Sign Language: Cultural Context


I first saw this gate on the first day or two after we arrived in Kathmandu. I did a double take. It was extremely strange to see the Nazi Swastika and the Star of David side by side. Just bizarre really. But moments later I remembered reading that swastikas are all over Asia, but the meaning was very different. However, I had no idea that the hexagram (or six pointed star) was anything other than Jewish….but here they were on the same gate.

The Hindu (or Buddhist) swastika is a symbol of luck.  It bestows auspiciousness on people or things that it embellishes, and that explains why you see it so often on residential gates or painted over shops.  Its so ironic that the Nazis hijacked the symbol so that Western eyes see it as a mark of evil, and yet its original meaning is so different. Slowly, I have become less startled when I see it around.

The Buddhist Shanmukha, or six-pointed triangle, has a similar spiritual meaning as the swastika, so it makes sense that you might see them side by side.

In Buddhism, I understand that some old versions of the “Tibetan Book of the Dead”, contain a hexagram with a Swastika inside. If I see one of those, I’ll let you know.

The post is being revisited for as I cannot think of a better example in all my travels.