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How the Swastika became a symbol of evil

Swastika is a symbol which continues to attract attention due to its varied meanings.


Around the world, the Swastik had been a symbol for good luck and prosperity until the Nazis used it for their own propaganda. In Buddhism, which originated in India, this sacred symbol is thought to represent the footprints of Buddha while in Jainism the four arms of the Swastika symbolise the four states of existence.


Sanskrit in origin, it is made up of two words :

"Swa" and "Astika" meaning conducive to well being


For Hindus, the right-hand swastika is a sign of Surya (the Sun god) and is used to mark entrances, offerings, ceremonies and festivals while the left-hand version, the sauvastika, is symbolic of the night and the goddess Kali.


The swastika was well established in the western culture and has also been found in the archaeological remains of early Christian and byzantine artworks. The Swastika became a ubiquitous symbol. It was found on coca -cola pendants, on-pack of cards as well as on the magazine of Girls' Club of America.


Then how did the Swastika come to represent what it does today?


In the 19th century a German businessman and archaeologist called Heinrich Schliemann travelled to Ithaca, Greece and published a book in which he asserted that Hissarlik in Turkey was the site of Troy and all of this was done by using Homer’s Iliad as a guide.

While many considered the epic poem to be nothing more than a myth, Schliemann thought of it as a map to the hidden location of ancient cities.


In the 1870s he finally unravelled the mysteries of the Homeric world by discovering the ancient city of Troy in Hissarlik where he found 1800 instances of the swastika.


Contemporary German nationalists, who sought to prove german racial superiority by calling the original indo Europeans – the Aryans – their ancestors, didn’t take long to connect this symbol to the archaeological remains of the germanic tribes and concluded that the Greeks and Germans were descendants of the Aryans.


German anti semitic nationalist groups and the Bavarian para militarists who wanted to overthrow the Weimar Republic in Germany used the swastika to reflect their “newly discovered” identity as the master race.


A step further, another anti -semitic organisation sponsored by the Nazi party, used a stylised swastika as its logo and in a bid for greater public profile the party created a banner that incorporated the swastika as we know it today.


The Swastika was further enshrined as a symbol of nazi power, when a decree was issued by Joseph Goebbels ( hitler’s minister of propaganda); preventing unauthorised use of swastika .


And with this, the black swastika rotated 45 degrees on a white circle set against a red background became the “Hooked Cross” and came to represent a poisonous ideology, a symbol of hatred, genocide and fascism, in other words, the very manifestation of evil.


The public display of Swastika is illegal in Germany and in the western world, the symbol is sure to be reviled, Yet in the east, such as in India, the Swastik continues to be a symbol of wealth and auspiciousness. And even today, as we become more connected than ever before the Swastika will continue to represent a dichotomy, a conflicting interpretation, each part of the world we once inhabited and the world we live in today.


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