Aparita Bhandari

The four arms pointing to the cardinal directions signify stability and groundedness. The swastika also symbolises Surya, the sun god, and Ganesh is often depicted sitting atop lotus flower on a bed of swastikas. The symbol is also used in yantras (symbolic representations of divinity). The swastika can be found in Buddhism and Jainism. I preferred other designs, like the amiya (raw mango), shankh (conch shell), or other swirly, floral patterns.

But there was something about the swastika’s symmetry that I always liked. There are two types of swastikas — the right facing and the left facing swastikas, which are mirror images of each other. These two forms are said to represent the two forms of Lord Brahma, the creator: The right facing swastika indicates the evolution of the universe (Pravritti) and the left facing swastika symbolises involution of the universe (Nivritti, the process that allows creation to happen).

I’ve seen priests draw swastikas with vermilion and water. I considered the swastika as a religious signifier, blessing the ceremony with its auspiciousness. It’s common to see the swastika in many decorative designs like floor and wall paintings, and in temples as well.

I was aware of the swastika’s use by the Nazis. In Toronto, I realised how potent the symbol remains in the West. I once filled the alpana (painting) with a peacock design and drew other motifs like amiyas, shankhs, etc. When I ran out of ideas, I decided to draw swastikas.