CREDOS: Swastika — I

It was late at night when I got my father’s e-mail. My father, currently the ambassador of India to the United Arab Emirates, had gotten in touch with a printer in New Delhi to make an invitation for my wedding ceremony in Toronto. The attached document had a few options for font and style. But they all had one thing in common. The header was made up of a line-drawing of Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, along with a shloka (Sanskrit verse) invoking Ganesh and something that would likely shock Westerners: two swastikas.

When I saw the swastikas, I started to wonder. Should I also draw swastikas on the separate invitations to the reception, which I was making by hand? Would this add to the beauty of

the card or would the symbol’s Nazi connotations mar the auspiciousness of the invitation? It was an ironic quandary, considering that Ganesh, whom I’d also draw on the card, is also the destroyer of evil and the shloka asks Him to remove all obstacles.

Of course, the swastika has a long history in Hinduism, entirely separate from its modern perversion by Nazi Germany. The etymology of the word swastika connects the Sanskrit su (good) and asti (to be), resulting in “well-being.” The symbol is drawn to denote good luck. The swastika is as sacred as the symbol of Om, which is Hinduism’s supreme and most sacred syllable. The swastika is said to symbolise the Hindu concept of samsara — the eternal cycle of birth, suffering, death and rebirth. —