Solar symbol of well-being and prosperity

Solar symbol of well-being and prosperity

Solar symbol of well-being and prosperity - Solar symbol of well-being and prosperity
The swastika (as a character 卐 or 卍) is a geometrical figure and an ancient religious icon from the cultures of Eurasia, where it has been and remains a symbol of divinity and spirituality in native European religions, Indian religions, Chinese religions, Mongolian and Siberian shamanisms.[1] According to René Guénon, the swastika represents the north pole, the center and the axle of the world, the activity of the absolute God of the universe shaping the world. The symbol is drawn either in the stars around the celestial north pole (the Big Dipper) or in the stars around the ecliptic north pole (Draco). In the Western world, it was a symbol of auspiciousness and good luck, the Sun and Indo-European peoples; but in the 1930s, it became the main feature of Nazi symbolism as an emblem of Aryan race identity and, as a result, become stigmatized in the West by association with ideas of racism and antisemitism.

The name swastika comes from Sanskrit (Devanagari: स्वस्तिक) and denotes"conducive to well-being or auspicious".[3] [4] In Hinduism, the clockwise symbol is called swastika, symbolizingsurya (sun), prosperity and good luck, while the counterclockwise symbol is called sauvastika, symbolizing nightor tantric aspects of Kali.[4] In Jainism, a swastika is the symbol for Suparshvanatha — the 7th of 24 Tirthankaras(spiritual teachers and saviors), while in Buddhism it symbolizes the auspicious footprints of the Buddha.[4] [5] [6]The swastika is an icon widely found in human history and the modern world.[1] [4] In various forms it isalternatively known in various European languages as the Hakenkreuz ("hooked cross"), gammadion, crosscramponnée, croix gammée, fylfot or tetraskelion and in East Asia as the wàn 卐/卍/萬, meaning "all things".A swastika generally takes the form of a cross whose arms are of equal length and perpendicular to the adjacentarms, each bent midway at a right angle.[7] It is found in the archeological remains of the Indus Valley Civilizationand Mesopotamia as well as in early Byzantine and Christian artwork.[1] [4]

The swastika was adopted by several organizations in pre–World War I Europe and later, and most notably,by the Nazi Party and Nazi Germany prior to World War II. It was used by the Nazi Party to symbolize Germannationalistic pride. To Jews and the enemies of Nazi Germany, it became a symbol of antisemitism and terror. Inmany Western countries, the swastika is viewed as a symbol of racial supremacy and intimidation because of itsassociation with Nazism.[8] The reverence for the swastika symbol in some cultures, in contrast to the stigma inothers, has led to misinterpretations, misunderstandings and mutual accusations.[9]


The word swastika has been in use in English since the 1870s, replacing gammadion, from Greek, Ancient (to 1453);: γαμμάδιον.[10] It is alternatively spelled in contemporary texts as svastika,[11] while in the 19th- and early 20th-century, alternate spellings such as suastika were occasionally used.[12] It was derived from the Sanskrit term (Devanagari: स्वस्तिक), which transliterates to under the commonly used IAST transliteration system, but is pronounced closer to "swastika" when letters are used with their English values. The first attested use of the word swastika in a European text is found in 1871 with the publications of Heinrich Schliemann, who while crudely digging the Hisarlik mound near the Aegean Sea coast, for the lost history of Troy (Trojan war), discovered over 1,800 ancient samples of the swastika symbol and its variants. Schliemann linked his findings to the Sanskrit swastika.[13] [14] [15]

The word swastika derives from the Sanskrit root swasti, which is composed of su, ("good, well") and asti ("it is, there is").[16] The word swasti occurs frequently in the Vedas and it means "well, good, auspicious, luck, success, prosperity".[17] Swastika is a derived word and connotes a form of welcome or a sign of something "associated with well-being". According to Monier-Williams, a majority of scholars consider it a solar symbol, and in the ancient Indian texts the base swasti is equivalent to "may it be well with thee! hail! health! adieu! so be it!".[18] The sign implies something fortunate, lucky or auspicious, and when applied to entrances, doors, mandalas or object it denotes or reminds of auspiciousness or well-being.[18]

The earliest known textual use of the word swastika is in Panini's Ashtadhyayi, where it is used to explain one of the Sanskrit grammar rules, in the context of a type of identifying mark on cow's ear.[16] Most scholarship suggests Panini lived in or before mid-4th-century BCE (floruit),[19] possibly in 6th or 5th century BCE.[20] [21]

Other names for the symbol include:

  • tetragammadion (Greek: Greek, Ancient (to 1453);: τετραγαμμάδιον), or cross gammadion (Latin: crux gammata; French: French, Old (842-ca.1400);: croix gammée), as each arm resembles the Greek letter Γ (Greek, Ancient (to 1453);: [[gamma]]).[10]
  • hooked cross (German: Hakenkreuz|links=no), angled cross (German: Winkelkreuz) or crooked cross
    (German: Krummkreuz).
  • cross cramponned, cramponnée, or cramponny, in heraldry, as each arm resembles a Crampon or angle- iron (German: Winkelmaßkreuz).
  • fylfot, chiefly in heraldry and architecture.
  • tetraskelion (Greek: Greek, Ancient (to 1453);: τετρασκέλιον), literally meaning "four-legged", especially when composed of four conjoined legs (compare triskelion/triskele [Greek: {{lang|grc|τρισκέλιον}}]).[22]
  • whirling logs (Navajo, Native American): can denote abundance, prosperity, healing, and luck.[23]

Although all swastikas are bent crosses based on a chiral symmetry, they appear with different geometric details: as compact crosses with short legs, as crosses with large arms and as motifs in a pattern of unbroken lines. One distinct representation of a swastika, as a double swastika or swastika made of squares, appears in a Nepalese silver mohar coin of 1685, kingdom of Patan (NS 805) KM# 337.[24]

Chirality describes an absence of reflective symmetry, with the existence of two versions that are mirror images of each other. The mirror-image forms are typically described as:

  • left-facing (卍) and right-facing (卐);
  • left-hand (卍) and right-hand (卐).

The left-facing version is distinguished in some traditions and languages as a distinct symbol from the right- facing and is called the "sauwastika".
The compact swastika can be seen as a chiral irregular icosagon (20-sided polygon) with fourfold (90°) rotational symmetry. Such a swastika proportioned on a 5 × 5 square grid and with the broken portions of its legs shortened by one unit can tile the plane by translation alone. The Nazi Hakenkreuz used a 5 × 5 diagonal grid, but with the legs unshortened.[25]

Written characters

The sauwastika were adopted as a standard character in Sanskrit and as such entered various other East Asian languages, including Chinese script.
The sauwastika is included in the Unicode character sets of two languages. In the Chinese block it is U+534D
卍 (left-facing) and U+5350 for the swastika 卐 (right-facing);[26] The latter has a mapping in the original Big5
character set,[27] but the former does not (although it is in Big5+[28]). In Unicode 5.2, two swastika symbols and two sauwastikas were added to the Tibetan block: swastika and sauwastikas.[29]

Meaning of the symbol

European hypotheses of the swastika are often treated in conjunction with cross symbols in general, such as the sun cross of Bronze Age religion. Beyond its certain presence in the "proto-writing" symbol systems, such as the Vinca script,[30] which appeared during the Neolithic.[31]

North pole

According to René Guénon, the swastika represents the north pole, and the rotational movement around a center or immutable axis (axis mundi), and only secondly it represents the Sun as a reflected function of the north pole. As such it is a symbol of life, of the vivifying role of the supreme principle of the universe, the absolute God, in relation to the cosmic order. It represents the activity (the Hellenic Logos, the Hindu Aum, the Chinese Taiyi, "Great One") of the principle of the universe in the formation of the world.[32] According to Guénon, the swastika in its polar value has the same meaning of the yin and yang symbol of the Chinese tradition, and of other traditional symbols of the working of the universe, including the letters Γ (gamma) and G, symbolizing the Great Architect of the Universe of Freemasonic thought.[33]

According to the scholar Reza Assasi, the swastika represents the north ecliptic north pole centered in ζ Draconis, with the constellation Draco as one of its beams. He argues that this symbol was later attested as the four-horse chariot of Mithra in ancient Iranian culture. They believed the cosmos was pulled by four heavenly horses who revolved around a fixed center in a clockwise direction. He suggests that this notion later flourished in Roman Mithraism, as the symbol appears in Mithraic iconography and astronomical representations.[34]

According to the Russan archaeologist Gennady Zdanovich, who studied some of the oldest examples of the symbol in Sintashta culture, the swastika symbolizes the universe, representing the spinning constellations of the celestial north pole centered in α Ursae Minoris, specifically the Little and Big Dipper (or Chariots), or Ursa Minor and Ursa Major.[35] Likewise, according to René Guénon the swastika is drawn by visualizing the Big Dipper/Great Bear in the four phases of revolution around the pole star.[36]


Carl Sagan in his book Comet (1985) reproduces a Han-dynasty Chinese manuscript (the Book of Silk, 2nd century BCE) that shows comet tail varieties: most are variations on simple comet tails, but the last shows the comet nucleus with four bent arms extending from it, recalling a swastika. Sagan suggests that in antiquity a comet could have approached so close to Earth that the jets of gas streaming from it, bent by the comet's rotation, became visible, leading to the adoption of the swastika as a symbol across the world.[37]Bob Kobres in his 1992 paper Comets and the Bronze Age Collapse contends that the swastika-like comet on the Han-dynasty silk comet manuscript was labeled a "long tailed pheasant star" (dixing) because of its resemblance to a bird's foot or footprint,[38] the latter comparison also being drawn by J.F.K. Hewitt's observation on page 145 of Primitive Traditional History: vol. 1.[39] as well as an article concerning carpet decoration in Good Housekeeping.[40] Kobres goes on to suggest an association of mythological birds and comets also outside China.[38]


According to Mukti Jain, the symbol is part of "an intricate meander pattern of joined up swastikas" found on a late paleolithic figurine of a bird, carved from mammoth ivory, found in Mezine, Ukraine and dated to 15,000 years old. These engraved objects were found near phallic objects, which states Jain may support the idea that the meandering pattern of swastika was a fertility symbol.[41] However it has also been suggested that this swastika may be a stylized picture of a stork in flight and not the true swastika that is in use today.[42]
In England, Neolithic or Bronze Age stone carvings of the symbol have been found on Ilkley Moor, such as the Swastika Stone.

Mirror-image swastikas (clockwise and anti-clockwise) have been found on ceramic pottery in the Devetashka cave, Bulgaria, dated to 6,000 BCE.[43]
Some of the earliest archaeological evidence of the swastika in the Indian subcontinent can be dated to 3,000 BCE.[44] Investigators have also found seals with "mature and geometrically ordered" swastikas that date to before the Indus Valley Civilization (3300–1300 BCE). Their efforts have traced references to swastikas in the Vedas at about that time. The investigators put forth the theory that the swastika moved westward from India to Finland, Scandinavia, the British Highlands and other parts of Europe.[45]

Swastikas have also been found on pottery in archaeological digs in Africa, in the area of Kush and on pottery at the Jebel Barkal temples,[46] in Iron Age designs of the northern Caucasus (Koban culture), and in Neolithic China in the Majiabang,[47] Majiayao,[48] Dawenkou and Xiaoheyan cultures.[49]

Other Iron Age attestations of the swastika can be associated with Indo-European cultures such as the Illyrians,[50] Indo-Iranians, Celts, Greeks, Germanic peoples and Slavs. In Sintashta culture's "Country of Towns", ancient Indo-European settlements in southern Russia, it has been found a great concentration of some of the oldest swastika patterns.[51]
The swastika is also seen in Egypt during the Coptic period. Textile number T.231-1923 held at the V&A Museum in London includes small swastikas in its design. This piece was found at Qau-el-Kebir, near Asyut, and is dated between AD 300 and 600.[52] [53]

The Tierwirbel (the German for "animal whorl" or "whirl of animals"[54]) is a characteristic motif in Bronze Age Central Asia, the Eurasian Steppe, and later also in Iron Age Scythian and European (Baltic[55] and Germanic) culture, showing rotational symmetric arrangement of an animal motif, often four birds' heads. Even wider diffusion of this "Asiatic" theme has been proposed, to the Pacific and even North America (especially Moundville).[56]

Historical use

In Asia, the swastika symbol first appears in the archaeological record around[44] 3000 BCE in the Indus Valley Civilization.[57] [58] It also appears in the Bronze and Iron Age cultures around the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. In all these cultures the swastika symbol does not appear to occupy any marked position or significance, but appears as just one form of a series of similar symbols of varying complexity. In the Zoroastrian religion of Persia, the swastika was a symbol of the revolving sun, infinity, or continuing creation.[59] [60]
It is one of most common symbols found on Mesopotamian coins.[4]

The icon has been of spiritual significance to Indian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.[1] [4] The use of the swastika by the Bön faith of Tibet, as well as Chinese Taoism, can also be traced to Buddhist influence. In Thailand, the word Sawaddi is normally used as a greeting that simply means "hello"; Sawaddi-ka (feminine) and Sawaddi-krup (masculine). Sawaddi derives from the Sanskrit word swasti and its meaning is a combination of the words prosperity, luck, security, glory, and good.


The swastika is an important Hindu symbol.[1] [4] The word is ancient, derived from three Sanskrit roots "su" (good), "asti" (exists, there is, to be) and "ka" (make) and has meant a "making of goodness" or "marker of goodness".[61] The icon connotes and reminds the viewer of something "conducive to well-being", "make good", prosperity and dharmic auspiciousness. The swastika symbol is commonly used before entrances or on doorways of homes or temples, to mark the starting page of financial statements, and mandala constructed for rituals such as weddings or welcoming a new born.[4]

In the diverse traditions within Hinduism, both the clockwise and counter-clockwise swastika are found, with different meaning. The clockwise or right hand icon is called swastika, while the counter clockwise or left hand is called sauvastika.[4] The clockwise swastika is a solar symbol (Surya), mirroring the motion of Sun in India (the northern hemisphere) where it appears to enter from east, then south, exiting to the west.[4] The counterclockwise sauvastika is less used, connotes the night and in tantric traditions it is an icon for goddess Kali, the terrifying form of Devi Durga.[4] The symbol also represents activity, karma, motion, wheel, lotus in some contexts.[61] [62] Its symbolism for motion and Sun may be from shared prehistoric cultural roots, according to Norman McClelland.[63]
The Arya Samaj is of the opinion that swastik is 'OM' written in the ancient Brahmi script.


In Buddhism, the swastika symbol is considered auspicious footprints of the Buddha.[4] [5] It is an aniconic symbol for the Buddha in many parts of Asia and a homologous with the dhamma wheel.[62] The shape symbolizes eternal cycling, a theme found in samsara doctrine of Buddhism.[62]

The swastika symbol is common in esoteric tantric traditions of Buddhism, along with Hinduism, where it is found with Chakra theories and other meditative aids.[64] The clockwise symbol is more common, and contrasts with the counter clockwise version common in the Tibetan Bon tradition and locally called yungdrung.[65]


In Jainism, it is a symbol of the seventh tīrthaṅkara, Suparśvanātha.[4] In the Śvētāmbara tradition, it is also one of the aṣṭamaṅgala or eight auspicious symbols. All Jain temples and holy books must contain the swastika and ceremonies typically begin and end with creating a swastika mark several times with rice around the altar. Jains use rice to make a swastika in front of statues and then put an offering on it, usually a ripe or dried fruit, a sweet (Hindi: िमठाई), or a coin or currency note. The four arms of the swastika symbolize the four places where a soul could be reborn in the cycle of birth and death — svarga "heaven", naraka "hell", manushya "humanity" or tiryancha "as flora or fauna" — before the soul attains moksha "salvation" as a siddha, having ended the cycle of birth and death and become omniscient.

East Asia

Swastika-like symbols were in use in China already in Neolithic scripts. The paired swastika symbols (left wise and right wise) are included, at least since the Liao Dynasty (AD 907–1125), as part of the Chinese writing system (卍 and 卐) and are variant characters for 萬 or 万 (wàn in Mandarin, man in Korean, Cantonese, and Japanese, vạn in Vietnamese) meaning "myriad", "all", or "eternity. The swastika marks the beginning of many Buddhist scriptures. In East Asian countries, the left-facing character is often used as symbol for Buddhism and marks the site of a Buddhist temple on maps.

In Chinese, Japanese, and Korean the swastika is also a homonym of the number 10,000, and is commonly used to represent the whole of creation, e.g. "the myriad things" in the Tao Te Ching. During the Tang dynasty, Empress Wu Zetian (684–704) decreed that the swastika would also be used as an alternative symbol of the Sun. When the Chinese writing system was introduced to Japan in the 8th century, the swastika was adopted into the Japanese language and culture. It is commonly referred as the manji (lit. "man-character"). Since the Middle Ages, it has been used as a mon by various Japanese families such as Tsugaru clan, Hachisuka clan or around 60 clans that belong to Tokugawa clan.[66] On Japanese maps, a swastika (left-facing and horizontal) is used to mark the location of a Buddhist temple. The right-facing swastika is often referred to as the or, and can also be called. In Chinese and Japanese art, the swastika is often found as part of a repeating pattern. One common pattern, called sayagata in Japanese, comprises left- and right-facing swastikas joined by lines.[67] As the negative space between the lines has a distinctive shape, the sayagata pattern is sometimes called the key fret motif in English.

Northern Europe
Sami (Finland)

An object very much like a hammer or a double axe is depicted among the magical symbols on the drums of Sami shamans, used in their religious ceremonies before Christianity was established. The name of the Sami thunder god was Horagalles, thought derive from "Old Man Thor" (Þórr karl). Sometimes on the drums, a male figure with a hammer-like object in either hand is shown, and sometimes it is more like a cross with crooked ends, or a swastika.

Germanic Iron Age

The swastika shape (also called a fylfot) appears on various Germanic Migration Period and Viking Age artifacts, such as the 3rd-century Værløse Fibula from Zealand, Denmark, the Gothic spearhead from Brest- Litovsk, today in Belarus, the 9th-century Snoldelev Stone from Ramsø, Denmark, and numerous Migration Period bracteates drawn left-facing or right-facing.[68]

The pagan Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo, England, contained numerous items bearing the swastika, now housed in the collection of the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.[69] The swastika is clearly marked on a hilt and sword belt found at Bifrons in Kent, in a grave of about the 6th century.

Hilda Ellis Davidson theorized that the swastika symbol was associated with Thor, possibly representing his Mjolnir — symbolic of thunder — and possibly being connected to the Bronze Age sun cross.[69] Davidson cites "many examples" of the swastika symbol from Anglo-Saxon graves of the pagan period, with particular prominence on cremation urns from the cemeteries of East Anglia.[69] Some of the swastikas on the items, on display at the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, are depicted with such care and art that, according to Davidson, it must have possessed special significance as a funerary symbol.[69] The runic inscription on the 8th-century Sæbø sword has been taken as evidence of the swastika as a symbol of Thor in Norse paganism.

The swastika
The swastika - The swastika

According to painter Stanisław Jakubowski the "little sun" (pol. słoneczko) is an Early Slavic pagan symbol of the Sun. It was engraved on wooden monuments built near the final resting places of fallen Slavs to represent eternal life. The symbol was first seen in a collection of Early Slavic symbols and architectural features drawn and compiled by Polish painter Stanisław Jakubowski, which he named Prasłowiańskie motywy architektoniczne (Polish: Early Slavic Architectural Motifs). His work was published in 1923, by a publishing house that was then based in the Dębniki district of Kraków.[70] The symbol can also be found on embroidery and pottery in most Slavic countries.

In Russia before World War I the swastika was a favorite sign of the last Russian Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. She placed it where she could for happiness, including drawing it in pencil on the walls and windows in the Ipatiev House – place of execution of the royal family, and, without dating, on the wallpaper above the bed, where obviously slept the heir.[71] It was printed on some banknotes of the Russian Provisional Government (1917) and some sovznaks (1918–1922).[72] In 1919 it was approved as insignia for the Kalmyk formations,[73] and for a short period had a certain popularity amongst some artists, politics and army