I was watching a “reality TV” programme called “worlds apart” where Americans go to different parts of the world and live like the natives for 2 weeks.  This episode had a well to do Jewish Americans living with Hindu Rajasthanis and being shocked by the sight of Swasticks.   What was more disturbing, was the music used to introduce the subject of the swastick and no one bothered to explain anything to the family or the viewers what it meant !  The host, being ill equipped to deal with such a huge culture blunder, implied that the Germans considered themselves to be Aryan, and so did the Hindus of India.  The implication of this for the Jewish family, and targeted western audience was profound !

One of the most misunderstood symbols of Hinduism is the Swastika.  Ever since its adoption by the Nazi, its taken on a very negative connotations in the west.  It is important to remember that like the term “Aryan”, it was abducted by the Nazi due to Germany’s loveaffair with all things from ancient India.

Having been removed by several thousand miles and being educated for over 40 decades by a pseudo-secular-communist-congress regime of India, most Indians in India do not understand how the term Arya or Swastika offends most of the Western world.  Sadly, India and its representatives in the West have done little to make people understand matters.

So, here is my own attempt to set the record straight.

Arya is a term used by the ancient tribes of India to denote “civilisation”.  As an adjective, it meant civilised and “Aryavarta” was used as an early idea of nationhood amongst those who believed in the Vedic culture.  The Nazi used the term in a very narrow sense to represent their own race.  I am sure, the majority of the blue eyed, 6’ plus, blond Germans would have been shocked that 8000 miles away, scrawny brown people of an ancient land considered themselves to be Aryan too !

In the 19th and early 20th century, the Romantic movement in Europe adopted many ideas from the newly emerging Eastern world.   More of its philosophies and histories were being discovered and some scholars were amazed that so many ancient cultures were still alive in countries long considered to be “Pagan” and in need of redemption.

Scholars like Max Muler were deeply impressed by India’s culture.  Though they had no colonial interests in India (unlike Britain, France and Portugal), they were interested in its history, religion and languages. 

Desperate to impress that India was never a nation as such, the British put forward theories that Aryans mentioned in the Vedas came from lands outside India’s current borders.  India, according to these scholars, was a land constantly invaded by people from the west and the British were only the latest in a long line of people who did this.  Like the people, their language also came from the west.  Implication was, much of what accounts for “Indian-ness”, is thanks to outsiders.  East has always borrowed from the west and hence the latest colonisation is also beneficial and not exploitative.  Much of this theory has been disputed and now discarded by those doing serious research in this field.    


There is ample evidence that Sanskrit is related to many European languages, especially Germanic languages and this is what really made the Germans assume that they must have Aryan blood in their veins.   Ofcourse this does not necessitate that the language or its people came from the west.  Its also possible the language and people migrated to the west !   Ofcourse the colonial masters of that era could not believe such a thing was ever possible.


Though the swastika is an ancient symbol, and is well known in all cultures, Hindus have elevated it to a highly respected religious symbol. 

The two main differences between the Hindu swastika and the Nazi one is, Indian one is red and its arms always point towards a clockwise motion.  The Nazi one is always black and its arms point towards anti-clockwise movement. 

The Hindu swastika represents progress (its clock-wise movement pointed to forward thinking), health (red being the colour of good health) and it also represents the Lord Ganesh, and hence is a symbol of auspiciousness (good luck).

Needless to say, the black swastika of the Nazi represented ideas and ideology totally different to all of this !



� Bhagwat    [email protected]


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