Critical Podium Dewanand Hinduism
Swastika: Hindus reclaim their symbol of life By
Sacrificer Ruth Gledhill
Sacrifice code wfor0388
Sacrifice date January 19, 2005
Swastika: Hindus reclaim their symbol of life
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
January 19, 2005
HINDUS in Britain have started a campaign to "redeem" the swastika
from its Nazi past and reclaim it as the symbol of life and fortune it
The swastika is a 5,000-year-old symbol that has been used for centuries
by Hindus, Buddhists and many other traditions to denote good luck, but
because of the Nazis it has come to symbolise hate, anti-Semitism, violence,
death and murder. The campaign, announced today, comes after members of
the European Parliament called for a Europe-wide ban on the symbol after
Prince Harry wore a swastika armband to a fancy dress party.
Franco Frattini, the European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security,
has said that he is willing to consider the possibility of a ban. Nazi
symbols including the swastika are banned in Germany.
Hindus use the right-facing version of the swastika, meaning "sun",
as jewellery or on doorways and buildings to bring good fortune. This
was the version adopted by the Nazi Party in 1920 at Salzburg.
It is thought that Allied wartime propaganda is responsible for the false
belief that at Hitler's insistence the swastika was later reversed to
the left-facing version, meaning "death" in Hindu mythology.
Ramesh Kallidai, of the Hindu Forum, is planning pro-swastika awareness
workshops for every region of Britain with a large seminar in London.
Every MP is to be lobbied by e-mail and an information booklet will be
distributed to faith communities and others.
Mr Kallidai said: "A symbol we have used for more than 5,000 years
is now on the verge of being banned because of association with the Nazis
over which we had no control.
"Hindus wish to continue to use this symbol as part of their religion,
but they risk being labelled a Nazi or, in the case of a ban, risk breaking
the law. We need to educate people about the historical context of the
symbol, its wrong use by the Nazis and its importance to Hindus".
Hindus often have swastikas displayed around their homes and business
premises or in artwork. Mr Kallidai said that it was ironic that a symbol
depicting the wheel of life and good fortune had become a symbol of racism,
torture and war.
Nitin Mehtma, founder of Young Indian Vegetarians, said:
"Hindus were known as Aryans and the swastika was a symbol which
identified them as peace-loving, cultured, tolerant people. It would be
nice if this aspect of the swastika can be highlighted."
Ashok Chudasama, of the Blackburn Hindu Centre, runs courses to explain
the use of the sign by Hindus. He said: "When people in the north
raised concerns about us using the swastika, we educated them and they
have taken on board the true meaning."
Bhupendra Patel, a magistrate and the secretary of the Shree Sattavis
Gam Patidar Samaj, a Hindu organisation, said: "Like many Christians
wear crosses, many Hindus wear swastikas. Does this mean they will be
ostracised as Nazis?"
A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which has a well-established
dialogue in place with Britain's Hindus, said: "We respect the Hindu
Forum's desire to take back the swastika but it should be remembered that
neo-Nazis and racists when daubing the swastika get it wrong more than
they get it right. It is a sensitive issue and would require further dialogue."
ANCIENT SIGN OF FORTUNE
? One of the oldest known swastikas was painted on a paleolithic cave
10,000 years ago and swastikas have been found on pottery and coins from
ancient India, China and Greece
? Swastika is derived from the Sanskrit word svastikah, "being fortunate".
Swastika is made up of two Sanskrit words, "su" meaning good
and "asti" meaning to exist. The last part changes the infinitive
to the imperative so that the literal meaning of the term swastika is
"let good prevail"
According to legend, the Buddha left footprints in the shape of swastikas
? Native American blankets were woven with swastikas until the 1930s,
when they were abandoned because of the symbol's use by the Nazis.
? The symbol is formed from the shape of a cross, with the arms bent
to the right symbolising health and life, or to the left, which came to
symbolise ill fortune
? The original designer of the Nazi emblem was Dr Freidrich Krohn, a
dentist and a member of several German nationalist groups
? The swastika was popularised in Germany after the archaeologist Heinrich
Schliemann found many objects with swastikas on them when directing the
excavation of Troy and Mycenae. He linked the symbol to the Aryan people.
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