Archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped plates & ornaments dates from the Neolithic period.
The word swastika is derived from the Sanskrit svastika (in Devanagari, स्वस्तिक), 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- (cognate with Greek ευ-, “eu-”), 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 (andre) be translated literally as “little thing associated with well-being”, corresponding roughly to “lucky charm”, or “thing that is auspicious”. The suffix -tika also literally means mark; therefore a sometimes alternate name for swastika in India is shubhtika (literally good mark). The word first appears in the Classical Sanskrit (in the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics).- Source — Wikipedia
Scholarly fascination with the swastika derives from its antiquity, its wide distribution, and its mysterious magical quality,The swastika is among the oldest written symbols, dating back centuries before the development of written language. Examples have been found in South Asia, Mesopotamia, Africa, and in North, Central, and South America. In Western culture, it dates back at least to the Neolithic Period. The swastika was used by Greeks, Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Romans, and in early Byzantine and Christian art, and known by names now perhaps only familiar to Scrabble enthusiasts: fylfot, gammadion, tetraskelion. Multiple examples exist on heraldry crests, mosaics, cups, pottery, and places of Christian and Jewish worship, to name a few. Whether this diffusion is a product of human migration patterns or independent invention is a question that will likely never be answered. Moreover, in none of these early contexts is the swastika’s referent clear; it may represent the sun or other astronomic phenomenon, serve as a fertility symbol, or indicate a connection to some phenomenon now lost to time. Or it may simply be a “good luck charm.”
The swastika appears on seals from the Harappan civilization, the origin of which dates to the third millenium B.C.,
The genealogy and meaning of the swastika in East Asia is somewhat clearer, as its usage in South Asian religious culture was well-established before the advent of Buddhism around 500 BCE. In earliest forms of Buddhism, there were no representations of the human form, so the first images were stylized footprints of the Buddha decorated with symbols, often featuring swastikas on each toe. As Buddhist art came to embrace the human form in the first century CE, the symbol was often used as a decorative motif on the chest, palms, and soles, and was considered one of the key identifying marks of the Buddha.
As Buddhism migrated to East Asia in the second century CE, so too did its iconography. Along with the Om symbol (ॐ), the stupa/pagoda, and the sacred lotus, the swastika flowed from South Asia to Tibet and China, where it also developed into a symbol in the Chinese writing system (in fact, it may be the only character of clearly foreign derivation). It is said the Empress Wu recognized the swastika as a “source of auspiciousness” as early as 693, and the comprehensive Kangxi Dictionary (Kāngxī Zìdian), compiled in eighteenth-century China, defines the left-facing swastika, pronounced wàn, as a “homophone for myriad [literally ten thousand] . . . used in Buddhist texts.”1 As both a decorative motif and written character, the swastika migrated to the Korean peninsula and thence to Japan, where Buddhism found favor with the ruling classes as early at the sixth century CE. Over the course of a millennium, the manji 卍文 (literally “swastika symbol”) established a permanent home in Japanese temple.
“The swastika was a widely used Native American symbol. It was used by many southwestern tribes, most notably the Navajo. Among different tribes the swastika carried various meanings. To the Hopi it represented the wandering Hopi clans; to the Navajo it represented a whirling log ( tsil no’oli’ ), a sacred image representing a legend that was used in healing rituals
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the swastika became well-established in western culture as a good luck symbol, similar to a four-leaf clover or a horseshoe. Companies used it as logo; it adorned birth announcements and greeting cards. American Boy Scouts could get a swastika badge, and the Girls’ Club published a magazine called The Swastika. Finland, Latvia and the United States have all used it as a military insignia.
In Canada, a mining community in northern Ontario was named Swastika, just as you might name a town New Hope or Bounty. Windsor, N.S., and Fernie, B.C., both had hockey teams called the Swastikas. In 1931, Newfoundland issued a $1 stamp commemorating important moments in transatlantic aviation; each corner had a swastika.
The problem of alternate forms of the swastika could be reappraised. Symbols that lack nine clearly defined points in a three-by-three pattern are in most cases probably not swastikas for example, without providing an illustration, Baldwin (1916:55) says, “Pottery from Central Mexico [Toltec period] in the Natural History Museum of New York shows the [swastika] as an ornamental motif.” Dr. Gordon Ekholrn showed us the pottery that he thinks is in question, and the decorations are not hooked-cross swastikas.( Baldwin, Agnes 1916 Symbolism on Greek Coins. New York: The American Numismatic Society.)
There appear to have been two peak periods of scholarly interest in the swastika, the first around the beginning of the twentieth century and the second during the period of the Third Reich in Germany.
Actually , In the early 1870s, when German businessman and archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann thought he had discovered the ancient Greek city of Troy, more than 1,800 instances of the diagrams like swastika were unearthed. Since the diagrams like swastika was also present among the archaeological remains of the Germanic tribes, it didn’t take long for nationalists to jump to the conclusion that the Germans and the Greeks were both descendants of the Aryans and so they were the sole users .
The Thule Society, an anti-Semitic organization promoting the superiority of German Volk (folk in English), was founded at the end of the First World War. It used a stylized diagram as its logo. The society sponsored the fledgling Nazi party, and in a bid for greater public profile, the party created a banner that incorporated the swastika as we know it today.
Hitler was convinced that a potent symbol would rally the masses to his xenophobic cause. With a black swastika (called the Hakenkreuz in German, or hooked cross) rotated 45 degrees on a white circle set against a red background, the Nazi banner modernized the ancient symbol while evoking the colours of the recently defeated German empire.
In Mein Kampf, Hitler took sole credit for the design and attempted to give it meaning: “In red we see the social idea of the movement, in white the nationalistic idea, in the swastika the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man.” Tortured symbolism aside, the swastika banner did what it was supposed to do — it gave visual identity to the Nazi movement.
When the Nazis assumed power in 1933, they sought to unite the country behind their racist Aryan ideology, and the use of their symbol infiltrated all aspects of German life.
You can still see it sometimes, including in mosaic ceiling tiles at Hitler’s Haus der Kunst in Munich. The banner became the official flag of the country in 1935, and although it wasn’t everywhere as Hollywood might have you believe, it was very much present.
But in reality the strength of SWASTIK lies in the difference of the two symbols .
………..to be continued
- John, Prince Loewenstein 1941 The Swastika: Its History and Meaning. Man 41:49–55.