WHAT THE SWASTIKA REPRESENTS - Stephen Knapp
The Swastika is a symbol of auspiciousness (Swasti - auspiciousness). Literally, Swastika means 'of good fortune' - 'su' means 'well' and 'asti' means 'being'. It has been used as a symbol of the Sun or of Vishnu. It is a solar symbol, spreading out in all four directions. It symbolizes the cosmos and the progress of the Sun through space. It derives its auspiciousness from the four-fold principles of divinity. Brahma is said to be four-faced. It also represents the world-wheel, the eternally changing world, round a fixed and unchanging center, God.
Religious texts explain that the eight arms of the Swastika are symbolic of the earth, fire, water, air, sky, mind, emotions, and feelings. The four main arms point in four directions. They represent the four eras – Satya-yuga, Treta-yuga, Dwapara-yuga and Kali-yuga. They also represent the four varnas - Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. They represent the four ashrams of life too - Brahmacharya, Grihasta, Vanaprastha, and Sannyasa. The four arms are also symbolic of the four basic aims of human pursuit - dharma (righteousness), artha (prosperity), kama (passion) and moksha (salvation). They are also symbolic of the four faces and four hands of Brahma and of the four Vedas - Rig-Veda, Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda, and Atharva-Veda. They are also symbolic of the four constellations - Pushya (8th), Chitra (14th), Shravan (22nd) and Revti (27th).
Since ancient times Hindus use this symbol on auspicious occasions like marriage, Lakshmi-puja, etc. Swastika marks depicted on doors or walls of buildings are believed to protect them from the wrath of evil spirits or furies of nature. Hindus worship Swastika as symbol of Ganesha. In Hindu astronomy the auspicious form of the Swastika represents the celestial change of the Sun to the tropic of Capricorn.
There are two kinds of Swastika symbols mentioned in the ancient scriptures. The right-handed Swastika is associated with the Sun, and hence emblem of the world-wheel indicating cosmic possession and evolution thereof, around a fixed center. The left-handed Swastika, which moves anti-clockwise, represents the Sun during the autumn and winter, and is regarded as inauspicious. According to some accounts the right-handed Swastika symbolizes Ganesha and stands for auspiciousness whereas left-handed one personifies goddess Kali and stands for night and destruction.
In all social ceremonies the right-handed Swastika is used and has become an object of great veneration.
The counterclockwise Swastika, though not as common, is used in some tantrika practices. Incidentally, the Swastika, as adopted by the Nazis was also the counterclockwise type. Thus, it brought ruination. As scholars like Prof. Max Muller also pointed out, this design was also favored in some orthodox Christian churches and was popular several hundred years ago in England, and also in varied forms in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. For example, the related symbol in Sweden had the arms of the counterclockwise Swastika design expanded and connected to each other along a circular contour; which appears like a cross embedded in a circle.
According to Vedic philosophy, the four arms of the Swastika symbolize the four Vedas, four Varnas, four Ashrams, four Lokas or planetary systems, and the four deities - Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh (Shiva), and Ganesh. Eminent Vedic scholar Pt. Ramchandra Shastri further cites that the design of the Swastika resembles a four-petaled lotus (chaturdala kamal) which symbolizes the abode of Lord Ganapati (Ganesh) and is therefore worshiped in religious ceremonies and also enshrined at the places of worship. Several savants also regard the Swastika as the symbol of the Kaustubh Mani present on the chest of Lord Vishnu.
It was also a useful sign in commercial records in the ancient times and a symbol of fire, electricity, lightening, water, magnet, etc. Yet other researchers have also said that the Swastika, the symbol of auspiciousness and well-being, as designed by the Indian rishis (sages) of the Vedic age, was well received and recognized by the different civilizations across the globe who adopted it in various forms of similar designs. Thus, this symbol, along with other marks of the Vedic Culture, carries the spirit of enlightening thoughts and wisdom, the flow of which brings humankind to a higher level of consciousness.
Prof. Max Muller is among the noted European scholars who had studied Sanskrit language and the Vedic literature and also written commentaries there on. Commenting on the global propagation of the Swastika symbol, he once wrote in a letter to Dr. Schloman indicating that - this Vedic symbol could be found in Rome, Milan, Pompia, and perhaps in almost every part of Italy, in some ancient cities of England, at several places in Hungary, Greece, China, and in many other parts of the world. He has also supported the views of E. Thomas, where the latter has described the Swastika as a symbol of the continuous motion of the sun (and the solar system).
In the Ganesh Purana it is said that the Swastika is a form of Lord Ganesh. It is necessary that this be made before beginning any auspicious work. It has the power to remove all obstacles. Those who ignore it may fail. It is therefore customary to make all beginnings with the Swastika.
The Swastika is also known as 'Satiya', which is symbolic of the Sudarshan Chakra. People also consider it as a symbol denoting plus (+). That makes it a symbol of prosperity. The four dots around the Swastika are symbolic of the four directions around us.