The swastika is an archetypal, universal human religious symbol. It appears on every continent and is as old as humankind. A marker of the sun’s travels, it can be seen on Pictish rock carvings, adorning ancient Greek pottery, and on ancient Norse weapons and implements. It was scratched on cave walls in France seven thousand years ago. A swastika marks the beginning of many Buddhist scriptures, and is often incised on the soles of the feet of the Buddha in statuary. In the Jain religion, it is a symbol of the seventh Jina (Saint), the Tirthankara Suparsva. To Native Americans, the swastika is a symbol of the sun, the four directions, and the four seasons.


The swastika is a type of solar cross, with arms bent at right angles, suggesting a whirling or turning motion. Long before the symbol was co-opted as an emblem of Hitler’s Nazi party, it was a sacred symbol to Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist religions, as well as in Norse, Basque, Baltic, and Celtic Paganism. The name Swastika is derived from the Sanskrit language, from “su,” meaning “good,” and “vasti”,” meaning “being” (together; well being). In India, it is used as a fertility and good luck charm. The right turning Indian swastika symbolizes the sun and positive energy, and is most commonly associated with the deity Ganesh, a God of prosperity and wealth. Some Indians regard an anti-clockwise swastika as an opposing, dark force- a symbol of the goddess Kali. Together, the two can be regarded as symbolically similar to the Yin Yang symbol of Taoism, or the two Pillars of Kabbalah. The swastika is also known for its uses in heraldry as the tetraskelion, the fylfot cross (fylfot meaning ‘four feet,’ a term used in european heraldry), the cross gammadion (because it resembles four greek letter ‘gammas.’), and the hakenkreutz (German, hooked cross).


The swastika used in Buddhist art and scripture is known as a Manji, and represents Dharma, universal harmony, and the balance of opposites. When facing left, it is the Omote (front) Manji, representing love and mercy. Facing right, it represents strength and intelligence, and is called the Ura (rear facing) Omoje. Balanced Manji are often found at the beginning and end of Buddhist scriptures. You can read more about Manji here. In pre-Christian Pagan Europe, the swastika was generally a solar symbol, but in many cases, its use dates so far back in history that its original meaning is obscured. In Baltic regions, the swastika is sometimes called the “thunder cross,” and is associated with the Thunder God Perkons (Perkunis). This symbol caused some confusion in recent years when it was one of many traditional Latvian designs sewn into a pair of mittens gifted to President George W. Bush during a state visit.

variation of the Thunder Cross, or Cross of Perkons
Related Symbols:
LauburuManjiSolar cross

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Religious Symbol Dictionary | symboldictionary.net
November 29, 2009 at 3:05 am


amy April 12, 2016 at 11:30 am

why would this symbol be in my school emblem?I mean,i know that it is there because of my schools german roots,but why did Adolf Hitler think of that symbol?

Jennifer April 12, 2016 at 7:14 pm

The short version is that Hitler chose it because Nazis believed Germans were descended from Aryan nomads in India.

dhillp August 2, 2015 at 6:12 pm

some hindu ones have dots whithin the circles

Riley May 6, 2015 at 12:54 pm

The swastik is actually an auspicious Hindu symbol and should probably be listed under Hinduism. It represents shakti, or raw power. The direction of the legs is generally opposite for the Nazi variation.

Jennifer May 7, 2015 at 9:18 pm

Actually, it is a universal symbol, and as such is listed in several places. The notion of left/right differentiation is incorrect, however. Both Hindu and Buddhist swastikas face in both directions, with right-facing being a bit more common.

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