35 thoughts on “A meditation on form

  1. I’ve no idea about whether the middle 2 symbols really were based on the Khanda, but I do know that the Iranian symbol is supposed to represent a tulip.

    The late Ayatollah’s family were originally emigrants from Kashmir, so maybe he did draw on the Sikh symbol as a basis. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence. Only the people closest to him and those involved in actually designing the flag could really answer that question.

  2. Wikipedia says:

    Since the Islamic Revolution, the lion has been replaced by a symbol which has many meanings, but that is essentially a stylized form of the word Allah. The symbol also represents four crescents with a sword in the middle… A further change to the flag following the Islamic Revolution has been the addition of writing on the borders between the white, and the green and red bands reading, in Arabic, Allahu Akbar or God is the Greatest. [Link]
  3. As an aside, I thought I’d mention that the “Ik Onkar” is the first Sikh symbol. The Sikh scriptures, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib begin with “Ik Onkar”. The “Khanda” as shown above in the original post did not appear until much later. I’ve had this notion affirmed by a couple of different Sikh scholars, but I thought I’d include something written from http://www.sikh-history.co.uk

    Dr.Madanjit Kaur checked pictures of the coins and medals of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, in an article on the symbols, medals, seals and coins of the Maharaja, by Mr.Manmohan Singh, Secretary to the Government of India. She did not find a Khanda-symbol on any one of them. Mr.Manmohan Singh, disclosed to Dr. M.S.Nirankari that two Sikh army flags in the British Museum at London, bore the symbol of Kartik – god of war (A peacock). It is clear that even in the era of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, this Khanda-symbol was not in existence or in use.
    This Khanda symbol was perhaps designed for the Sikh army by the Britisher’s (Dr.M.S.Nirankari and Dr.Madanjit Kaur). The photocopy of two current Khanda-symbols used in the army, was sent to me by Brig: Pal Singh. One of it showed a Kirpan standing directly on top of a Chakkar. In other, there was a lion inside a Chakkar. The flag of Iran has a Khanda like emblem but it is calligraphic representation of the Kalma (Islamic religious formula).
  4. Will you guys stop with the tripod-hosted images already? ;-)

    I’ve no idea about whether the middle 2 symbols really were based on the Khanda, but I do know that the Iranian symbol is supposed to represent a tulip.

    I also always imagined it to be four crescents with a sword. I wish it was a tuplip. I imagine this totally innocent looking tulip suddenly revealing itself to be four crescents a sword. That’s one scary tulip.

  5. Old Mazda logo….interesting.

    Keep in mind that the name Mazda is from the Zoroastrian supreme being…Ahura Mazda or the Good Angel.


  6. I always thought that the Jedi code was very similar to alot of teahings in the Sikh religion and now that symbol for the Rebel Alliance is kind of similar to a Khanda.

    Thats it Im filing a Class Action Lawsuit on behalf of the Sikh religion. Trying to get some of that sweet Lucas money.

  7. Here’s some info on Iran’s national symbol:

    (From: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ir.html)

    three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and red; the national emblem (a stylized representation of the word Allah in the shape of a tulip, a symbol of martyrdom) in red is centered in the white band; ALLAH AKBAR (God is Great) in white Arabic script is repeated 11 times along the bottom edge of the green band and 11 times along the top edge of the red band

  8. hhmm..interesting. i kinda doubt that the star wars and mazda logos were based on a khanda, though an interesting coinkeedink. makes me think..one of my sci-fi nut budies may have so grande explaination for the whole star wars emblem thing. the masda logo looks more flower like itself. or orb-ie folwer like.

  9. One of our commenters said that this used to be in the Wikipedia entry for Jedi:

    Belief in the Force is a pantheistic belief, and one real-life religion that bears close resemblance to the Jedi Order is that of Sikhism. Sikhism also advocates the presence of one ‘God’ who is ever-present and binds the universe and all its entities. As the Jedi use lightsabers, the Sikhs use a Kirpan that they carry with them at all times. Like a Jedi, a Sikh may never use his sword or other combat skills to attack anyone out of selfish desire (i.e. Sith-like qualities are banned) and must use it only to protect others. The Sikh philosophy is merely one of peaceful co-existence, but at the same time they are to never accept any form of tyrannical rule and to protect others from such evils. A Sikh who has taken the oath of the order is no longer referred to as a Sikh (“learner”, “disciple” – equatable to a padawan), he is said to be a Khalsa (“pure” – equatable to a Jedi Knight/Jedi Master).

    We already know that Star Trek based Klingons on Sikhs and possibly the Ferengi on another, less salutary desi stereotype.

  10. Maybe George met some Sikh guy named Bedi , dug into the religion annnnnnd Abracadabra Santa Banta!


    we have sith and jedi :)

    Trust the americans to screw up the pronunciations . No wonder Jedi doesnt rhyme with Bedi.(remember Iraq ? )

    I have a bad feeling about this.(sic) I think Franktank may be right!!!

  11. This is so cool Manish.

    Luca$$ said himself that Jedis took inspiration from Buddhism and Hinduism. Although he has never explicitly mentioned Sikhism, it’s no stretch to think that he might have come across information about Sikhs whilst doing his research. That Rebel Alliance logo is very convincing.

    Sikhs, you’re clearly the religion of sci-fi!

  12. Bong Breaker — not only that, but…. the season 2 opening theme music for Galactica is the Gayatri Mantra! Even if it sounds Gaelic.

    Granted, the Galactica logo is much less convincing than the Rebel Alliance. But what about these Cylon raiders? Maybe your theory works for Galactica too….

    (Incidentally, if any of you are interested in the theology of Galactica, check out here and here.)

  13. Anil old fella, I can’t say I’ve ever got into Galactica. Mormons eh? Well…that’s not really tempting me to watch!

    I’m downloading the theme music as we speak. As we type. I mean as I type. Ah you know what I mean.

  14. no no! Mormons was the old Galactica, the campy one. the new one is completely different — so much so that the fans of the old one have largely rebelled, as reported in the NYT magazine last summmer.

    the new one is very post-9/11, complete with civilian-military conflict within the fleet leadership, issues of intelligence-gathering and torture, former terrorists seeking political office within the fleet, &c. and feminist — several of the top fighter pilots and the president of the fleet are all women, and no one skips a beat (except the traditionalist fans of the old show — and don’t worry, cicatrix, i’m not meaning to include you in that description).

    it’s really quite inspired television — dark, contemporary, and very political.


  15. Is there any way someone could ask Geroge Lucas if he was inspired in anyway by Sikhism when writing the Star Wars stories?

  16. Anil,

    Those of us in the UK caught the first season of the “new” Galactica last year before Americans did — and yes, I thought it was outstanding too. Definitely not suitable for family viewing either ;)

    The British version had the Gayatri Mantra as the main theme music for the 1st season too. I like their consistent use of what can only be defined as “world music” for the background score in the show as well…..It sort of underlines the “foreign” origins of the Colonials, at least with regards to how they’re not supposed to be “Americans in space”, despite some of the character’s first names and their clothing.

    Anyway, I’m going off-topic……

    I read somewhere (probably on Wikepedia) that the name “Jedi” actually has a Buddhist origin, although I can’t remember exactly what the word means.

  17. I wrote a massive post one some website once upon a time about Jedis and Hinduism. I’ve forgotten a great deal of the research that I did but perhaps soon I’ll write an updated version on the ol’ blog.

    It concerned stuff like THE FORCE being like OM – we are all part of one force that permeates everything, MAYA, YODA being sakskrit for warrior, EMPIRE being like a sanyasi learning from the wise yogi in the forest (janoi?), AHIMSA, little tikias as sported by PADAWANS, giving up relationships (sp. PADMÉ) and family to pursue spiritual enlightenment (although this is present in many religious traditions), Luke cremating his father aaaaaand so forth.

  18. Jai -

    I absolutely love the music. Though rest assured that they couldn’t ever be “Americans in space” no matter what the musical score sounds like — they’re practically all Canadian — even the John McCain look alike who plays Colonel Tigh. (Ever notice how the skyline of Delphi looks exactly like downtown Vancouver?) Battlestar Canadia indeed.

    I wonder what the story was with the US version using a different theme song for season one — was it the Gayatri Mantra itself? concern about protests from angry Hindus? or something else altogether? And then, what it was that caused them to change their mind for season 2? I’ll bet there’s an interesting story in there somewhere.

    Still waiting for the first desi cast member — though at least we do have Grace Park as an Asian American (er, Asian Canadian) lead.


  19. If I can just post a belated response to the Jedi-Sikh analogy: They’re not exactly identical — Sikhs are not supposed to be ascetic or celibate, and feeling love is not discouraged in Sikhism either (the total opposite, in fact). But the other parallels are accurate.


    I love the music for Galactica too — from soothing “rainforest” scores to the Japanese war-drums during some of the battle scenes. The Gayatri Mantra at the beginning is a nice touch too; I don’t know if it’s supposed to indicate that the Colonials are the ethnic and religious ancestors of Indians too (along with the rest of the inhabitants of the “ancient” world), or whether someone just thought it was a nice tune. Cleverly done, though — I didn’t realise what the song was until I read about it on the ‘net; I’d previously thought it was just a Gladiator-theme-type song in some unidentifable ancient or foreign language — ironically, I wasn’t too far off the mark on both counts ;)

    But yes, there should definitely be more desis on the show.

  20. What makes this all the more interesting is that the sikh khanda as we see it today is not the original khanda, it is a product of the SGPC (a sikh governing body) which was created during the british raj in the 1920′s. The original khanda used by the sikhs, and which is still used today by nihangs (a faction of sikhs which live as the they would have done in the time of Guru gobind singh ji, the creator of the khalsa order) is a khanda without the chakar.. or circle in the middle. This is basically the shape that has existed for thousands of years all over india, in shiva temples, and is called an aad chand (or half moon) which for thousands of years has been the sign of shiva the destroyer (similar to his 3 pronged trident), and so was the symbol used by the warrior classes in india, and also is linked the ancient indian martial art of shastar vidiya, which was inherited by the sikhs. The martial art implements footwork systems, which are named after shiva and his consort chandi, and so is symbol of the use of this art. Drawing on this martial history, the khanda was adopted and slightly changed by the guru, by replacing the cresent, with 2 swords, which represented temporal and spiritual power (miri and piri). This gave the sikhs a connection to ancient warrior orders of the past, and relates to their use of the ancient indian martial art. Even today, nihangs can still be seen using the original add chand sign on their conical turbans (as well as some AKJ memebers who im sure would be horrified if they knew what it stood for! lol sorry.. only sikhs will get that..)

    So now, we have a symbol, which is like a half moon cresent, with a double edged sword throught it, which is remarkably similar to the star wars sign, and also the iranian flag. What is also interesting, before the muslim conquest, iran was a zoroastrian country, a faith which is closey related to areas of hinduism. Iran is also said to be mentioned in indian scriptures as the place where some of their stories took place. It also interesting that the islamic sign of a half moon crescent, is so similar to an ancient indian symbol of shiva, which has been around for thousands of years, and was most likely present in some middle eastern countries before their islamic conquest.

    The original nihang order of the sikhs, is also remarkably similar to the way of the jedis, being a sort of neutral religious police force, helping those who are suffering under tyrannical rule, no matter what their faith, living and dying by the sword, and relying on a force (in case the allmight transcendental lord waheguru or god), which in eastern religions is more of a force which is all around us and inside every living being, rather then being a character sitting in heaven as with western semetic faiths. Furthermore, in relation to Jai singhs comment about sikhs not encouraged to feel love, the elite nihang soldiers, were indeed encouraged to not marry and have no loving ties, as their soul purpose was to fight for their faith and die as martyrs. Their only love was to be for god, and they would treat going to battle as a their wedding, as if they were brides going to wed and become one with their groom (waheguru).

    For more infor pls see http://www.sarbloh.info, and http://www.shastarvidiya.org (although i think its under repair at the moment..)

  21. not convinced by the star wars or mazda logos, not very similar but the iranian coat of arms shows very much similarity if not identical to that of the sikh khanda.

  22. it says allah in a funny looking way. and the edge between white and red/white and green says Allah ho akbra.. which means god is great.!!! i think they love god a lliiiiitle too much! :9)