Where Did The Swastika Come From?

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on June 7, 2007

I’m getting a lot of comment on the London 2012 Logo that appears to look like a swastika to me. Some folks believe the swastika image came from ancient India, others the Vikings. I’ve seen the swastika image on very old Navajo blankets. Frankly, I’m betting there is something about the image that is universal and common to many cultures.

Here’s the Wikipedia answer—the swastika’s origins are Eurasian.

200px-HinduSwastika.svg

Here is what wiki says:

“The swastika has an extensive history. The motif seems to have first been used in Neolithic Eurasia. The swastika is used in religious and civil ceremonies in Hindu countries (especially Nepal and India). Most Indian temples, entrance of houses, weddings, festivals and celebrations are decorated with swastikas. The symbol was introduced to Southeast Asia by Hindu kings and remains an integral part of Balinese Hinduism to this day, and it is a common sight in Indonesia. The symbol has an ancient history in Europe, appearing on artifacts from pre-Christian European cultures. It was also adopted independently by several Native American cultures.


Greek helmet with swastika marks on the top part (details), 350-325 BC from Taranto, found at Herculanum. Cabinet des Médailles, Paris.In the Western world, the symbol experienced a resurgence following the archaeological work in the late 19th century of Heinrich Schliemann, who discovered the symbol in the site of ancient Troy and associated it with the ancient migrations of Proto-Indo-Europeans. He connected it with similar shapes found on ancient pots in Germany, and theorized that the swastika was a “significant religious symbol of our remote ancestors,” linking Germanic, Greek and Indo-Iranian cultures.[1][2] By the early 20th century it was widely used worldwide and was regarded as a symbol of good luck and success.

The work of Schliemann soon became intertwined with the völkisch movements, for which the swastika was a symbol of “Aryan” identity, a concept that came to be equated by theorists like Alfred Rosenberg with a Nordic master race originating in northern Europe. Since its adoption by the Nazi Party of Adolf Hitler, the swastika has been associated with fascism, racism (white supremacy), World War II, and the Holocaust in much of the West. The swastika remains a core symbol of Neo-Nazi groups, and is also regularly used by activist groups to signify the supposed Nazi-like behavior of organizations and individuals they oppose.”

Reader Comments

jason

June 7, 2007 10:25 PM

The swastika does indeed seem like one of those universal images, of four lines (or two crooked ones) intersecting at a single point. But I've seen a very real swastika-looking thing in Plains Indian art before. In fact, the Nebraska Supreme Court chamber has many murals of American Indian scenes, all of which are framed by a repeating swastika pattern. It's very unnerving, but built in the 1800's so there can't be a connection with the Nazis.

AM

June 8, 2007 6:15 AM

Swastika is a symbol from ancient India that represented well-being and prosperity. I think it was carried to Europe during the period of Alexander of Macedon...

David

June 13, 2007 4:32 PM

It's awful. Looks like something from hell...

Billy Rojas

June 15, 2007 9:36 PM

As the founder of the ( very ANTI-Nazi )
Swastika Club of America, it would please me
to provide as much information as you might like about the history of the swastika, especially
its usage in the United States since the early
19th century. FYI, I live in Eugene, Oregon,
about 50 miles from Swastika Mountain. There also
is a ghost town named Swastika in southern
Oregon, and others in Nevada and New Mexico.
A small village of this name exists in upstate NY.
As well, there are about a dozen more Swastika
plkace names in the USA.

Sincerely
Billy Rojas
recently retired academic

D.Oliver

June 20, 2007 1:46 PM

Bruce,

I was puzzled to see swastikas on Bhudist temples in Japan when I visited for the first time several years ago. Of course, the temples have nothing to do with the Natzis. The symbol predates Hitler and is found in many cultures.

That said, you might want to put the 2012 logo on this site along with your post. I personally think its resemblance to the swaztika(German or otherwise) is pretty remote.

Gyokomura

July 2, 2007 8:35 AM

I also believe that it might have been brought to Europe in the time of Alexandar of Macedonia, since I have seen it on mosaics of a very ancient temple in Ohrid, Macedonia.
I have been also told that Hitler during WW2 sent some of his archeologists there to do a research on the use of the swastika in the temple.

Ilesh

July 3, 2007 7:51 AM

In India, Swastika is considered sacred and it is a symbol of purity. As explained in Vedas, every Puja would first start with Swastika.

Swastika symbol of Nazis is reverse than one you see in India. I don't know how many of you would have noticed this.

Mark H. Deschinny

January 9, 2008 2:05 AM

Ya'at'eeh Mr. Nussbaum,

I have to comment on your article. Native Americans did not adopt the swastika from Europeans. Navajos use the swastika to represent significances of the four sacred directions, whether the winds, waters, earths, logs, birds, etc... Our relationship to those directions are sacred. The swastika with it's four sides is a very sacred symbol which represents a part of Navajo creation. As such, it is seen in ceremonies, and those ceremonies have existed prior to European contact. In the recent past, Navajos did use the swastika in artwork such as silverwork or weavings, but since the use of the swastika by Nazis, Navajos stopped it's use in public artwork. If you wish to research more, look into Navajo ceremonial sandpaintings. I hope you will find this useful in future writings. In the mean time, take care and peace be upon you.

Hagoonee',

mhd

Nick

June 6, 2008 9:26 PM

Mhd,

Thanks for your information about the significance of the swastika to Navajos. Don't worry about anyone mistaking the origins of the swastika's use by Native Americans. It is clear from the sentence "It was also adopted independently by several Native American cultures" that neither Nussbaum nor the wikipedia article imply a European origin for native North American swastikas. Perhaps the European influence on Asian-Indian swastikas could be mistaken for an influence on Native North American "Indian" ones.

Nick

fasasdfas

January 27, 2009 3:40 AM

Where did the swastikas start?

Loonie

February 18, 2009 4:43 PM

It's always saddened me greatly that a symbol of good dating back to possibly beyond the neolithic age had been successfully repurposed as a symbol of such grotesque monsters. It was a victory for Hitler and fascism, and it's sad there was no effort to reclaim it.

Juven Bachan

May 10, 2009 10:45 AM

The swastika is the oldest symbol in the world. It was first depicted as an art symbol carved on the ivory of a mammoth in Russia in the Ukraine, 10,000 years ago in the Paleolithic Age. Then, it was brought by migrating Aryan tribes to India where it has survived as a religious and cultural symbol.

Rob Teller

September 20, 2009 9:32 PM

The swastika actually originated in India along with
the Aryans. There are newer records that actually show that to be the case.

Sgt. Majorette

October 29, 2009 6:03 AM

If you ever see old drawings of women dancers on one knee with their elbows at seemingly unnatural right angles, look again.
They are taking the pose of the Sun Wheel. It's so old that it doesn't matter exactly where it originated. All humans originated in Africa, if you want to go back to origins.

Vitz

December 15, 2009 11:08 PM

lol Juven Bachan.

u know how old the Indian History is?!
10,000 is nothing..
Everybody knows that the Swastika as the Aryans were originated from India, if you want a proof just google it, you will get the same answer.
There has been so much chit-chat over the origins cause some people hate the symbol cause its associated to the nazis..but the symbol meant prosperity and well-being in India first!

Oberon Zell

November 21, 2010 4:02 PM

If this is the same Billy Rojas who used to publish The Future magazine back in the 1970's, I would really like to talk with you about John Isaacs and his "Living Earth" theory, as I am working on a book on the history of the whole Gaea Thesis, and you wrote an article on Isaacs for my Green Egg magazine in 1989... If this is you, please email me back. Thanks!
-Oberon Zell
Oberon@mcn.org

sqaiprasad

January 27, 2011 3:31 AM

swastik is the worlds best symbol having great importtance which can be explained by science to

vivek

February 7, 2011 4:37 PM

swastika has been found in Indus valley scriptures . it cant be be Eurasian . Indus valley dated much earlier than European history .

ranj beharry

April 14, 2011 5:00 PM

The word 'SWASTIKA' is Sindhi, and the Sankrit worh is Svastika ( from the Veda) what part of understanding simple English are we having... The Swastika is an origional Sindhu sign.. It existed thousands of years before the Aryans came and joined the Harappan Civilization, which in turn is the oldest civilization in the world, thousands of years before Mesopotania.... Even the wise ass British scolors and their Europeans colleages, could not believe the indians had so an old and intricate civilization( with irrigation and two stories homes W/ toilets) .... so, they tried to European rig( as they usual do to other non-European cultures) it to the Aryans later coming to India... But 1921 discoveries are proofing the reality/truth

ranj beharry

April 14, 2011 5:00 PM

The word 'SWASTIKA' is Sindhi, and the Sankrit worh is Svastika ( from the Veda) what part of understanding simple English are we having... The Swastika is an origional Sindhu sign.. It existed thousands of years before the Aryans came and joined the Harappan Civilization, which in turn is the oldest civilization in the world, thousands of years before Mesopotania.... Even the wise ass British scolors and their Europeans colleages, could not believe the indians had so an old and intricate civilization( with irrigation and two stories homes W/ toilets) .... so, they tried to European rig( as they usual do to other non-European cultures) it to the Aryans later coming to India... But 1921 discoveries are proofing the reality/truth

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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