In August 2017, KA Design's swastika t-shirts made quite the splash across the Internet. Their big idea: swastika rebranding. As horrifying as it may seem at first, their alleged intent was to try and bring back the original, peaceful meaning of the ancient symbol. How did they do it? Adding the word "peace" and making it rainbow-colored.
The execution of their plan was seen as sloppy and extremely offensive, especially in the European markets. Even the third party website that they sold the clothing through dropped them after the tsunami of backlash. When you visit the KA Design Facebook page, it's nothing but 1-star reviews and disgust-laden rants.
But where did the swastika really come from, and what was it before Adolf Hitler made it synonymous with Nazism and genocide? Before it became a symbol of horrific Nazi experiments on human beings, the swastika was rooted in ideas of peace. Unfortunately, some meanings – and some histories – simply can't be rebranded away.
The Swastika Was An Important Symbol For Buddhists And Hindus For Thousands Of Years
The most well-known use of the swastika (besides, of course, the infamous Nazi usage) has been in Hinduism and Buddhism, and they've been using it for thousands of years. In India and other Asian countries where those religions have many followers, the symbols are still easily seen on temples and statues – and even on books. It was considered a holy mark, and the Sanskrit translations of the swastika include: "Well Being," "Good Existence," "Good Luck," and "Permanent Victory."
The Symbol Was Used Throughout Europe As Well As Asia
The swastika wasn't just popular in Asian countries – it also cropped up throughout Europe and Africa. The earliest swastika was found on an ivory figure in the Ukraine, and it dates back 12,000 years. Swastikas can be found in the ancient Greek city of Troy, and their popularity as good luck symbols had a resurgence in Europe in the 1800s.
It Has Different Meanings When Drawn Different Ways
According to Sanskrit scholar P. R. Sarkar, a symbol "can have positive and negative meaning depending on how it is drawn." As such, there are multiple meanings for the swastika within Hinduism; for instance, if you draw it facing right, it represents a different god than if you draw it facing left. Does this mean that drawing it with the intention of making it mean "peace" in the post-WWII West will have that effect?
So, How Did Hitler Corrupt A Symbol Of Peace So Deeply?
Adolf Hitler and his followers didn't see the swastika as a sign of peace or good luck – instead, they viewed it as a link to their "Aryan" ancestry and began to link it to the idea of a "pure" race. Hitler wrote out an explanation of why the flag was designed the way it was:
"We National Socialists regarded our flag as being the embodiment of our party programme. The red expressed the social thought underlying the movement. White the national thought. And the swastika signified the mission allotted to us—the struggle for the victory of Aryan mankind and at the same time the triumph of the ideal of creative work which is in itself and always will be anti-Semitic.”
The Nazis needed a symbol to represent continuous racial purity. When archaeologist Heinrich Schlieman brought the swastika back with him from a visit to Troy, they felt they had just that.