Original Meaning of Swastika
According to the ancient Vedic scriptures, the Swastika translates to well-being. Throughout history, this symbol has been used to represent power, the Sun, strength, & fortune. However, this was until the Nazis, more accurately Hitler stole the symbol.
3. Four Limbs of Swastika
In Hindu scriptures, the four limbs of the Swastika have different meanings.
- They can depict the four goals of human life viz Dharma, Kama, Artha, and Moksha.
- They are known to depict the four Yugas viz Satyayuga, Tretayuga, Dwaparayuga, and Kaliyuga.
- Additionally, they are thought of as the four seasons or the four cardinal directions.
4. Changes in its Meaning
Western travelers loved the swastika’s association with well-being and positivity. So, they started to use this symbol for this purpose back home. People in the West began to use Egyptian Swastika as an advertising and marketing logo. For instance,
- Coca-Cola used Swastika to market its product.
- The American Boy Scouts adopted it too.
- Carlsberg used the symbol on the beer bottles they manufactured.
- The magazine of the Girls Club of America was called Swastika.
- Moreover, it was used in the American military units during the first world war.
As mentioned earlier, all of these uses were prevalent only till Hitler rose to power in the 1930s.
5. Nazis Chose the Egyptian Swastika
As history suggests, the 19th-century German scholars found great similarities between ancient Indian Sanskrit and German texts. They believed that Indians and Germans shared an ancient warrior lineage called the Aryans. This idea was promoted widely, hence giving the fascists a sense of pride. Therefore, Hitler decided that the Nazis needed to have this symbol as a representation of their struggle. He mentioned this in his lengthy Fascist discourse letter. Though after that, the Hakenkreuz went on to become one of the most hated symbols in history owing to Hitler’s atrocities. (See Why Hitler hated Jews?)
6. Symbol of Hate
Jews regard the Swastika as a symbol of hate, fear, extermination, torture, and suppression. The survivors of the Holocaust believe that this symbol will never be able to get back to its true meaning. And Jews shudder at the sight of this symbol to this date.
Apart from Nazis, many far-right extremists also used it to promote a pure race idea. However, at the end of World War II, allied governments took over Germany. They banned & criminalized the usage of the Swastika in any form. Even today, the Swastika cannot be displayed anywhere in Germany and a few other European states.
7. Swastika and Its European History
Ancient European civilizations too used the Egyptian Swastika in their scriptures. Archaeologists discovered its use in the civilization of Ancient Celts, Greeks, and Anglo-Saxons. They found an ivory figurine of a female bird made out of a tusk of a Mammoth at the Palaeolithic settlement near the Russian border. It has an intricate pattern of Swastika and it is believed to be a sign of fertility. It is now treasured in the Museum of the History of Ukraine.
Moreover, pots engraved with a single Swastika were found at the Neolithic settlements across Southern Europe. The Nazis used to believe that these pots belonged to their Aryan ancestors, so they took these to Germany. However, these were returned after the war.
The ancient Greeks used the Swastika symbol on tiles, pots, & ornaments. Additionally, they engraved it on their currency also. The remains of the Greek historical evidence from 7th century BC depict it painted under the belly of a goat. There are even remaining fragments of fabric from the 12th century AD, which shows a swastika embroidered onto the collar of a gold dress.
8. Direction of Egyptian Swastika
In ancient Chinese cultures, the direction of the Swastika was interchangeable. However, in many other cultures, it is not so.
- Swastika is drawn in a clockwise direction and believed to bring prosperity and happiness.
- Sauvastika is drawn in an anti-clockwise direction and known to bring misfortune and ill health.
Since the Nazi’s use of the Swastika, many people have been trying to change the definition & meaning of it. They wanted to associate the clockwise direction with hatred and death and the anti-clockwise direction with positivity and prosperity. Hence, a red flag with a black Swastika & white circle became the Nazis National symbol. (Also read What Is The Meaning Of A Black And White American Flag?)
9. Attempts to Bring it Back
In 2008, a resolution at the 2nd Hindu-Jewish Leadership formally recognized the Swastika’s multicultural history and its association with positivity. It stated that before the inappropriate use of the symbol by the Third Riech in Germany, the Swastika was considered to be auspicious by many cultures. Many people believe that the power of Swastika deserves to be restored to its original status owing to its multicultural history. So, they have been actively involved in educating the public of its original meaning hoping to eventually, reclaim it from the fascists.