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London, Tuesday, January 18, 2005
their symbol of life
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion
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 once was.
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
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
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."
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 to 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
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
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.
Adolf Hitler index
demand Europe-wide ban on use or display of
swastika, Nazi symbols