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SWASTIKA

The swastika symbol that is associated not only with Indians, but also with the Germans. The symbol looks like an equilateral cross, with its four arms bent at right angles. One would find the symbol of the swastika inscribed at the portals of Indian homes, on the Poornakumbha or the sacred pot or even in Rangolis (drawings made on the ground with rice powder and color).

The well-being of all sentient beings

The word naturally has roots in the ancient Indian language Sanskrit, which is considered to be God’s own language and hence sacred. ‘Su’ means good, ‘asti’ means ‘to be’, so Swasti means well-being and ka means symbol. Thus, swastika means the well-being of all sentient beings.

Sun and the Swastika-one and the same?

The swastika is used to represent the Sun-the omnipotent giver and sustainer of life. The approach of dawn is awaited with hope, as a brand new day unfolds, and, in it lies the myriad possibilities of hopes renewed and tasks to be accomplished. As the sun rises, hundreds of birds begin a new day by their constant chirping, the farmer goes out into his field to monitor his crops and many others begin their day, to finish incomplete tasks of the previous day and make their mark in the world.

The Sun’s rays that radiate warmth and hope and the sun never withholds its light from anyone and dutifully returns to shine every new dawn, even as it sets at dusk. The arms of the swastika thus signify hope and the ongoing cycle of good luck after a rough patch. It assures one, that good cheer will fill the seeker, after a spell of despair. It also acts as a reminder to the complacent not to rest with recent laurels, but to strive to maintain his position!

The sun plays a vital role in bringing rain clouds by way of evaporation and only because of the sun’s brilliance do we actually get rain! So, sun is the life giver that helps in photosynthesis in plants, in bringing rains and dispelling darkness and spreading warmth and good cheer.  Even as the farmer awaits the rain clouds and hopes the sun would be less harsh in summer, the sun is needed to bring about rains. Life is a cycle and the seasons too are cyclic in nature like the swastika. Our life too, filled with hope and despair is cyclical. The symbol of the swastika, thus spells hope. 

Four-Paths to salvation

The 4 arms of the swastika represent the four life-fulfilling aims of life, namely dharma (religion), artha (meaning of life and how one’s material desires are fulfilled), kaama (or legitimate sexual desires) and moksha(ultimate salvation or liberation of the soul). While, it is claimed that the path to salvation is to be sought by adopting and practicing any of the four aims, the truth is, that life can be rewarding and fulfilling only when all these are simultaneously practiced by striking a fine balance. The swastika symbol is symmetrical and thus signifies the need for a balance and harmony in life. Prosperity follows a fulfilling career. An unfulfilling job or a field where we don’t have aptitude in, cannot yield prosperity for a long time. Thus, the right field and right efforts give us our bread and other comforts.

When we have the right partner or companion, we have something to look forward to in life. This hope enables us to work to our potential. Where does religion or duties come here? Religion is a path through which man understands the essence of life and performs his duties. God is a reminder of the limitations of man and also a symbol of hope when faith dies. And finally, for a rich, fulfilling life we need to fulfill our desires and those of others, without any one aim being given undue importance.

Swastika as rangoli

South Indians, use the swastika in the centre, with each arm reaching out to the neighboring arm, in an inverted ‘U’ shape, to form a rangoli pattern. This again signifies that each of our actions has a consequence. “As you sow, so shall you reap”, is the lesson here. So a symmetrical swastika with the arms in direct proportion render a symmetrical rangoli(kolam), signifying a balanced life.  

The four stages of man

Hinduism advocates the four stages of a man’s life, wherein he performs certain duties at a certain stage of his life and is initiated into performing the next duty at the next stage. The first stage being Brahmacharya or celibacy is when children are tutored about religion, duties, science, arts, and the know-how of the world. At this stage, the young mind free of cares absorbs much. Next is ‘Grihastashram’ or the life of a householder, where the former student puts his studies into practice. The third stage is Vanaprasthanam or seclusion, where man devotes his time to studies, to ponder about his own life and those of others and takes time to understand the life gone by and learns things he has an inclination to. The final stage called ‘Sanyasa’ or renunciation is a time, when man after realizing the transience of life and its myriad hues, ultimately realizes God. He becomes spiritual and learns to seek the God within. His path is free only when it’s free of deterrents like lust, greed and other obsessions.

Being spiritually inclined, one need not, renounce the world at a young age. Hinduism believes that only through certain life processes does man realize God. Adversity renders the meaning of prosperity! Similarly, a householder cannot neglect his job and proceed to educate himself at the expense of his family’s needs! Thus, a fine balance is needed at every stage of life. 

Drawing the symbol on portals, as rangolis and other motifs or on temple carvings, this inherent meaning of the symbol is brought about.

‘Wantsu’ and the ‘Swastika’

The Chinese call the swastika ‘Wan’ meaning the whole creation or the myriad things. ‘Wantsu’ or ‘swastika’ represents the four points or directions of the compass. It symbolizes the 10,000 myriad things or infinity.


 

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