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Issue No.: 576 | June 2015

Swastika: Whose Symbol Is It Any Way?

Nitin G. Raut
... simply because Nazis have demonized the Swastika, even the Hindu and Buddhist Swastika can be victimized without caring to examine its religious and cultural significance from the Hindu and Buddhist point of view or its history

An Indian newspaper carried a headline "US varsity mulls ban on Hindu symbol”. The symbol in question is "Swastika”. It so happened that an American Jewish student of George Washington University returned from a trip to India with a Swastika image and placed it on the bulletin board in the University’s residential premises predominantly inhabited by Jewish students and predictably it stirred a hornets nest but only to be realized that it was not a hate message. However, it was reported that the student who placed the image would face permanent expulsion. The report further quoted a professor that the University officials have "seemingly taken the position that posting anything which could be mistaken for Nazi Swastika” is prohibited "even by students who are Hindus and Buddhists”.

It is here that ignorance triumphs to create an impression that simply because Nazis have demonized the Swastika, even the Hindu and Buddhist Swastika can be victimized without caring to examine its religious and cultural significance from the Hindu and Buddhist point of view or its history.

The Nazis adopted Swastika as a symbol of Hitler’s National Socialist Party. Hitler’s monstrosity in butchering hapless Jews in Europe during the Second World War resulted in genocide of six million Jews. Thus the Nazi Swastika has become a hated symbol and its representation is outlawed in Israel and the West. The Odium of anti Semitism attached to Swastika because of its association with the Nazis has understandably drawn reactions ranging from hate to consternation.

Its infamous publicity on Nazi Flag, propaganda material and military dress has seemingly made it sort of a monopoly of the Nazis and consequently has come to be associated with hate crime, genocide and inhumanity. The Swastika symbol was adopted by the Nazis only in the 1920s and its association has left it with a legacy of hate and untold brutality. The Nazi Swastika is a political symbol. The Hindu and Buddhist Swastika is a symbol of religious and cultural significance.

It is necessary to clear the misconception of the Hindu and the Buddhist symbol of "Swastika” without in any way hurting the susceptibilities or even belittling Jewish people’s abhorrence which cannot be disputed and is even shared by this writer who is a Hindu.

The Hindu and Buddhist symbol of "Swastika” is more oriental in its art form and representation unlike the Nazi which is geometrical in shape with sharp right angles. In the Hindu and Buddhist symbol the right angle are rounded and often have dots near the rounded angle with two parallel lines on either side. The ends of each arm is also slightly curled.

The antiquity of Hindu Swastika predates the Nazi claim to Swastika by several centuries and is often drawn in form of "rangolis” during Hindu Pujas and religious function. The word "Swastika” is derived from the Sanskrit word "Suastika” meaning luck and divinity. The word "Su” means "goodwill” and "asti” means "being”. It can have no nexus to the obnoxious Nazi ideology and its misuse by the Nazis cannot undermine its religious and cultural significance in Hindu and Buddhist religions. The Hindu "Swastika” represent God (Brahma), Energy (Shakti), Artha (Wealth), Kama (Desire) and Moksha (Liberation). It is also widely used in Buddhist and Jain religious ceremonies. Even in the East Asian traditions – Japan, Vietnam, China – "Swastika” is found in varied forms having religious and cultural significance.

Among the Hindus and the Buddhists it symbolizes prosperity and good fortune and business account books in India and Nepal bear the symbol. It is also a common symbol used by trade organizations in India and Nepal both the only Hindu majority states in the world. Many Hindu temples display this symbol.

In fact the symbol of "Swastika” was even found in ancient Europe on coins and structures and is discovered in archeological excavations in Europe and Egypt. It is also found as a decorative symbol in Celtic and Greek architecture. The Theosophical Society has anti-clockwise symbol of "Swastika” alongwith the Hindu symbol of Om, Christian cross and even the Star of David and it continues without any controversy. The Red Indians of North America also commonly used it but it is anti-clock wise.

The contemplated ban on the use of Swastika by Hindu and Buddhist students by the George Washington University if implemented will tend to interfere with the Hindu and Buddhist religious freedom and needs to be distinguished from the Nazi Swastika. If implemented, it will also be violative of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America which prohibits the making of any Law that impedes the free exercise of religion or abridging freedom of speech or that which infringes freedom of the Press. The action will be devoid of its historical perspective.

MR. NITIN G. RAUT is an advocate by profession and member of the Advisory Board of Freedom First.






Other Articles in this Issue


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Tribute to S. V. Raju

Nurturing a Tradition

Jehangir Patel

Fond Reminiscences of our dear Editor ...


Raju and Freedom First

Ashok Karnik

Remembering Raju

Firoze Hirjikaka

Guntur Remembers Raju


Tribute to S. V. Raju



The National Scene

NDA’s Management of the Economy – More of the Same

Ranga Kota

Agrarian Crisis – Rural Distress – and All That

Sunil S. Bhandare

Rahul Resurgent

Firoze Hirjikaka

The Year That Was ...

H. R. BapuSatyanarayana

The Rural Perspective

Agriculture and Rural Indebtedness - VIII

R. M. Mohan Rao

Point Counter Point : Every issue has at least two sides


Ashok Karnik

Being Salman Khan

Ashok Karnik

Farmers’ Suicides

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Foreign Relations in the 21st Century

Modi Goes to China: Development at Home and Peace on the Border

B. Ramesh Babu

ISIS - A New Threat

Ashok Karnik

Dawood’s Return?

Ashok Karnik

Swastika: Whose Symbol Is It Any Way?

Nitin G. Raut

The Swatantra Party in Gujarat - A Historical Perspective

The Swatantra Party in Gujarat: A Shooting Star (Part II)

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The journal of the Indian Committee for Cultural Freedom
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