The Sacred Swastika

The Sacred Swastika

Amongst the varied signs and symbology of Hinduism the Swastika is the most prominent visual symbol. Generally speaking, Swastika is held to symbolise the progress of the Sun through the heaven. Technically, Swastika means ‘of good fortune-‘Su’ means ‘well’ and ‘Ast’ means ‘being’. This is an auspicious mark or emblem revered the world over, since the dawn of our civilisation.

Swastika, the graphic symbol, is found in almost every ancient and primitive cult all over the world. The most ancient Swastikas have been found in the Harappan Civilisation in India, Susa inpersia and Sammara in Mesopotamia. This symbol is frequented upon in ancient Greece, Cyprus, Crete and Rhodes. According to Leonary Von Matt it was a favourite symbol on the coins of ancient Greece and India. Swastika is also found engraved upon the funeral urns which have been dug up in northern Italy.

According to the research of Jamna Das Akhtar, “In Lycaonia on a Hittite monument, it appears as an ornamental on the border of the robe of a person engaged in offering sacrifice. In the designs on jars excavated in Capadocoax, there are found spirals, Swastikas and crosses.” According to the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics “In company with the thunderbolt and the wheel, it is inscribed on the altars of the Gallic-Roman period. It was regarded as a sacred symbol in Roman England. Swastika is marked on many early Christian tombs.” Furthermore, Encyclopedia Americana highlights that “Swastika occurs in monumental remains of the ancient Mexicans and Peruvians and an object exhumed from the prehistoric burial mounds within the limits of the United States.”

The implications of Swastika are wide and varied. Essentially there are two symbols: the Greek cross with arms of equal length, and the cross with four arms appearing to rotate in the same direction. However, on the score of implications of the Swastika, scholars worldwide differ and give different viewpoints. According to the Dictionary of Symbols of J.E. Cirlot, the Swastika, during the Iron age, according to Ludwig Muller, represented supreme deity. For Mackenzie, Swastika is associated with agriculture and with the points of the compass. Another scholar, Colley March, sees the Swastika as a specific sign, denoting rotation about an axis. There are in fact two types of Swastika: one is the right-handed Swastika and the other is the left-handed Swastika. The shape of the Swastika has been interpreted as a solar wheel with rays and feet sketched in at the extremities.

However, the most general interpretation was that it symbolised movement and the power of the Sun. One school of thought held a view that the Swasdka is ‘a configuration of a movement split up into four parts related to the poles and the four cardinal directions’. Rene Guenon recorded that it is ‘the mystic centre. It follows, then, that the word signifies the action of the origin of the Universe.

Swastika, a symbol of the cult of Sun-worship, is probably the most ancient cult. The Sun is the dispeller of darkness. It brings joy, light and life for mankind. People belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization believed in Sun-worship which is evident from the discoveries of a number of seals and symbols associated with the Sun.

Thus since the Aryan days Swastika has remained as a sacred symbol. Hindus use the Swastika on auspicious occasions like Marriage, Mundanor Anna-prashan, Lashmi-pujan etc. Swastika is worshipped by Hindus as symbol of Ganesha. It is marked along with the symbols of the Navagrahas. Thus in the Hindu astronomy the auspicious form of the Swastika represents the celestial change of the Sun to the tropic of Capricorn, and is regarded as a male.

The Vayu Purana states that the lord of serpents who lives on the Devakuta mountain has hundred hoods which are marked with Swastika or the Chakra of Vishnu. According to the Matsya Purana and the Shiva Purana Swastika is one of the eight types of yogic seats as referred to in Vayaviyasamhita.

In the ancient scriptures the right-handed Swastika is associated with the Sun, and hence an emblem of the Vedic Solar Vishnu and the symbol of the world wheel indicating cosmic possession and evolution thereof, around a fixed centre. The left-handed Swastika, which moves anti-clockwise, represents the Sun during the Autumn and Winter, and is regarded as a female and inauspicious. According to the 19th century scholar Sir G.C.M. Birdwood, “the right-handed Swastika symbolises Ganesha and left one personifies goddess Kali or stands for night and destruction.” Furthermore, G.C.M. Birdwood wrote in The Art of India that “the left-handed Saktas never avow themselves, and the right-handed seldom bear on the forehead the peculiar mark of their sect for fear of being suspected of belonging to the other branch.” Thus Swastika and its mystical significance is being worshipped since the Indus Valley Civilisation, and today on the one hand it symbolises the Vishnu Chakra and on the other it is Ganesha and even personifies the cult of Shakti. Likewise, Swastika has travelled down the ages to become studded in Hindu spiritual and materialistic life as well, and became the object of great veneration.

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