Travel Pics Theme: T for Temples. How a Sanskrit symbol became an emblem of horror

Chua Phap Bao pagoda, Hoi An

Chua Phap Bao pagoda, Hoi An

The word ‘swastika’ apparently comes from the Sanskrit “svastika” which translates roughly as “good fortune”.

It’s been a symbol of luck and prosperity in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism for centuries – in fact, its first use predates all those religions by millenia – going back 11-thousand tears or more.

But it’s also been used in Europe for centuries – and in fact was used as recently as the 1930s by organisations as diverse as the Carlsberg Brewing Company and the Fiinnish Air Force.

Of course, also in the 1930s, it was adopted by the National Socialist Party of Germany – the Nazis – and came to be a symbol hated by large parts of the world.

In fact, Hitler himself apparently settled on the final design for the Crooked-Cross flag that struck fear – and loathing – amongst his enemies.

Today, outside of the Indian-based religions, it is almost exclusively used by fascists and white supremacists.

But within those Indian-based religions, it remains a symbol of auspiciousness – which leads to sometimes jarring images like this one, from the front of the Chua Phap Bao temple, in the Old City area of Hoi An, Vietnam.

This pagoda’s not featured in many guide-books, etc – and we just stumbled across it as we wandered around Hoi An’s World- Heritage listed Ancient City.

The temple is a working Buddhist temple, and features a lovely garden (complete with religious-themed folk ornaments), and some imposing statues of Buddha.

We gathered that the temple’s not particularly ancient – and definitely isn’t as ‘tourist-oriented’ as some others we have visited – but we still got some lovely photos, and spent a reflective hour or so in the gardens and indoor shrines.

One thought on “Travel Pics Theme: T for Temples. How a Sanskrit symbol became an emblem of horror

  1. Yes. Like words, the meanings change as how we use it evolves. Unfortunately this symbol was adopted by extreme groups for some reason(s) and hijacked it from its original meaning.

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