Welcome, Namaste, Peace, Shalom

Welcome, Namaste, Peace, Shalom, Benedicite. May the peace of the Lord always be with you.

Annapurna (Goddess of the Harvests) range, Nepal. Machapuchare, Fishtail Mountain, sacred to Shiva and never climbed.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

The Power of a Symbol

The Power of a Symbol



Did this shock you?  Was it not what you were expecting?  Driving from Kathmandu airport to our hotel I was shocked to see  doors decorated with swastikas.  I knew that it had originally been an auspicious symbol of well being but did not know it was still in use.  I also didn't know that it is a Buddhist symbol as well as a Hindhu symbol.  I think that this must be quietly ignored by western buddhists.  Or that it was popular in the west as a good luck symbol right up until it was taken over by the Nazis.  About the swastika

We saw lots of swastika symbols both old and modern.  Although I noticed that it didn't feature in the tourist souvenir trade, or not very obviously.  It was not everywhere or even particularly obvious.  More common on older buildings, but still in use on new ones.  The new ones were often brightly coloured and decorated. Very pretty.

I never quite got over the initial visceral reaction of horror.  Interesting that the astonishing evil of the Nazi regime has all but eradicated the original meaning of one of the most ancient symbols of the world.

I was also struck by other traditional symbols. 



Some of these reminded me of what we call Celtic design.  I suspect a lot of what we  consider our Christian religious symbolic heritage has a much older origin.  And so predictably my thoughts were led to



Not as old as the swastika but equally well known.  And despite all our efforts to associate it with acts of violence and oppression it still remains a universally recognised symbol of God's love for us, a symbol of selfless self giving, peace, forgiveness, reconcilation, sanctuary. 

Harder to find in Nepal than a swastika, but there were a few.  Nepal prides itself on its culture of religious tolerance and the Christian religion is generally respected.  Obviously I am talking here about the present day, and no doubt there are exceptions to the rule.  But this is the image of the country that all the Nepali people we met were keen to convey.  In fact I have a book on it.  So more on this later.

PS I am getting a bit bogged down with the formatting.