Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Svastika (Bon)

Svastika Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
--- Design
--- Ritual Object
--- Deities w/ a Yungdrung
- Bon Religion Main Page
- Confusions: Buddhist (Svastika)
- Others...

Videos:
- Bon Yungdrung
- Svastika Confusions (Buddhist)
- A Question on the Use of Svastika in Himalayan Art

The Yungdrung (svastika) is the principal symbol of the Bon religion, also known as the Yungdrung Bon, Ever-lasting Truth. Translated from the Zhangzhung language the term means 'everlasting.' Unique to the Bon, the yungdrung must be left turning. The Buddhist use of the svastika does not require a particular direction and both directions are used almost equally.

The yungdrung as a symbol and design element can be found on the front and bottom of sculpture - throne and lotus, yantra diagrams, initiation cards, hats, mandalas, and for many other uses.

Conceived as a three dimensional ritual object the yungdrung is historically a single square shaped object, flat, with four bent legs. Sometimes the yungdrung is situated on the top of a staff and placed upright to the side of Tonpa Shenrab. In more modern times a double yungdrung is conceived, with a yungdrung attached at both ends of a small scepter handle, similar to a Buddhist vajra scepter, and placed in the right hand of Tonpa Shenrab. In the preceding few short centuries this double yungdrung scepter was only seen in art, however in the 20th century physical examples have appeared and are available for purchase in the ritual art marketplace.

is held in the hands of Tonpa Shenrab, Kunzang Gyalwa Dupa, Kunzang Akor, Satrig Ersang, Gyalwa Kagying Karpo and others.

With initiation cards letters are sometimes added to the legs of the yungdrung which can represent the elements of nature or mental states. The most basic and iconic Bon yungdrung symbol always depicts the legs turning to the left. There are other types of Bon yungdrung such as the yungdrung scepter sometimes held in the hand of Tonpa Shenrab. It has the appearance of a weight lifter's 'dumb bell' with a central cylindrical handle with a yungdrung attached at both ends. Complex yungdrung designs with multiple forms woven together are more commonly found as calligraphy or relief sculpture in architecture.

Additional Uses:
- Initiation Cards & Ritual Visualization Practice
- Hand Attribute
- Double Svastika Scepter
- Eastern Direction of a Mandala
- Yantra Diagrams
- Hat Symbol Decoration
- Petroglyphs & Pictographs (West Tibet)
- Carved Wood Design on thrones, etc.
- Door & House Decoration
- Marking the base of sculpture
- Marking Bon Monasteries & Sites on 19th & 20th century maps
- Others...

Jeff Watt [updated 2-2020, 12-2021]

(The images below are only a selection of examples from the links above).