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The swastika (from the Sanskrit, “well-being”) is best known in the West for its 20th-century incarnation as part of Nazi propaganda. However, images of swastikas go back to ancient times. Some scholars trace the swastika as far back as the Neolithic Period in Asia Minor; it was certainly in widespread use in Europe by the Bronze Age. The dominant view is that the swastika originated in Asia Minor, then spread to India and Europe, although there is still considerable, lively debate on the details. Variations on the image can be found in architecture, pottery, decorative and utilitarian artifacts, coins, and clothing, often as a merely decorative ornament and at other times as a religious symbol.

The swastika conveys a wide variety of meanings. In ancient Indian ...

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