Many people look at a swastika and see a symbol of hate, persecution and genocide. But for those who grew up in India, Japan, and China, the swastika is actually a symbol of prosperity and good fortune. Hindus in particular often display it in their homes and businesses to bring them good luck. In the western world, it can be difficult to understand how such a notorious symbol of evil could be seen as a positive thing.
No one knows this as well as Swastika Jajoo, an 18 year-old, Hindu-born student from India. Jajoo says her parents wanted "a daughter with infectious goodness, enthusiasm and love for life [...] and so they decided to give me the name Swastika," she told the Huffington Post. Swastika actually translates to "well-being" in its original Sanskrit. It's over 3,000 years old and has been a sacred symbol to people of different countries and religions all over the world.
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But Jajoo understands this is not widely known throughout Europe and the U.S., which is why she's considering going by a nickname when she studies in the states next year. It's not worth the misunderstandings and incorrect assumptions that would likely occur. There are some groups in the U.S. and Europe who have made it a priority to change the common perception of the swastika, but for most Hindus it's not an issue they're largely concerned with. It's more important for them to find a place for Hinduism in western culture overall.
In an interview with Huffington Post, Joyce Dubensky, CEO of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding said "I don't know if [the swastika] will ever be one that's comfortable for some of those who identify as among the people who were victimized by Hitler. "[But] I think this conversation can be one of the doorways to our living with one another with greater respect and understanding."
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Read more about the meaning of the swastika in different cultures:
Huffington Post: The Swastika, An Ancient Symbol Of Prosperity, Struggles To Overcome Nazi Connections
The New York Times: One of the World´s Great Symbols Strives for a Comeback