Swastika

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The Swastika is a cross with its arms bent at right angles, in either left-facing or right-facing forms.[1] It is a widely-used religious symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.[2] The symbol was also used in pre-Christian Europe. The word "Swastika" became part of the English language in the nineteenth century with the British conquest of India. In the 1920s, the Nazi party chose the swastika as its symbol and it is for this association that it is best known in the Western world.[3]

Religious use[change | change source]

An ancient painting of a Swastika

The Swastika is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.[4] It is also a sign of spiritual purity. The swastika was a letter in the ancient Sanskrit language. It meant luck or well being.[4] It is also found on Byzantine buildings, Ancient Greek coinage and in Native American burial sites.[4]

In Nazi Germany[change | change source]

The swastika was a symbol used by the Nazi Party in Germany, and later by the Third Reich. Adolf Hitler chose it as the symbol of the German Workers Party after he joined. Before Hitler, members had already worn swastika armbands. (They believed they were adopting an ancient European symbol; they were seemingly unaware of its continued use in the East.) Hitler was responsible for its red, white and black coloring.[5] From 1935 – 1945 it was used on the German flag.[5] The symbol became stigmatized because of its association with Nazi war crimes.[5]

Since shortly after World War II, it has been illegal in Germany and Austria to display the swastika and other Nazi symbols. The swastikas on Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain temples are exempt from this law, because religious symbols cannot be banned in Germany.[6]

Naming dispute[change | change source]

Since at least the early 2000s, Hindus, Buddhists and Jains have become more and more upset and annoyed to see their holy symbol being used as a badge of hatred by racists and neo-Nazis.[7] One way that they have tried to reestablish their symbol as one of peace and good fortune is to try to encourage use its name in German, Hakenkreuz (hooked cross), when writing about the Nazis' version of it. (Although the Asian religions usually show the symbol in vertical/horizontal orientation and the Nazis usually showed it diagonally, neither group (especially the Nazis) did so consistently.) As of 2022, it does not seems that this campaign has achieved success yet: the Western media continue to use the name "swastika" when writing about neo-Nazi use of it.[8]

Gallery[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Gowing, Nicholas Keith, (Nik), (born 13 Jan. 1951), Main Presenter, BBC World News, BBC News, 2000–14 (Presenter, 1996–2000); Visiting Professor, King's College London, since 2014", Who's Who, Oxford University Press, 2007-12-01, doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u17734, retrieved 2022-04-08
  2. Snodgrass, Adrian (1992). The symbolism of the stupa (1st Indian ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 81-208-0781-2. OCLC 28492832.
  3. Cambridge advanced learner's dictionary (3rd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2008. ISBN 978-0-521-71266-8. OCLC 600728996.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Suresh Chandra, Encyclopaedia of Hindu Gods and Goddesses (New Delhi: Sarup & Sons, 1998), p. 333
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Martha Cheung Pui Yiu; Lin Wusun, An Anthology of Chinese Discourse on Translation (Oxford; New York: Routledge, 2014), p. 202, n. 328
  6. "Germany Won't Seek EU-Wide Ban on Swastikas". Deutsche Welle. 29 January 2007.
  7. Heller, Steven (2008). The Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption?. New York: Allworth Press. ISBN 978-1-58115-507-5.
  8. Teitel, Emma (11 February 2022). "Truck protest teaches timely lessons about the current face of antisemitism". www.thestar.com. Toronto Star. Retrieved 15 February 2022.

Other websites[change | change source]