History of the Swastika

Swastikas at a Hindu temple, India
Hindu temple, India. (Credit)

The swastika has held a place of great importance in India and Asia for thousands of years, and is widely used by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists.

The swastika is to be seen everywhere across the Indian sub-continent: sculptured into temples both ancient and modern, decorating buildings, houses, shops, painted onto public buses, in taxis - even decorating the dashboards of the three-wheeler motor rickshaws. Many religious and spiritual books display the symbol. It may well be the most prevalent symbol one will see in India.

However, the swastika is not limited to India and Asia. Evidence suggests that the swastika was in use in many other cultures too. For example:

  • The ancient city of Troy, in the northwest of present-day Turkey
  • The Iron Age Koban culture of the Caucasus in Asia minor
  • On prehistoric Vinca artefacts from South-Eastern Europe
  • Amongst the ancient Hittites who lived in the area of present day Syria
  • In Ein Gedi, near Israel's Dead Sea
  • In the Tang Dynasty of China
  • In the 13th Century Amiens Cathedral in France
  • In ancient Greek architectural designs
  • On Native American Indian artefacts including those of the Navajo and Hopi
  • On pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon and Druidic artefacts

The Edmonton Swastikas, a Canadian womens' ice hockey team, c.1916
The Edmonton Swastikas, a Canadian womens' ice hockey team, c.1916. (Credit)

The swastika was also used widely in the pre-Nazi twentieth century:

  • Dust-covers of books by Rudyard Kipling and other authors
  • Boy Scouts' badges in Britain from 1911 to 1922
  • Bank notes printed by the 1917 Russian Provisional Government
  • Emblem of the British National War Savings Committee
  • Planes of the Finnish Air force and Army from 1918 until 1944
  • Latvian Air Force, 1918 until 1934
  • The Icelandic Steamship Company, Eimskip, from 1914
  • The Theosophical Society, founded in New York in 1875

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