The Jewish community in Australia recently asked for a ban on the public display of Nazi symbols. The Nazis did use Swastika to commit heinous crimes against humanity. No reasonable human being would ever condone the atrocities of the Nazis. But is the call for banning the Swastika, because the Nazi stole and misused this ancient sacred symbol appropriate? It would be like throwing the baby with the bathwater. The Swastika is a one of the most ancient symbols of purity and positiveness across the world. Consequently, pleading for a ban on the Swastika is likely to be counterproductive.


The Swastika (or rather the Hakenkreuz or hooked cross), would trigger memories of the evil Third Reich (Nazi Germany), among the Jewish people in particular, as they directly suffered the atrocities. Consequently, it is understandable, if they plead for a ban on the Swastika. However, when one talks of atrocities and violence, can we forget, religious crusades by Christians and Muslim for centuries which resulted in horrific bloodshed? By the same logic then should we ask for a ban on the symbols of these proselytizing faiths and similarly that of the Communists, given that millions were imprisoned or shot by Stalin in the pursuit of a certain ideology? 

In the below paragraphs, I begin with the antiquity of Swastika (as well as the word ‘’Aryan’’ which is often associated with the Swastika). Thereafter, I explain that the symbol of the Nazis was Hakenkreuz or hooked cross and not the Swastika and that the translation was a deliberate ploy of the Christian evangelicals.  Next, I explain the significance of Swastika for the Hindus and finally I provide a summary.

  • Antiquity of Swastika

The use of Swastika, can be traced to prehistoric times and has eventually circled the globe. As stated by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum [USHMM 2017, para. 1):

“the motif (a hooked cross) appears to have first been used in Eurasia, as early as 7000 years ago, perhaps representing the movement of the sun through the sky… a symbol of well-being in ancient societies, including those in India, China, Africa, native America, and Europe….Swastikas also have an ancient history in Europe, appearing on artifacts from pre-Christian European cultures.”

According to Wilson (1894) it was found to be used for two thousand or more years in Asia and the Europe. It is traced in Denmark, at least 2,000 years ago and the Cross is a derivative of the Swastika (Butts 1908).

Heidtmann (1991, p.135) notes:

“The Swastika is one of the most ancient and popular of all ornamental forms. It appeared again and again among different peoples in both hemispheres. It was used on ceramics in Iran as early as the fourth millennium B.C., and it appeared later in Troy, Greece, India, Tibet and Japan.”

The word ‘’Aryan’’ is also misinterpreted like the Swastika.  In Sanskrit, the word means one who is noble or a cultured person ‘’whose mental defects such as attachment etc. have been attenuated’’ (Sarasvati, p 1004).  Elst (2017) writes:

‘’the term does not indicate a race, but a quality of character. When Buddha gives a short formulation of his teachings, he calls it the Arya Satyani, the four Noble Truths (p.6] ……. [the words Aryan and Semitic] may not denote races, as Hitler thought, but they do denote language groups, and people identify to quite an extent with their language [p.12] ……. The use of the word Arya as shorthand for Sanatana Dharma can continue, but one should be careful not to give secularist slanderers a chance of falsely associating it with the Aryan race nonsense [p.14].’’

Thus, the objection to the word ‘Aryan’’ is misplaced. Unfortunately, the word also got associated with the Nazis. A counter to the Antipodean Resistance (a Neo-Nazi movement) is provided by Nathan.

Before we try to understand the Indian or Indic perspective on Swastika (that is, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh), let us examine where did the Nazis appropriate it from?

  • Hakenkreuz – not Swastika

According to (USHMM 2017, para. 2):

“During his extensive excavations, the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered the hooked cross on the site of ancient Troy. He connected it with similar shapes found on pottery in Germany and speculated that it was a “significant religious symbol of our remote ancestors.”

The above work of the European linguist was readily used by the German supremist groups as a symbol of racial superiority and Aryan identity.

“After World War I, a number of far-right nationalist movements adopted the swastika. As a symbol, it became associated with the idea of a racially “pure” state…. {though] in the beginning of the twentieth century the swastika was widely used in Europe [as]…a symbol of good luck and auspiciousness.” (USHMM 2017, para. 5)

Rex Curry (n.d.) notes:

“Most people do not know that a cross was worshiped as the notorious symbol of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. The group called their symbol the Hakenkreuz, not the swastika. Hakenkreuz means “hooked cross.” It is one of the biggest cover-ups in history.  The hooked cross became a symbol of Christian Socialism…… The Hakenkreuz (hooked cross) was an ancient religious symbol in Germany, related to the un-hooked cross and to the Prussian-German Iron cross and to other crosses.”

The pictures of various crosses used in Germany have been provided by Abhas (2020). He notes:

‘’Anyone having basic sense of Graphic Design would tell you that the first idea of creating logo or symbol for anything comes from combining the initials of name or intent. In case of “Hakenkreuz” it was combination of two “S” of “Socialist” and the cross represented “siege”.

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Further details in to this insignia are provided by Heller (2000).

  • Christian Fraud?

Abhas (2020, para. 15) asserts that:

 “James Vincent Murphy, a Christian Priest who translated the Mein Kamph in English to first time speak of Hakenkreuz as Swastika…. Hitler very clearly stated that the Hakenkreuz referred to work (labor) and mimicked Soviet socialism’s “new” “Hooked Cross” replacement, the Hammer and Sickle (two tools of workers).”

Simha (2020) provides full details of the mistranslation by James Murphy point by point and demonstrates how translating Hakenkreuz, a German word, in to English as Swastika was an evangelical conspiracy. He provides detailed evidence in support of the claim that translating the Hakenkreuz as Swastika was a Church fraud. Simha (2020) contends that Murphy left many German words as they are in his English translation of the Mein Kampf noting that there is no equivalent English word yet for Hakenkreuz he finds ‘’Swastika’’ as the perfect translation! Furthermore,  Simha (2020) notes that the intention was to hide the Nazi-Christian connection.  True Indology also (2018) claims that the roots of antisemitism could be traced to the Bible and that Hitler never used the Swastika and it is an evangelical defamation of a Hindu symbol.

Elst (2017, pp. 3-4) observes:

‘’This reversal of the swastika’s meaning, from a sign of luck (always depicted on the hand of opulent Ganesh) to a sign of evil, is somewhat like the story of the Christian image of the devil: he is depicted with buck’s horns, a clear reference to the horned god of Paganism (like the Pashupati on one of the Indus seals). The positive imagery of Paganism got integrated into Christian imagery, but then as the symbol of evil. Now that we are no longer bound by the compulsions of the missionary project, we may clear the horned god, as well as the swastika, of the evil aura with which outsiders have covered them’’.

What does the Hindu Swastika stand for then?

  • Swastika: A Hindu Perspective

In Sanskrit, the word Swastika (or Svastika) means happiness, good luck or well-being and signifies auspiciousness (Klostermaier 2010, p. 606). It is the very antithesis of violence. Swastika ‘’ is a combination of ‘su’ (meaning ‘good’) and ‘asti’ (meaning ‘to exist’) — often getting translated as ‘all is well.’ The swastika is thus understood to be a symbol of auspiciousness and good fortune’’ (HAF).  “The emblem of the sun in motion, a wheel with spokes, was actually replaced by what we now call the Swastika notes Max Muller as cited in Butt (1908). It is actually a symbol of good fortune asserts Winston (2017).  Obviously, people who have used Swastika as a symbol of peace and prosperity would not like the symbol to be appropriated by the Nazis but certainly like to reclaim it (Campion 2014). In fact, its continued use as a symbol of peace and prosperity would be a befitting reply to the Nazis.

Elst (2017, p. 5) notes:

“What the swastika visually depicts, is the solar cycle, be it during the day or during the year. It shows the circular movement at the four cardinal points: sunrise, noon, sunset, midnight; or spring equinox, summer solstice, autumn equinox, winter solstice. As such, it is a shorthand for the Zodiac as well as for all macrocosmic and microcosmic cycles. It signifies the completeness as well as the dynamics of the Whole. Being primarily a solar symbol, it is normally (except in black-and-white print) painted in solar colours like red, saffron or gold ; while the Nazi swastika was black”.

The Hindu God- Vishnu – is ‘’also called ananta, the endless one, with a thousand heads, embellished with the svāstika’’ (Klostermaier 2010, p. 95). The homa (fire worship), begins only after the Swastika image is drawn. Hindu rites or pooja (worship / prayer) invariably begins with the image of the Swastika with the deity mounted thereon. The divinity is then invoked by sacred mantras to manifest in the deity’s image. Visit any Hindu home, and one would invariably find the Swastika at the entrance or in the shrine inside.

Swastika is also a holy and sacred symbol of the Buddhist. The original Buddha is described as the one with a Swastika mark on his breast (Butt,1908). The 14th century Jain text, identifies eight auspicious symbols for worship including the Swastika. It signifies Svasti or peace (Shah 2010:594). “It is still used by the common people of India, China, and Japan as a sign of long life, good wishes, and good fortune’’ (Wilson 1894:771). The rock inscriptions on Buddhist cavern and in Harappan excavations in India as well as that on the pottery of Cyprus carry the Swastika (Wilson 1894). Padhya (2016) provides evidence from architecture of various religions to demonstrate how the Swastika is used by all.

The Nazi symbol is black while the Hindu symbol is always red with a dot inside each right angle.  The Nazi symbol is a 45 degrees tilted to the left while the Hindu symbol is not. Here is a popular image of Hindu Swastika on a Deepavali Card.

How can one hurt the religious sentiments of over 1.1 billion Hindus, half a billion Buddhists, and over five million adherents of Jainism for whom it is a symbol of peace and prosperity, of well-being and auspiciousness because the sentiments of a few are hurt? It is important to remember that followers of the Indic religions have not engaged in mass bloodshed in the known history which provides empirical evidence that Swastika is used as a symbol of peace.

  • Conclusion

Interestingly, by pushing for a ban on the Swastika, the Jewish people would be precisely hurting those who provided them a sanctuary in difficult times. “Jews have lived in India for over 2,000 years and have never been discriminated against. This is something unparalleled in human history” noted the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger. Why should one fall prey to the misuse of the Swastika by rogues and ban the symbol itself?  Also, is the banning of the symbol a panacea to end the ideology of hatred? “In the United States, it is legal to display Nazi symbols and propaganda because of the country’s traditions and laws protecting free speech’’ (USHMM 2017, para.16). Furthermore, people, for example, the Hindus, that have no connection to the atrocities by the Nazis and have continued to use Swastika as a holy and sacred symbol will feel robbed thereof because someone else used it for unholy purposes. If it is considered that Swastika should be banned because it is considered unholy or a wicked symbol, by the same yard stick, then since the Hindus consider cow to be a sacred animal should the slaughter thereof across the world be banned?

Would any member of the Jewish community ever consider playing with the sentiments of the Hindus, the very people who provided them a refuge in a difficult time?

(Prof Milind Sathye is an Australian academic. Views personal)

DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.