The swastika symbol, 卐 (right-facing or clockwise) or 卍 (left-facing, counterclockwise, or sauwastika), is an ancient religious icon in the cultures of Eurasia. It is used as a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Indian religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
In the Western world, it was a symbol of auspiciousness and good luck until the 1930s when the right-facing tilted form became a feature of Nazi symbolism as an emblem of the Aryan race. As a result of World War II and the Holocaust, many people in the West still strongly associate it with Nazism and antisemitism. The swastika continues to be used as a symbol of good luck and prosperity in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain countries such as Nepal, India, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, China and Japan. It is also commonly used in Hindu marriage ceremonies.
The word swastika comes from Sanskrit: स्वस्तिक, romanized: svastika, meaning "conducive to well-being". In Hinduism, the right-facing symbol (卐) is called swastika, symbolizing surya ("sun"), prosperity and good luck, while the left-facing symbol (卍) is called sauwastika, symbolising night or tantric aspects of Kali. In Jainism, a swastika is the symbol for Suparshvanatha – the seventh of 24 Tirthankaras (spiritual teachers and saviours), while in Buddhism it symbolises the auspicious footprints of the Buddha. In several major Indo-European religions, the swastika symbolises lightning bolts, representing the thunder god and the king of the gods, such as Indra in Vedic Hinduism, Zeus in the ancient Greek religion, Jupiter in the ancient Roman religion, and Thor in the ancient Germanic religion.
The swastika is an icon which is widely found in both human history and the modern world. In various forms, it is otherwise known (in various European languages) as the fylfot, gammadion, tetraskelion, or cross cramponnée (a term in Anglo-Norman heraldry); German: Hakenkreuz; French: croix gammée; Italian: croce uncinata. In Mongolian it is called Хас (khas) and mainly used in seals. In Chinese it is called 卍字 (wànzì) meaning "all things symbol", pronounced manji in Japanese, manja (만자) in Korean and vạn tự / chữ vạn in Vietnamese. A swastika generally takes the form of a cross, the arms of which are of equal length and perpendicular to the adjacent arms, each bent midway at a right angle. The symbol is found in the archeological remains of the Indus Valley Civilisation and Samarra, as well as in early Byzantine and Christian artwork.
The right-facing swastika (卐) was adopted by several organisations in pre-World War I Europe, and later by the Nazi Party and Nazi Germany before World War II. It was used by the Nazi Party to symbolise German nationalistic pride. To Jews and other victims and enemies of Nazi Germany, it became a symbol of antisemitism and terror. In many Western countries, the swastika is now viewed as a symbol of racial supremacism and intimidation because of its association with Nazism.
In Hindu and Buddhist cultures, the swastika is a holy symbol. On the holiday of Diwali, Hindu households commonly use the swastika in decorations. Many Indian auto-rickshaws feature the swastika to ward off ill-fortune. Reverence for the swastika symbol in Asian cultures, in contrast to the West's stigmatisation of the symbol, has led to misinterpretations and misunderstandings.