What Does the Swastika Symbol in India Represent?

The swastika symbol painted on a fishermans boat in India
The swastika symbol painted on a fisherman's boat in India | © Lucy Plummer
Lucy Plummer

India Hub Writer

To the Western world, the swastika generally represents mass-genocide and hate. However, long before the symbol was made synonymous with the terrors of Nazisim in the late 1930s, the swastika was, and still is, an auspicious symbol widely used to invite good fortune in many Asian countries.

If you’re a traveller from the west who has been to Asia, there’s a high chance that you’ve noticed the swastika symbol dotted around and felt a little uncomfortable. Perhaps you’ve even felt a bit outraged. It’s painted on the entrances and doorways of homes and temples, marked on financial statements and is often constructed as a mandala for rituals such as weddings or welcoming a newborn. The swastika holds much reverence within the major religions of the east- Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism – and is conducive to well-being, prosperity and luck. Because of that, it’s found everywhere.

The swastika is a good luck symbol in India

Within Asian culture, the use of the swastika bears no offence. To a Western mind, however, the symbol has often been met with confusion and controversy. Because of its radical misuse in the west and as a result of misinterpretations and misunderstandings of its meaning in the Asian context, this cross-cultural mix-up has been the source of offence and sometimes even accusations because of the stigma that it has picked up in other cultures.

The origins of the swastika

Although found historically across all corners of the globe and appearing in varying shapes in many of the world’s major religions, the swastika is an ancient symbol that is generally agreed by scholars to have originated in India with its roots in the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism.

The word itself is said to be derived from the Sanskrit root, swasti, which is composed of su, meaning ‘good’ or ‘well’, and asti, meaning ‘it is’. It generally translates to ‘it is good.’ The word swasti appears frequently in the Vedas and can mean good, auspicious, luck, success and prosperity. In parts of Asia where Buddhism is a major religion, the swastika is again a symbol of auspiciousness and is considered to be Buddha’s footprints.

It is said that early Western travellers to Asia took a liking to the swastika as a good luck sign and began using it in the west, mostly in advertising or in product design. The symbol had already been featured in the west, with appearances in early Christianity, however, it is said that its use in Asia was the catalyst for its appropriation in the mainstream west.

The symbol, however, took on a drastic new meaning when it was seized upon by Hitler and propagated by anti-Semitic nationalist groups in Germany. The swastika quickly became the face of fascism across Europe and was transformed into one of the most hated symbols of the 20th century.

The swastika is a prime example of how one thing can have entirely different meanings in different cultures. Learning about a country’s culture and talking to the locals is a great way to broaden your understanding of the world and helps to clear up any misunderstandings in terms of local customs and beliefs.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.