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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 January 2005, 16:11 GMT
Hindus want to 'reclaim' swastika
Buddhist temple
Buddhists also view the swastika as a good luck charm
Hindus in the UK are starting a campaign to reclaim the swastika from its Nazi associations.

German MEPs called for a Europe-wide ban of the symbol after Prince Harry wore it on a fancy dress costume.

But Hindu Forum spokesman Ramesh Kallidai said the swastika had been a Hindu good luck charm for centuries.

The group will stage public awareness workshops across the UK and lobby politicians in an attempt to educate the public and prevent a ban, he said.

"It's the second most sacred symbol in the Hindu tradition which has been used for 5,000 years to ward off evil," Mr Kallidai said.

The forum would make a particular effort to get the message across to Jewish groups, he added.

"After all it is the Jewish anguish that needs to be considered. They were the community that was most affected by the misuse of the swastika so naturally they would have concerns.

"Hindus use the swastika merely as a religious sacrament, to express their devotion to God, surely nobody can have any objections to that," he said.

'Mirror image'

Displaying the swastika is illegal in Germany.

However, Mr Kallidai said a similar ban in the UK would have an adverse affect on Hindus who regarded a swastika in much the same way as a Christian viewed a cross.

Prince Harry is pictured in the Sun newspaper
Prince Harry has been heavily criticised for his actions

"You find it in houses, temples and in portraits of Hindu gods. A swastika is even painted on the head of a baby who's just had his first hair-cutting sacrament," he said.

The Hindu swastika faces to the right, unlike the one adopted by the Nazis which faces to the left.

It is also traditionally red, a colour regarded as auspicious by Hindus.

"Just because at a particular moment in history one section of society used it, or a mirror image, to unleash xenophobic ideology does not mean Hindus should be punished," Mr Kallidai said.

"It's like saying the Ku Klux Klan burn crosses so therefore let's ban the use of crosses worldwide."

'Positive symbol'

The Hindu Forum's campaign has gained backing from other groups.

Maganbhai Patel of Leicester's Hindu Association said the general public's confusion needed to be addressed.

When I got married, literally as soon as you entered the hall where the marriage took place you saw swastikas everywhere
Kapil Dudakia,
Milton Keynes Hindu Association

"Hindus have been using the swastika for centuries, whereas it was only adopted by Hitler comparatively recently, in the 1920s and 1930s.

"We use it for marriage ceremonies and also for other religious ceremonies and events," Mr Patel said.

And Kapil Dudakia, of Milton Keynes Hindu Association, said the swastika was viewed "positively" by billions of people around the world including followers of the Buddhist and Jain faiths.

"When I got married, literally as soon as you entered the hall where the marriage took place you saw swastikas everywhere. They were also on the invitation cards," he said.

"It's only in certain quarters of the western world where you've got these very negative connotations.

"What we've got to do is separate the evil of Hitler and his ideology from the symbol of the swastika which actually means something quite different," Mr Dudakia said.




SEE ALSO:
Origins of the swastika
18 Jan 05 |  Magazine


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