The Swastika: A History
SOC 350 Cultural Diversity
One of the most well known symbols in history, the “Swastika”, has been around for over 3,000 years. Currently people see the swastika with a negative connotation. What is generally not known about the swastika is that it originally stood for good luck. It has been used in cultures all over the world.
The swastika is an equilateral cross with arms bent at right angles, all pointing in the same rotary direction, usually clockwise. The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, meaning “conducive to well-being” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009). The swastika has been found on ancient ruins and coins from the era of Troy (Schliemann, 1875). It is also a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Several of the Native American cultures have also used the swastika.
There are thousand of different cultures in the world, all with their own symbols and beliefs. The symbol from one culture may mean something completely different in another. As with any cultural encounter one must first understand the culture before judging it harshly. If you walk into an old temple, in a country that you are visiting, that is decorated with swastikas one may first feel negatively towards that culture. It is imperative that one look beyond those first impressions and see what the symbol means to the culture of that country.
In Hinduism the swastika is very commonly used in art, architecture and decoration. It can be seen on temples, houses, doorways, and clothing. It is also used in Hindu weddings, festivals and religious ceremonies. The right-hand swastika is a symbol of the sun and of the sun god Surya. The symbol reproduces in the going round of its arms the course taken daily by the sun. The left-hand swastika (called a sauvastika) normally stands for the terrifying goddess Kali, night and magic. However, this form is not seen as "evil" and this form most...