KOLKATA, India — When setting out for the subcontinent, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I came across a swastika.
Though the swastika has been in use since at least 10,000 BCE in modern-day Ukraine, with various interpretations throughout the archaeological record, of course it was the World War II reappropriation by Nazi Germany that provided the negative connotation widespread throughout the Western world.
The swastika’s name derives from the Sanskrit word “svastika,” meaning “lucky or auspicious object,” and the symbol is sacred in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism from approximately the 2nd century BCE.
It was along Kali Temple Road that I spotted a two-toned saffron-colored awning for a store named Priyanka. On each side of the shiny, silver text, there was a matching right-hand-oriented swastika.
Anyone watching me at this point might have noticed that I stopped in my tracks, jaw dropped, eyes bulging in surprise. If I had learned one thing on my travels thus far it was to always expect the unexpected, so I quickly resumed my nonplussed stride and headed toward my next destination.