28 January 2013

All swastikas are not created equal


The image above ("Deep in prayer at the Chamundeshwari Temple, Mysore, India"), by
Steph Peatfield of Londo, is an entry in the Telegraph's Big Picture travel photography competition.  When I saw the photo, I was reminded of this photograph of actress Clara Bow -


- that I blogged three years ago (discussed here), and this one from 2010 of a folk quilt in a Colorado museum:


(read the details here), and finally this Halloween outfit from 1918:

The word swastika is derived from the Sanskrit word "svastika", meaning any lucky or auspicious object, and in particular a mark made on persons and things to denote good luck. It is composed of su- meaning "good, well" and asti "to be" svasti thus means "well-being." The suffix -ka either forms a diminutive or intensifies the verbal meaning, and svastika might thus be translated literally as "that which is associated with well-being," corresponding to "lucky charm" or "thing that is auspicious." The word in this sense is first used in the Harivamsa. As noted by Monier-Williams in his Sanskrit-English dictionary, according to Alexander Cunningham, its shape represents a monogram formed by interlacing of the letters of the auspicious words su-astí (svasti) written in Ashokan characters.
Lots more info at the Wikipedia entry linked above.

Addendum:  Reader adeus notes that the swastika is in current usage by some units of the Finnish Air Force:


9 comments:

  1. My husband and I were looking at old houses to buy in Highland Park, Michigan. We looked at one that was built in the early 1920s (maybe 1919). The foyer was covered in beautiful Pewabic tiles with a swastika pattern, which takes you aback, until you remember that the Nazi party wasn't known in America until the late 1920s, maybe even later.

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  2. With google street view you can just make out what decorates the light posts outside of the historic Post Office @ 323 East Broadway, Glendale, CA, United States
    When I was young, I remember visiting this post office, sitting in my mother's parked car and through the mirror catching a glimpse of swastikas that ringed the bases of the light posts. As I looked around, I discovered they were 'everywhere' (As an adult I can clearly see that they are 'backwards' when compared to the more familiar Nazi design.) Regardless, I remember being scared, confused and wondering what affiliation my family had with such evil people... It didn't help matters that our family was from Germany originally.

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  3. It's a visually pleasing symbol, but hopelessly corrupted.

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  4. Some units in the Finnish air force still use the swastika (e.g. Training Air Wing in their insignias. An interesting feat considering the historical baggage that comes with it.

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    1. I hadn't seen that one before. Excellent. I've added the image and link to the post. Thanks, adeus for helping make the blog better.

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  5. Sometimes history just irrevocably changes things. The swastika is one of those things. It will never be the same; it can never be reborn.

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    1. Sure it can; all it needs to do is outlast memories and knowledge of WWII.

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  6. The flag of the Isle of Man (a self-governed island in between Ireland and England) is essentially a swastika (it has the same root meaning). See this picture: http://www.mapsofworld.com/flags/isle-of-man-flag.html

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