Signs and Symbols

What does the symbol called the swastika have to do with Hinduism?

The name “swastika” comes from a Sanskrit term that means “all is well.” It is a symbol of auspiciousness and good fortune. The symbol may derive from a four-spoked wheel, possibly connected with the crossed firebrands of ancient Vedic sacrifice. Originally a solar symbol, the swastika was anciently associated with Vishnu, but eventually became important in Buddhism as well. Even though Shiva has been particularly connected with lunar symbolism, the swastika has become common in the iconographic repertoire of Shaivites too. Swastikas can appear to be spinning either to the right or to the left, and have accordingly been associated with either the so-called right- or left-handed sects of Shaktism and Tantrism. The female symbolism of the left-handed swastika was generally considered inauspicious. Nazi Germany adopted the right-handed swastika because they associated it with Aryan ethnicity and thus with their pretensions to ancient racial purity. Hindus and Buddhists continue to use the symbol in many contexts.


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