Walking the banks of Varanasi’s Ganga is an exercise in sensory overload. Between open-air cremations, bathing men, errant cows and women doing laundry, you can understand how I almost missed a giant swastika painted on the sloped riverbank.
If it weren’t for Greg, I may have sailed right by it, blissfully unaware.
“Wow, stop, check this out. There is a massive swastika painted on that ghat.”
Taking a few steps back and craning my neck, yep there it was: a fifty-foot plus swastika sitting at the foot of Jain Ghat.
It’s so big that you can actually see it on Google Earth:
So, what’s with Varanasi’s giant swastika, you ask?
In Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religions, the swastika is a symbol of good fortune. The word swastika has Sanskrit origins, meaning ‘luck’ and ‘well being’. And while you’ll garner some cold side-eye for drawing them in the West, swastikas are fairly commonplace in India. They adorn homes and vehicles, feature in the names of stores, and appear in ritual and traditions. You can read more about Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Nazi swastikas here.
One thing I can’t seem to find, is any information about Varanasi’s larger-than-life swastika. The only insight I have garnered thus far, is from the date stamps on images that have been uploaded to the Internet. Judging from the dates, I can only infer that the giant swastika is a newer feature of Jain Ghat.
This image is dated October 2014, and shows a smaller swastika placed at the right of centre.
This image is dated February 2015:
This Google Places image is dated December 2016 and shows the same swastika I saw just this month.
Were you surprised by India’s swastikas? Do you know more about Varanasi’s massive swastika? Let me know. Comment below!