Article: Eight auspicious symbols

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Svastika

An ancient lucky sign, the svastika is one of the eight auspicious symbols – aṣṭa-mangala. A Jain svastika frequently has several dots laid out through and above it, with a crescent atop, often with a dot over it.

Jain svastika
Image by Malaia / Stannered © public domain

The svastika – known as the swastika in the West – is a cross with each of its four arms bent at a right angle and turned in a clockwise direction. The word itself connotes ‘good’ and ‘beneficial’. Svasti is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘well-being’. It is is often used as an exclamation, meaning, “May it be well!”

An ancient symbol found in civilisations dating back thousands of years, the svastika is often used to mark persons or things. It denotes good luck in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It is still widely used today in India, despite its sinister reputation, particularly in the West, after its close association with the Nazis.

In the Jain list of auspicious symbols, the svastika always comes first. The four arms of the svastika are considered to represent the four possible states of existencegati – in the world of rebirth, namely:

  • heavenly being or deity
  • hell-being
  • animal
  • human being.

It is also interpreted as referring to the four parts of the Jain community – caturvidha-saṇgha, which are:

Nandyāvarta

The nandyāvarta is a shape like a labyrinth or a larger form of svastika. The term itself implies something positive, for nandī means 'joy, prosperity'. This diagram has nine branches, which are said to symbolise the nine treasures of a universal monarch.

Śrīvatsa

One of the eight auspicious symbols, the śrīvatsa is frequently found on the chest in images of Jinas.

Endless knot or śrīvatsa
Image by Rick J Pelleg © public domain

The śrīvatsa is a diamond-shaped mark found on the chest of the Jinas. It can often be seen on sculptures or pictures of the Jinas.

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