The "left-facing" variant is favoured in Bön and Gurung Dharma; it is called yungdrung in Bon and Gurung Yantra in Gurung Dharma. Both the right-facing and left-facing variants are commonly employed in Hinduism and Buddhism.
Sanskrit sauvastika is the vṛddhi of svastika, attested as an adjective meaning "benedictive, salutatory". The connection to a "reversed" svastika is probably first made by Eugène Burnouf in 1852, and taken up by Schliemann in Ilios (1880), based on a letter from Max Müller, who is in turn quoting Burnouf. The term sauwastika is used in the sense of "backwards swastika" by D'Alviella (1894):
The term has been misspelled as suavastika, a term attributed to Max Müller by Wilson (1896). Wilson finds that "The 'Suavastika' which Max Müller names and believes was applied to the Swastika sign, with the ends bent to the left [...] seems not to be reported with that meaning by any other author except Burnouf."
Claims of a distinction in Indian religions
Eugene Burnouf, the first Western expert on Buddhism, stated in his book Lotus de la bonne loi (1852) that the Sauvastika was a Buddhist variant of the Svastika.
When Heinrich Schliemann discovered swastika motifs in Troy, he wrote to the Indologist Max Müller, who, quoting Burnouf, confirmed this distinction, adding that "the Svastika was originally a symbol of the sun, perhaps of the vernal sun as opposed to the autumnal sun, the Sauvastika, and, therefore, a natural symbol of light, life, health, peace and wealth." The letter was published in Schliemann's book Ilios (1880):
“In the footprints of Buddha the Buddhists recognize no less than sixty-five auspicious signs, the first of them being the Svastika [...]” (Eugene Burnouf, Lotus de la bonne loi, p. 625); “the fourth is the Sauvastika [sic], or that with the arms turned to the left.”
The term sauvastika thus cannot be confirmed as authentic and is probably due to Burnouf (1852). Notions that sauwastikas are considered "evil" or inauspicious versions of the auspicious swastika in Indian religions have even less substance, since even Burnouf counts the svastika and the sauvastika equally among the "sixty-five auspicious signs".
D'Alviella (1894) voices doubts about the distinction:
“Would it not be simpler to admit that the direction of the branches is of secondary importance in the symbolism of the gammadion? When it is desired to symbolize the progress of the sun, namely, its faculty of translation through space, rather than the direction in which it turns, little attention will have been paid to the direction given to the rays.” (p. 68)
Although the more common form is the right-facing swastika, the symbol is used in both orientations for the sake of balance in Hinduism. Buddhists almost always use the left-facing swastika.
Claims concerning the Nazi swastika
Some contemporary writers assert that the swastika as used in Nazi Germany is in fact the "evil sauwastika". Since the swastika on the Flag of Nazi Germany was "right-facing" when displayed one-sided (e.g. hanging on buildings), this requires a redefinition of "sauwastika" as the variant current in Hinduism, and the "swastika proper" as the "left-facing" one current in Buddhism, contrary to Burnouf.
- Sun cross
- Western use of the Swastika in the early 20th century
- Gurung Dharma
- " The Migration of Symbols I" Popular Science Monthly Volume 37 Wikisource September 1890 ISSN 0161-7370
- Eugene Burnouf, Lotus de la bonne loi (1852)
- Heinrich Schliemann, Ilios (1880)
- Thomas Wilson, The Swastika: The Earliest Known Symbol, and Its Migrations; with Observations on the Migration of Certain Industries in Prehistoric Times. Smithsonian Institution. (1896)
- in use from the 1850s, certainly so used by D'Alviella (1894). "sauvastika" is used to classify the geometrical form of symbols in Liungman, Symbols: Encyclopedia of Western Signs and Ideograms,HME Publishing (2004) ISBN 91-972705-0-4
- according to Wilson (1819), cited by Monier-Williams.
- "'Which Way Am I Spinning?: Debunking the Nazi 'Backwards Swastika' Myth".
- On Oriental Carpets. Article III.—The Svastika, The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs (1903) also uses the term with reference to Müller.
- e.g. Servando González (1998); González "proves" that the left-facing swastika is the sunwise one with reference to an 1930s box of Standard fireworks from Sivakasi, India.