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Equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles, all in the same rotary direction, usually clockwise. It is used widely throughout the world as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune. In India, it continues to be the most common auspicious symbol of Hindus and Jains, as well as for Buddhists, for whom it symbolizes the Buddhas feet or footprints. In China and Japan, where it traveled with the spread of Buddhism, it has been used to denote plurality, prosperity, and long life. It occurs as a motif in early Christian and Byzantine art, as well as in Maya and Navajo art. The counterclockwise swastika, suggested as a general anti-Semitic symbol in 1910 by the German poet and nationalist Guido von List, was adopted as the symbol of the Nazi Party at its founding in 1919–20.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on swastika, visit Britannica.com.