The Swastika in other Cultures: How it was before it became a Forbidden Symbol - History Key

The Swastika in other Cultures: How it was before it became a Forbidden Symbol

We are all familiar with the swastika symbol. We have been taught to hate it or avoid it since childhood, but most often without receiving further explanations or reading alternatives. History Key will unlock for you the origins of the swastika symbol, so you will be able to relate it to a larger historical context, and not only to the Nazi involvement.

For many, it will be a surprise to find out the swastika was not invented by Hitler, but only taken over by him. Let’s start with the oldest object reporting the swastika motifs: we are talking about a mammoth tusk carved with a complex swastika design. The interesting fact is related to its age, considering that the mammoth tusk found in Ukraine is dated to 10,000 BC.

Craved mammoth tusk with swastika motif
Craved mammoth tusk with swastika motif © Image Source: bbc.com

The swastika is directly related to Jainism, which is known as the oldest religion in the world. Jainism is an Indian religion that proposes an approach to life totally related to nonviolence towards all living beings, promoting spiritual equality between all life forms. In this religion, the swastika is used to symbolize the different phases of the soul in the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

Asian monk with swastika symbol of his head
Asian monk with swastika symbol of his head © Image Source: Pinterest.com

A similar context to the Jainism one is the one related to the use of the swastika in the Hinduism religion and Hindu architecture. There, the swastika is the symbol of God, also representing the four directions of the world.

Hindu swastika symbol
Hindu swastika symbol © Image Source: Pinterest.com

The swastika also appears in both ancient Greece and ancient Roman architecture, mostly in the form of a repeated pattern. In this context, it is believed that the swastika was not related to religious practices, but it was more likely intended to represent and suggest perpetual motion, such as the wind blowing, the water course or a windmill.

Ancient Roman mosaic with swastika pattern
Ancient Roman mosaic with swastika pattern © Image Source: Pinterest.com

“Arevakhach” and “Kerkach” were the names related to the swastika in the ancient Armenian history. It was used in order to suggest eternity and eternal light, often being spotted in the architecture of medieval churches.

Swastikas in ancient Armenian architecture
Swastikas in ancient Armenian architecture © Image Source: stormfront.org

Until WW2, when the symbol has become the synonym of Nazi Germany, even Native American tribes used the swastika. They used it in order to represent sacred objects or during rituals.

Jacqueline Kennedy in a Native American costume featuring a swastika in 1939
Jacqueline Kennedy in a Native American costume featuring a swastika in 1939 © Image Source: Reddit.com

If we want to talk about the contemporary use of the swastika symbol, we must reach the Southeast Asia, where the symbol is still used as a sign of wealth and good fortune. In India, the swastika continues to have its religious status and can be spotted on many temples. We must specify that swastika is reversed in direction in order to detach from the Nazi context.

Contemporary Indian temple with swastika
Contemporary Indian temple with swastika © Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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