I've had a lot of stick about this with my (mainly western) friends - The Swastiska. Made popular by its association with Hitler's nazism and racism. Which always made me want to shrivel up and implode, since that symbol of hatred was ever present in innocuous little forms in my house all year-round.

Of course, these were the days before The Internet and its panacea, Google. Days which relied upon a person's ability to recount facts, formulate coherent sentences, or at worst, produce a ratty, ear-marked booked from the family's heirloom collection, to back the argument. Or as was usually the case, timely employment of the vocal chords for maximum output.

Those were the days. But, the argument can now be won over, with many a sources produced as evidence, and numerous cross-references. It all started with the rather ignoble act of another British royal family member, the charming Prince Harry wearing a
Nazi costume to a fancy party. While one could spend an entire day listing the subsequent events - from the usual (Tory leaders demanding apology) to the attention-hungry, to the unexpected EU calls for ban on Nazi symbols.

But I digress. Back to Swatiska and its origins.

The swastika is a cross with its arms 90° to either right or left. It is usually oriented horizontally or at a 45° angle. Its Indian form typically features a dot in each quadrant (as shown in the figure to the right).

The word swastika is derived from the Sanskrit svastika, meaning any lucky or auspicious object, and in particular a mark made on persons and things to denote good luck. It is composed of su-, meaning "good, well" and asti a verbal abstract to the root as "to be"; svasti thus means "well-being". The suffix -ka forms a diminutive, and svastika might thus be translated literally as "little thing associated with well-being", corresponding roughly to "lucky charm".

The swastika is an ancient symbol that has been used for over 3,000 years. Artifacts such as pottery and coins from ancient Troy show that the swastika was a commonly used symbol as far back as 1000 BCE.

In my house, Swastika was drawn clockwise on all auspicious occasions, where the clockwise arms signified Brahma, The Creator. When drawn in anti-clockwise directions (not usually in homes, if I remember correctly), it signified the involution of the universe (nivrutti). The clockwise Swastiska is also seen as pointing in all four directions, stabilising the energy fields where its drawn, and providing a sense of peace. It also a good-luck symbol. It is used in all Hindu yantras and religious designs. It can be seen on the sides of temples and on religious scripture to gift items and letterhead in India. The swastika is considered extremely holy and auspicious by all Hindus.

So how did this good-luck totem, this innocuous symbol of well-being become so firmly rooted in Nazism?

Well, the simplest explanation is that the Nazi use was linked to the belief in the Aryan cultural descent of the German people. They considered the early Aryans of India, to be the prototypical white invaders and hijacked the sign as a symbol of the Aryan master race. Thus, they saw fit to co-opt the sign as a symbol of the Aryan master race.

Bet my mom had no idea that the little figure she drew so many times would come to symbolize so much racial hatred, and human extremity.

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