During Nikhil Mandalaparthy's senior year of high school in 2015, the local Hindu temple in his hometown was vandalized. Spray-painted in red on the outside of the Bothell, Washington, worship and cultural center were the words “Get Out” — alongside a symbol that was almost familiar to the temple’s patrons: a swastika.
But the mark used to terrorize Mandalaparthy’s community was different than the swastikas he had grown up seeing in religious contexts. It was sharp and at a 45-degree angle, what he recognized immediately as a mark of Nazism and white supremacy.
The swastika, when softer, non-angled, left-facing or decorated with dots, has a very different meaning in the iconography of several Asian religions, where it has been ingrained for thousands of years. From Stone Age drawings in 10,000 B.C. to carvings in the ancient Greek city of Troy, swastikas were used on virtually every continent as a symbol of good fortune.