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Swastika the Earliest Known Symbol and its Migrations

by Thomas Wilson

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The word swastika is derived from the Sanskrit svastika (in Devanagari, स्वस्तिक), meaning any lucky or auspicious object, and in particular a mark made on persons and things to denote good luck. It is composed of su- (cognate with Greek ευ-), meaning "good, well" and asti a verbal abstract to the root as "to be"; svasti thus means "well-being". The suffix -ka forms a diminutive, and svastika might thus be translated literally as "little thing associated with well-being", corresponding roughly to "lucky charm", or "thing that is auspicious". The suffix -tika also literally means mark; therefore a sometimes alternate name for swastika in India is shubhtika (literally good mark). The word first appears in the Classical Sanskrit (in the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics).

The search for a pre-World War II treatise on the swastika struck gold with a this book, The Swastika: the Earliest Known Symbol and its Migrations, by Thomas Wilson, a curator of the US National Museum. The work opens with a right-hand swastika on the title page and presents an exhaustive survey of the global dispersion of this symbol, from the Navajo tribes of North America to Egypt, ancient Troy and the Taoists of China.

In 1894 the Smithsonian Institute realized the symbol's ubiquity was worthy of scholarly attention and commissioned this work as the first exhaustive study on the subject.





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Title: Swastika the Earliest Known Symbol and its Migrations
Author(s): Thomas Wilson
Language: English
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