The swastika is one of the most recognizable symbols in India, and is a part of the Indian culture in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, representing an ancient Sanskrit word meaning “well being.” The hooked cross symbol of the swastika has a rich history, dating back thousands of years. But, it was only this past century that the symbol grew a completely different meaning and became the symbol of suppression and inhuman extermination.

The first use of the hooked cross was on ivory sculptures from 10,000 BCE.

Some of the first known uses of the complex structured swastika symbols were from Mezin near the Russian border. The symbols were engraved onto sculptures of birds and phallic objects made from ivory. These sculptures are known to be from the palaeolithic era, and the engravings seem to be a remaking of the naturally occurring pattern found on the cross-section of the ivory tusks of Mammoths.

It was considered a symbol of fertility in cultures from the palaeolithic era.

In fact, the engravings were made on sculptures of phallic objects made from ivory tusks. And, the Mammoth itself was a popular symbol of wellness and fertility. Single swastikas started to appear in the Neolithic Vinca culture across south-eastern Europe around 7,000 years ago. And, by the Bronze Age the swastika symbol had spread across Europe.

By early 19th century, the swastika was a common symbol across the west.

From everything including advertising, design and even hockey jerseys, the swastika was soon becoming a popular design among anyone and everyone. In fact, American military units used the symbol as part of their uniform in the First World War and RAF planes had the symbol painted on them as late as 1939.

Then Hitler happened, and the swastika got a completely new meaning.

The work of a few German scholars drew parallels between the Sanskrit use of the symbol with their own language. The Nazis soon imagined a shared ancestry between the Indians and themselves, and concluded their lineage to have come from an ancient god-like warrior race – the Aryans. The Nazi empire quickly rose to power in 1939 and soon ordered the extermination of the Jewish race, throwing the whole world into chaos.

The tilted and encircled Nazi version of the swastika became one of the most terrifying symbols in history.

Born to enforce anti-Semitic propaganda manufactured by the Nazis under the Third Reich, the swastika became associated with a symbol of oppression and genocide. The symbol strikes fear into the hearts of the Jewish people till today, as a reminder of the Holocaust, which left nearly six million Jewish people killed under the Nazi regime.

In 2007, Germany banned the display of the Nazi swastika.

While, the use of the swastika pertaining to any religious faith, particularly South or East Asian, is legitimate, its usage or display in relation to völkisch ideology is outlawed. Dozens of tourists get implicated for the same every year.

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Although the grotesque act of symbolising something as heinous and inhuman as the Holocaust cannot be forgotten, we hope time will wash and cleanse the swastika’s tarnished reputation to the few who still despise it.

Wellness to all.