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The term sauwastika or sauvastika is a term sometimes used to distinguish the "left-facing" from the "right-facing" form of the swastika symbol. The "left-facing" variant is favoured in Bön and Gurung Dharma where it is called yungdrung in Bon and Gurung Yantra in Gurung Dharma. Both the right-facing and left-facing variants are commonly employed in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Etymology

Sanskrit sauvastika is a vriddhi derivation of svastika, attested as an adjective meaning "benedictive, salutatory". The term has been conflated with suavastika, a term used by Burnouf (1852), and again by Schliemann in Ilios (1880), based on a letter from Max Müller, who is in turn quoting Burnouf.

The term sauwastika is first used in the sense of "backwards swastika" by D'Alviella (1894):

Claims of a distinction in Indian religions

Eugene Burnouf, the first Western expert on Buddhism, stated in his book Lotus de la bonne loi (1852) that the Sauvastika was a Buddhist variant of the Svastika.

When Heinrich Schliemann discovered swastika motifs in Troymarker, he wrote to the Indologist Max Müller, who, quoting Burnouf, confirmed this distinction, adding that "the Svastika was originally a symbol of the sun, perhaps of the vernal sun as opposed to the autumnal sun, the Sauvastika, and, therefore, a natural symbol of light, life, health, and wealth." The letter was published in Schliemann's book Ilios (1880):

The term sauvastika thus cannot be confirmed as authentic and is probably due to Burnouf (1852). Notions that sauwastikas are considered "evil" or inauspicious versions of the auspicious swastika in Indian religions have even less substance, since even Burnouf counts the svastika and the sauvastika equally among the "sixty-five auspicious signs".

D'Alviella (1894) voices doubts about the distinction:

Although the more common form is the right-facing swastika, the symbol is used in both orientations for the sake of balance in Hinduism. Buddhists almost always use the left-facing swastika.

Claims concerning the Nazi swastika

Some contemporary writers assert that the swastika as used in Nazi Germany is in fact the "evil sauwastika". Since the swastika on the Flag of Nazi Germany was "right-facing" when displayed one-sided (e.g. hanging on buildings), this requires a redefinition of "sauwastika" as the variant current in Hinduism, and the "swastika proper" as the "left-facing" one current in Buddhism, contrary to Burnouf. The notion that Hitler deliberately inverted the "good left-facing" Buddhist swastika is, however, wholly unsupported by any historical evidence.

See also



References

Bibliography

  • D'Alviella, The Migration of Symbols (1894)
  • Eugene Burnouf, Lotus de la bonne loi (1852)
  • Heinrich Schliemann, Ilios (1880)
  • Thomas Wilson, The Swastika: The Earliest Known Symbol, and Its Migrations; with Observations on the Migration of Certain Industries in Prehistoric Times. Smithsonian Institutionmarker. (1896)


Notes

  1. Probably first by D'Alviella (1894); more recently, "sauvastika" is used to classify the geometrical form of symbols in Liungman, Symbols: Encyclopedia of Western Signs and Ideograms,HME Publishing (2004) ISBN 9197270504
  2. according to Wilson (1819), cited by Monier-Williams.
  3. Wilson (1896) finds that "The 'Suavastika' which Max Müller names and believes was applied to the Swastika sign, with the ends bent to the left [...] seems not to be reported with that meaning by any other author except Burnouf."; On Oriental Carpets. Article III.—The Svastika, The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs (1903) also uses the term with reference to Müller.
  4. e.g. Servando González (1998); González "proves" that the left-facing swastika is the sunwise one with reference to an 1930s box of Standard fireworks from Sivakasi, India.


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