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Friday, August 16, 2013

The 25th International Congress of Vexillology (ICV), Rotterdam, Netherlands. A Retrospective.

The 25th International Congress of Vexillology (ICV) held in the Engels Congress Center (ECC) in Groot Handelsgebouw, Rotterdam, the Netherlands from 5th to 9th August, 2013, under the auspices of the Federation Internationale des Associations Vexillologiques (FIAV). 

The editor of the ‘Flags and Stamps’ was among one of the 36 speakers from all over the world, with subjects ranging across many vexillological themes. These diversity contributed in making the Congress an epoch making one.
 The opening ceremony of the 25th ICV was held on 5th August at the Rotterdam International Flag Parade at Boompjes Bouevard, where the flags of the 193 members of the United Nations are waving, including those of 173 nationalities represented in Rotterdam’s population, as a sign ‘welcome to the city’.

 Reception offered by the Rotterdam City Council in the City Hall at Coolsigel.

Pre-presentation planning with Alain Raulet and Cdr. K.V. Singh of India
 The editor of ‘Flags and Stamps’ presented his paper entitled “The Ancient Symbol of Swastika: Its Uses, Distortion and Misuses”
 It was presented on the second day on Tuesday 6th August, 2013. Mr. Alain Raulet, President of ‘Societe Bretonne de Vexillologie KVV’, France, was the Master of Ceremony.  
“Swastika” is an ancient symbol of the prehistoric period - a symbol which has been attributed to ‘good fortune and well-being’ for more than 3000 years or even older. The power-point presentation highlighted the Origins, Uses, Migration and Diffusion of the symbol in Cultures of the Globe. Swastika is considered to be a fine example of Theories of the Parallelism in Human Thoughts – can it be a case of Duplicate or Independent discovery which popped-up in widest Culture Areas, extending almost to the Uttermost parts of the World or is it Transmitted from Person to Person, Country to Country by Migration, or Contact or Communication between the Distant people in Archaic period?  No one knows for sure because its true home, the time or place of origin, or, the primitive meaning considered lost in antiquity.
One may wonder how the same auspicious symbol contaminated our mind with its graphic vandalism by a regime whose rise was dramatic and fall was equally as rapid as rise. Precisely 25 years of misuse from 1920 to 1945 made the Swastika image - a hated symbol in Europe and elsewhere, because of an ignominious fascist spearheaded a racial genocide, an unspeakable genocide - but that is according to the speaker is insufficient reason for ignoring the symbol's ancient and historical significance.
The Hakenkreuz (Swastika banner in Nazi style) is a social taboo in India as well. However, the undertone the swastika has in general in the West is absent in India and other parts of Asia. Long before all the Nazi symbols were outlawed in 1945, scholars and historians proved sufficiently that the German claim of Swastika and its Aryan origin were baseless, hence unacceptable from the vexillological point of views.

As a matter of fact, the symbol was not unknown among the pre-Vedic ‘Dravidans’, a peaceful and more advanced culture of South India long before the invading Aryans arrived. Societies practicing Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and believer of many other sects - see the sign - as an auspicious sign of good fortune – representing aspects of their faith. They've been doing this from time immemorial - in temples, idols, rituals, decorations, on artifacts, coins and flags.

Wednesday 7th August,  Ethnological Museum depot at’s-Gravenzande. 
Here we were shown a number of very old and rare flags from the former Netherlands East Indies.

Vexillological tour,  Wednesday 7th August,: The Hague Peace Palace. It is the ‘Seat of International Law’ (the U.N. International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, etc).
Hague Flag Parade with all the flags of the members of the United Nations.
Boat Trip through the Port of Rotterdam from Willemsplein.
The Port authority sponsored a surprising harbor tour with buffet dinner on board one of the ultra modern ships SPIDO. It was a discovery tour to experience the biggest European port.

Thursday 8 August: Visit to the exhibition of 19th century hand painted Dutch flags in the Rotterdam Maritime Museum. Reception and Buffet in the Museum at Leuvehaven
Friday 9 August: Official closing buffet dinner and awards in the Laurens Kerk, Grotekerkplein.                                                          The Laurens Church was built between 1449 and 1525 right behind the dam that cut off the river Rotte from the river Maas/Meuse. To this dam Rotterdam owes its name. In 1572 the church was stripped of the sculptures customary in Catholic churches. Because of the French Revolution - almost 300 years later - family coats of arms on tombstones also were stripped away. Impressive also are the work and the gifts of many which made it possible to turn the ruins of the church after the bombing in May 1940 into one that again is open to everybody every day. The church has three organs; the principal organ is the largest completely mechanical organ in Europe with over 7600 organ pipes and 85 stops. A permanent exhibition lets its visitors relive the past through a surprising lay-out and decoration of the chapels.

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