Saturday, October 21, 2017

How American Coworkers React to the Swastika on My Indian Home

In India, the swastika is an ancient of many religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Depending on the historical outlet you turn to in your research, the symbol has been around anywhere from 5000-12,000 years, even before it was used in India. Regardless, the name of the symbol as we call it today in most of the world comes from the Sanskrit word svastika which translates to "good fortune" or, more deeply "Permanent Victory" according to Sanskrit scholar R.P. Sarkar.

Most don't realize that there are 2 ways to draw the Swastika and each gives it a different cultural context in Hinduism. If you draw it right handed like the image below, it is representative of the god Vishnu and the Sun. This is considered to be a positive representation of the Swastika.
If you draw it left handed like the image below, it becomes a symbol of the goddess Kali and magic. This is considered to be a negative representation of the Swastika.
As is tradition in India, when I had purchased my ticket to move over there and the wedding was being planned, my family spruced up the house with new paint and new tiles. Part of the minor renovations included taking down the evil eye face we had on the front of the house, putting on all new tiles to make it look beautiful and, without me knowing about it, a large gold Swastika was placed front and center, high and bright for all to see on the front side of the home.

This both shocked and baffled me at the same time. I hadn't thought a lot about it. I hadn't been looking into Hinduism for very long. I didn't know what to think or if my in-laws even knew about what the Swastika stood for in other parts of the world.

In America, the Swastika is almost exclusively known as a symbol of hate and the Nazis. As much as it pains me to say it, most Americans are too unconcerned, ignorant or smug in their own reality to look any further. The common thought here in the US is that the only meaning of the Swastika is for white supremacist and neo-Nazi affiliated groups to glorify Hitler and/or display their belief in white superiority. That belief in itself is narrow-minded but also not that far from truth.

As Diwali came around this year, my Indian family and friends began sending me pictures of all the beautiful decorations and celebrations going on. I started posting some of them on my Facebook and then realized woah....not that one! One of the pictures they had sent was of the front of our home showcasing our decorations and I knew I couldn't post it on my Facebook as not all of my friends would understand the symbolism.

Gold Swastika on Home in Amritsar India with Diwali Lights

I have so many wonderful black women on my friends list who may be horribly offended. I have coworkers on there who might start to think I'm affiliated with a hate group. I have Filipino friends and coworkers who I am not sure how they might react as I don't know what it could mean in their culture but in light of American news, which they do follow, could also think I'm a bad person. So this becomes a part of my life I can't openly share with them. I have to be sensitive to their thoughts and feelings in regards to a very beautiful part of my life.

So cautiously, I explained to my team members all about Diwali and then while they were excited by the video's of all the lights, I told them I could show them my house but before I did that I needed to explain one thing to them. I told them about the Swastika and their first reaction was an exclamation of 'What!!!' There was wide-eyed disbelief that the symbol they knew as a symbol of hate would eve be put on the front of someone's house and at that, how did white supremacy get to India??? I could tell at first thought, they didn't know of the symbol's history.

Then I explained why it was there and how this Swastika was not what they'd seen on the Nazi flag. I pointed out the dots at each internal corner as well to showcase how it was different and considered a positive symbol. They were then more open to it but upon seeing pictures, still seemed a bit shocked about it, though not in a negative way. Keep in mind though, for the last year that we've worked together I've done a lot of talking about India, I've brought in Indian food and we've done a lot of bonding with our India team. So they're a lot more open to the differences than others might be.

Have you ever had Swastika decorated items that you had to show to your non-Indian family and friends? How did they react? (Include the country they were from please.)

Fun facts:
  1. In China, the Swastika is called  the Wan 
  2. In Japan, it is called Manji
  3. In Greece, it's called the Tetraskelion or Tetragrammadion - (which I find eerily close to Tetragrammaton which is a Hebrew name for God).
  4. The oldest Swastika ever found was in Mezine, Ukraine carved into a 12,000 year old ivory statue.
  5. The earliest culture known to use the Swastika was the Vinca Culture from the area now known as Serbia. This culture existed approximately 8000 years ago. They called the symbol a Kolovrat.
  6. Sanskrit has only been traced back 4000 years. 
  7. The Navajo Indians (American Indians) also used the Swastika as one of their symbols. They called it a whirling log and it meant "well being." 
  8. To the Phoenicians, it was used by the priestesses as the sacred symbol of the Sun. 
  9. There is a town in Ontario, Canada name Swastika. It was established before Hitler's use of the symbol. 
  10. Hitler adopted the Swastika in 1920.

1 comment:

  1. A significantime difference between nazi and hindu swastika is that nazi swastika is tilted to the right while hindu swastika is straight.

    It is believed that halter has this thing for Aryans which could be hindu connection as vedic relegion came with the aryans. It is also said that hilter's close associate kept a copy of bhagwad geeta with him. But as they say, they could all be just stories.