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SWASTIKA: OUR CONTINUING LEGACY

It is a universal symbol seen in all ancient civilisations andcultures and still remains as a living tradition across many nations in various forms, and especially in India among Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists. Owing to its widespread presence across the ancient civilisations, and later modifications to suit the new religious orders, Swastika has a variety of meanings associated with it.

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Existence (asti) cannot be produced by non-existence (nasti). “Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.” – Carl Sagan

The antiquity of swastika goes long back into history where it started its journey from the prehistoric era. It is a universal symbol seen in all ancient civilisation-cultures across the world and still remains as a living tradition across many nations in various forms, and especially in India among the Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists as part of their religious rituals. Owing to its widespread presence across the ancient civilisations, and later modifications to suit the new religious orders, swastika has a variety of meanings associated with it. The Vedas by itself have associated various meanings to the swastika where we find that in the Rig Veda 10.35 swastika is associated with Agni, and with the Sun’s movement upholding the law of Dharma or righteousness. In ancient Indian architectural sciences known as Vastusashtra, two swastikas facing each other create a square, which forms the square mandala of the Vastu Purusha. Similarly, swastika is also associated with a crossed vajra (sign of thunderbolt—in RV 3.30.16 and 3.58) seen in the hands of deities; the symbol is also related to the four cardinal directions; is linked with the lunar power, female principle and new life; associated with astronomy; the Christian cross; Vishnu pada; etc. In fact, it would not be wrong to say that swastika is most likely man created first graphic symbol representing an idea, which holds a clear intention and meaning, transcends all barriers of languages, and the knowledge of which was passed across generations following ancient oral traditions while maintaining continuity within changes across the world. Thus, swastika is a symbolical manifestation of existence, which is entwined with cosmic natural forces and is based on the theory of dynamism.

The Seven Sages or the Saptarishi (Ursa Majoris or the Great Bear) as the Swastika (Image via Jay Shankar from Google, strictly for representational purposes only)

Swastika- denoting movement. From Wikipedia

Triskelion of the Chaldeons- another form of Swastika denoting the cosmic movements. (From Wikipedia)

Two swastikas (left oriented and right oriented) merge to form the square mandala of the vastupurusha. The left-hand swastika (Sauvastika) symblises the Devi as Goddess Kali, and is associated with tantra puja.

A crossed double vajra or visvavajra (Wikipedia)

A schematic diagram of a Persian garden, with quadripartite structure and a focal water feature, connecting aqueducts, and surrounding trees, as well as the placement of the palace. (From Wikipedia)

In an attempt to explore this continuing legacy, the article will take a close look at swastika and briefly present its history, while also exploring some of its meanings.

WHAT IS SWASTIKA, WITH REFERENCES TO THE RIG VEDA?

Swastika is “a cross in which the arms are bent at a right angle in the same relative direction”

~ Penguin dictionary of archaeology

The Sanskrit word swastika has its root in As, forming the word Asti, which means existing, being, or the essence of existence. The other word Su means good, well being, or benign; and the two together gives us Swasti, which means a valued existence, or the essential self-sustaining dharma or righteousness.

This enigmatic symbol, as Edward Thomas tells us in his ‘The Indian Swastika and Its Western Counterparts’ (1880) paper after examining its varying manifestations across the globe, all point to the primitive notions of a symbolic representation of the sun’s movements, associated with wheel like projections of the sunrays and its rolling movements. The ancient Chaldeans, who were initially located in the southeastern corner of Mesopotamia (9th to mid-6th centuries BCE—the proto Celtic phase in Europe), in their studies of what is now termed as the astronomical sciences, started drawing the sun as a circular outline, which soon had a four wheel or a cross inserted within it. This crossbar later evolved and elaborated to form the new designs that we are more familiar with now. Interestingly, Vishnu Purana (ref: Wilson’s translation, v. ii, pp. 246-7) also compares the sun’s movements to that of a wheel. Rig Veda too refers to the sun’s movements as a wheel, “He the impeller, the chief of charioteers (Pushan), ever urges on that golden wheel for the sun” and “the twelve wheeled spoke of the true sun revolves around the heavens and never decays …” (ref: Rig Veda—Wilson’s translation ii p. 130). Verse 10.35 in Rig Veda portrays the cyclic movement of Agni (Swastagni), and the entire sutra goes on describing the Sun’s movement holding the “wheel” of dharma (Cosmic causation and law) standing for what is right and auspicious for all living beings.

The uniqueness of this primitive sign lies in the fact there is a clearly visible geometrical tension in its shape, where we find that it is an equal-sided cross that can be rotated at 45 degrees either to the right (clockwise) or to the left (anti-clockwise. The clockwise turning position known as dakshinavarta is believed to symbolise the sun’s energy, while the anti-clockwise turning position known as vamavarta represents the moon and feminine energy. Another popular form of swastika is the spiral type known as tetraskelion (from the Chaldean culture), where the three spiral arms create an illusion of cyclic movement. When the arm ends are made to touch each other this spiral form (tetraskelion) takes the shape of a wheel, which in turn is an astronomical sign symbolising cyclic movements of all cosmic bodies. The triskelions, as per the scholars, are swastikas in continuous motion, also representing continuous cosmic re-generation and the continuity of life. It is visual imagery for the harmony and balance in life and nature’s changing seasonal cycles; and in Rig Veda: 7.97-10 we find Rishi Vasistha (one of the Saptarishis), talking about the repetitiveness of cosmic sustainability. The Rig Veda, which can be said to be among the world’s oldest documents on cosmological sciences, mentions swastika many times. This recurrent use of the word shows not only the pre-eminence of the symbol but also makes it evident that the ancient rishis who had composed the verses saw it as more than just a symbol.

In Rig Veda 3.30.16 and 3.58, the swastika is shown to stand for the crossed double vajra or viśvavajra, symbolising thunderbolt (which was later copied to create the Greek cross Fleury).

Again in RV 4.53.3-4 swastika is seen in an imagery form depicting the transformation of the power of the Sun into the power of the seer, with arms extending towards the four cardinal directions and engulfing all space. The cross-like space concept is also seen in ancient Persian literature (Achaemenid times), which was copied later to form the Islamic chahar bagh concept.

In the RV 3.54.11 and other verses Sun is the golden-handed, all beholding, and all-embracing Savitri, evident in the term ‘Savita Sarbatati’, which means the divine sun rays has powers for creating Life (Left oriented swastika associated with feminine power and Tantra) and a Pacifier (Right oriented swastika associated with Yoga). The two forms of swastikas (left and right oriented) in the 10th chapter of the RV: 10.36.14 merge to form a square, and that along with the deities of the four cardinal directions give us the framework of the Vastu-Purusha-Mandala, the basic foundation diagram for any Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain temple or building architecture.

Interestingly within Hinduism, swastika is also seen as the cross, which symbolises the Supreme Consciousness (Brahman) and His creation, while the four bent arms define the four purushartha—Artha (wealth), Dharma (righteousness), Kama (love), and Moksha (liberation). It is a moving wheel, denoting a world that is constantly changing while remaining fixed on Brahman (centre point). The swastika is also associated with the Seven Sages or the Saptarishi (Ursa Majoris/the Great Bear) that are a group of celestial bodies forming a constellation. It is believed that the Saptarishis are eternally revolving with the fixed aim of establishing Dharma – “Tad Vishnu param padam” (Polaris is the Dhruvapadam—RV: 10.82.1-2; Srimad Bhagabadgita: 5.22.17).

In terms of archaeological evidence from the Indian subcontinent, swastika motif has been found from Pre-Harappan times, as for example, on a potsherd from Rehman-Dheri (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province). Seals dated around 2100 B.C.E showing swastikas have been found from the Mohenjodaro site, while the motif is frequently seen on ornaments and beads found from various sites of the Sindhu-Saraswati civilisation; including on pottery from the Shahi-Tump site (Baluchistan). The Navdatoli site beside the Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh (chalcolithic culture) has also yielded varying forms of the swastika symbol on pottery; while paintings of the swastika motif have been found from the Ganga Yamuna doab area sites (on painted grey ware, denoting Iron age culture). Potteries and sherds depicting swastikas from Sonkh (Mitra period, 2nd century B.C.E); to tablets, coins, and seals from Mathura belonging to the Kushana period (1st century CE), the swastika motif has remained a constant in Indian art from pre-historical to the historical era without any break, and still continues to remain a religious symbol even today, the postmodern era.

Besides the Vedic verses and pre to historic representations of the swastikas, we find mention of the symbol in our epics too. In Ramayana, we find the mention of the swastika motif as carved in relief on a boat that carried Sri Rama; while in Mahabharata there is the famous Swastika Vyuha (maze) or the Chakra-Vyuha as a part of artillery war in the Kurukshetra battle. Swastika also played an important role in Jainism and Buddhism throughout history and remains an important part of their religious and cultural practices. Even today swastika remains an essential part of most rituals associated with the Indic religions, and in astrological and astronomical (jyotishsastra) studies in India. This is because the symbol stands not only for truth (dharma), auspiciousness, and a perfect Cosmic balance within the spiritual, natural, and philosophical realms; it has also become an integral part of more tangible aspects, such as trade, battles, daily rituals, etc.

It is mind-boggling to study the evolution of swastika in various parts of the world, from ancient America to Europe, and the different Asian countries. It is equally mind-boggling to see its connections not only with the various aspects mentioned in this article, by also with thermodynamics (torques), various branches of genetics, engineering, electro-magnetic circuits, and the list just goes on. This article is just the tip of the iceberg, and the idea came to my mind from a Facebook and Twitter post that I had made, which brought about various reactions, which made me realise that many people aren’t aware of the origins and Vedic meanings associated with this symbol. There were various arguments where people contended that while drawing a swastika the lines cannot be crossed, as it is inauspicious to do so. Rigidly taught to do so owing to later period modifications stemming from lack of understanding, these argumentative dialogues just fall flat one when explores the ancient world and realises that swastika started its journey as a simple cross that symbolised the Sun’s movement, and alternatively, Brahman and His creation.

The author is a well-known travel, heritage and history writer. Views expressed are personal.

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As an actor, I can only use my medium to bring about awareness: Taapsee Pannu

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Actress Taapsee Pannu recently joined NewsX for a insightful conversation as part of NewsX India A-List. In the interview, she spoke about her latest film “Rashmi Rocket” that throws light on the issue of gender testing in sports. In the exclusive conversation, Taapsee spoke about how she handled the tough or uncomfortable scenes in the movie, how gender testing impact players and much more. Read excerpts:

Speaking about the factors that convinced her to play “Rashmi Rocket”, Taapsee said, “Two reasons: first was I love sports. I love to follow sports. For me, sport stars are real heroes. I am in awe of them, so when I got to know about this particular testing, how it only done on females, it was shocking for me that someone like me, who loves sports so much, had no clue about something so crazy happening even till date.”

Sharing insights on the practice of gender testing across the world, she said, “Yes, this happening all over the world. Even in last Tokyo Olympics, there were two Namibian players, who were banned because of same gender testing. As an actor, I can only use my medium to bring about a certain kind of awareness and discussions. I can’t assure that the change will happen. It is not like after Pink, the molestation or rapes stopped. It is not like after Thappad, the domestic violence stopped. However, at least the conversions started. The topic became a mainstream or dining table conversation, not just keeping it under wraps.”

When asked about how she is able to handle these tough scenes in her films, she responded, “I’ve been living with this script through the lockdown. Actually it been in my head when I heard it in 2018, so it has been there in my head since then. As I just told you, I was so shocked to hear that this still happens. When the script came in my hand and the screenplay was ready, we were in early 2020. Since then, I’ve been living with it at the back of my head, so I was already mentally prepared to dive into it. How to get rid of it was like, as an actor, you feel a sense of accomplishment if it affects you in real, if it actually makes me pause and take a little while to get back to reality. That means I have done a decent job doing it, so that happens doing that job. If have felt it inside, it mean the camera would have captured it. So, that sense of happiness helps me get out of it because then I feel, “okay, I did my job, I did what was in my hands to push this topic out, now let’s be ready to see what the audience does”, so that happiness makes me get out of the role.”

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Mast Barsaat is a tribute to Wajid Khan: Soundarya Sharma

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Actor Soundarya Sharma recently joined us for a candid chat as part of NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, the actor opened up about her debut music video Mast Barsaat, sharing the screen space with Salman Yusuf Khan, experience of shooting in the new normal and much more. Read excerpts:

Talking about the response she has been getting for her music video and receiving a shout out from Salman Khan, Soundarya said, “It has been overwhelming. It is amazing to start my music video, which is my debut music video with Sajid ji. This is a tribute to Wajid sir. What a way to start with Salman sir tweeting. He supported our song and he totally loved it. Apart from that, everyone is loving it. They have told us that it is growing on them – the feelings, the music. In the song, there is only harmonium that is playing. There are no electronic progressing or anything. It is a very organically made and done song, so that it is very rooted. The response has been amazing.”

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Speaking about shooting for the song in a new normal, Soundarya said, “The new normal, apparently, is actually not that normal because it was scorching. When we shot, it was very hot and everybody was wearing masks but then we were so energised and pepped up by the song that none of us felt even for once that we are exhausted, we are tired. We were so moved by the entire feeling and the enthusiasm to work towards it. I think some things are meant to happen and this was meant to happen for all of us.”

As the pandemic struck the world, Soundarya found herself stuck in Los Angeles, where she was taking an acting course. “I took up the acting course in Los Angeles with New York Film Academy. I was there for 1.5 year and then I was stuck in pandemic. You end up becoming a better human being, learn so many things. Pandemic has taught us so many things in life. I felt like I don’t know what is next, whether I would be able to finish my course. Forget about work, it was a challenge to be on your own and living in a new country. But, I think god is kind. Everything ended well and I am here. I got work,” she further shared.

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DPS R.K. Puram: Celebration of an odyssey of 50 years

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Delhi Public School R.K. Puram, one of the most prestigious schools in India, was founded in 1972 in New Delhi. The school upholds the founders’ commitment to excellence in the all-round development of the students, with emphasis on its motto Service Before Self. The school is extremely proud of its illustrious alumni who continue to uphold the ideals of the school and have impacted society greatly in every sphere of life. DPS R.K. Puram has received the Education World Award as the No.1 Day-cum-Boarding School (2020-21) in India.

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Sooraj Dhawan and Sudeepta Chaterjee coordinated and compèred the programme for the alumni group and presented video messages from them. A video showcasing the drone footage of Delhi Public School, R.K. Puram, Vasant Vihar and East of Kailash was screened, magnifying the nostalgia of the alumni in the audience. A self-composed song by the alumni and the students helped reminisce the years gone by and rejoice in the celebrations.

V.K. Shunglu, in his address, reiterated the importance of focusing on what we do in the next fifty years so that we modernise at a fast pace and keep abreast with the challenges of a fast-moving world and keep the banner of the school flying high. The vote of thanks was proposed by the Vice Principal, Renu Nayyar. In the closing note, Padma Srinivasan expressed her appreciation for the alumni who actively participated in the cultural programmes of the day. The programme concluded with the national anthem.

The school plans to organise a plethora of activities to commemorate the 50 years of excellence by organising alumni guest speaker programmes, alumni reunions in different parts of the world, cultural programmes involving the present and former students, collage of video messages of alumni from all over the world to inspire the current students and the culmination of all these events at the grand celebration in 2022.

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Water ioniser: A boon for healthy living

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OXIDATIVE STRESS

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For complete family health protection, switch on to Ionised alkaline water which has rich sources of essential alkaline minerals and selective Anti-Oxidant molecular hydrogen.

Ionised alkaline water helps in restoring the right pH balance between the acidic and alkaline conditions in the human body. It neutralises disease-causing free radicals, helps in reducing inflammation.

Ionised alkaline water is micro-clustered. This helps our body cells to absorb more water easily, quickly, and with effective transportation of oxygen and important nutrients to vital organs of the body. This further improves Hydration and detoxification levels. It helps in reducing joint pains, improves metabolism and energy, slows down the aging process and helps in boosting immunity.

The research on molecular hydrogen on Covid-19 has shown promising results where the antioxidant nature of hydrogen helps in preventing the disease onset and also helps in reducing the disease severity in Covid-19 affected patients.

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Early in the year 2016 Medilight bought that technology and introduced their own brand name “H Rich” alkaline water Ioniser. In the year 2017, Medilight collaborated with the world-renowned water ioniser brand “Tyent”, a Japanese technology-made water ioniser machine from South Korea which has extensive market coverage in the USA, Europe and Australia.

Health benefits are clinically tested and certified by research. In short, your healthy drinking water can drive your metabolism on the right track in the correct way. It’s a good solution and an investment idea for your family’s health for the next 20 years.

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FOCUSED ON GIVING BEST TECHNOLOGY AT AFFORDABLE PRICING: AVNEET SINGH MARWAH

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX India A-List, Avneet Singh Marwah spoke about what sets his company Super Plastronics Ltd apart from other players, expectations from the festive season, impact of pandemic, and much more.

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Avneet Singh Marwah, Director & CEO, Super Plastronics Pvt Ltd, joined NewsX for an exclusive conversation as part of NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, Avneet spoke about what sets his company Super Plastronics Ltd apart from other players, expectations from the festive season, impact of Covid and much more.

Giving us an insight into Super Plastronics Ltd and what sets it apart from other players in this competitive market, Avneet said, “Super Plastronics is about a 30-year-old company. We started with plastic moulding of television back then for CRT and then we started manufacturing CRT. We are a complete backboned integrated plant and that experience was forward toward manufacturing LCDs and now LEDs, 4K TVs, USDs. The company invested. Back then, we were completely “Atmanirbhar” for CRT televisions, now we are again in LED televisions. We are a complete backbone integrated plant and we have everything in house, from plastic molding to SMDs to cleanroom and assembly line. Currently, we have about five brands, starting from Kodak, then Thomson-we launched in 2018, after that we launched Globewarm, recently we launched Westinghouse televisions and then we have white Westinghouse by Electrolux- our appliance in washing machine brand. We are one of the largest brand licenses in India and second-largest television manufacturing in India right now.”

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When asked whether there has been an issue of demand-supply gaps because of the Covid situation, Avneet responded, “When the first wave hit, there was a lot of pent-up demand. One of the reasons was the whole world was on screen and work from home. Classes were going online, and then there were OTT platforms to entertain you in the evening. At that point of time, there was a huge spike in terms of buying of screens and televisions, smart TVs plays a very vital role in that. There was about 30% growth but things changed after the second wave. The kind of second wave that hit India, people start saving and they were not spending their disposable incomes. The mortality rate was very high. India is a very big saving economy. After June, I would say, in April and June, the market got stagnant. But, as the economy is recovering, and the first sales show a very encouraging sign. We saw about 80% year on year growth on Big Billion days sales and Amazon’s The Great India festive sale. I think its recovering. We are hoping that Diwali has good numbers. If wave three is not hit, I think the market will recover and you will see the growth in smart TV market.”

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Around 53 Egyptian vultures spotted on Yamuna river in Delhi

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As many as 53 Egyptian vultures were spotted two days ago by an ecologist on a sandy mid-island on the Yamuna river in Delhi.

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