Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Svastika (Buddhist)

Svastika Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Svastika Description (below)
- Shakyamuni Buddha Feet Symbols
- Initiation Cards
- Yantra Diagrams
- Throne Front Cloth (double vajra with svastikas in the corners)
- Carved Wood Design on thrones, etc.
- Chinese Buddha, chest design
- Door & House Decoration
- Carpet Design
- Astrological
- Marking Buddhist Monasteries & Sites on 19th & 20th century maps
- Confusions: Svastika (Bon), Bliss Whorl
- Others...

The Buddhist svastika (yungdrung) is an auspicious symbol. It first appears as one of the many auspicious shapes believed to decorate the bottom soles of the two feet of Shakyamuni Buddha. The svastikas are often found placed on the pads of the toes. The legs of the svastika employed by Buddhists can turn in either direction, right or left. In general, direction is not important. Of the three examples of initiation cards below, two of the cards display the legs of the svastika turning to the right and one card has the legs turning to the left.

Sometimes, depending on context, Buddhists will use the right turning or clockwise svastika simply to differentiate from the Bon religion that exclusively uses the left turning svastika. There is a perceived relationship between circumambulation of stupas, holy sites, and the turning of the svastika. Buddhists generally circumambulate clockwise. Followers of the Bon religion always circumambulate counter-clockwise.

There does not appear to be any use of the svastika as a hand attribute, mandala direction indicator, or an object of meditation. In Chinese Buddhist practice it is common to find a right or left turning svastika on the chest of a Buddha figure in painting or sculpture. This practice is not found in Tibetan art or with Himalayan style art in general.

Right Turning (clockwise) Buddhist Svastika
Left Turning (counter clockwise) Buddhist Svastika

Jeff Watt 5-2013 [updated 2-2020, 6-2020]

(The images below are only a selection of examples).