Svastika: history and interpretation

Allen W Thrasher athr at LOC.GOV
Wed May 21 15:47:14 UTC 2003

The discussion raises another issue.  The sorts of books that are being
cited usually discuss what the svastika (and similar signs) are
"symbols" of or "represent."  But there is usually no textual evidence
in India that those who employed them thought of them as a "symbol" of
anything.  Rather they are talked of as being "auspicious" (subha,
kalyANa, puNya).  As far as the texts go, at least to my observation,
the auspiciousness resides in the forms themselves without their
representing any thing or idea.

I sometimes think there is an article to be written, contra Heinrich
Zimmer, "Why there are no myths and symbols in Indian art and
civilization."  Zimmer reads Indian culture via Plato (as have a lot of


Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D.
Senior Reference Librarian
Southern Asia Section
Asian Division
Library of Congress
Jefferson Building 150
101 Independence Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20540-4810
tel. 202-707-3732
fax 202-707-1724
athr at
The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Library
of Congress.

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list