Shanti Sena

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The Shanti Sena or "Peace army" was made up of Gandhi's followers in India. Its non-violent methods have been adopted by other movements such as the World Peace Brigade, Nonviolent Peaceforce, Swaraj Peeth, the organisation Peace Brigades International and the Rainbow Family of Living Light, and have served as a basis for the practice of Third Party Non-violent Intervention.[1]

"Shanti Sena" is a term first coined by Gandhi when he conceptualized a nonviolent volunteer peacekeeping program dedicated to minimizing communal violence within the Indian populace. The words "Shanti" and "Sena" both come from Sanskrit. Shanti means peace and Sena means army, or a drilled band of men. The word "Sena" has been criticized for its connection to militarism, but for Gandhi, it had strong metaphorical and spiritual qualities connected to its use in the Hindu vedas.

In the aftermath of the Gandhian era, Shanti Sena has appeared in various incarnations. Two Gandhian followers developed separate groups based on their interpretations of it: Vinoba Bhave established a Shanti Sena that prioritized Gandhi's spiritual approach towards the program, while JP established a program that focused more on the political motivations of the program.[2] The Shanti Sena program also became institutionalized into India's Gandhigram Rural University, where it was incorporated into the university's constitution. Currently Shanti Sena is also very active in Sri Lanka as a part of the organization Sarvodaya.

The Rainbow Family of Living Light and The Rainbow Gatherings were introduced to the Shanti Sena concept by Portland, Oregon, peace activist Glen Swift who helped organize the Vortex One festival over Labor Day weekend in 1970 at McIver Park outside Clackamas, Oregon. That free, community-based festival attracted about 50,000 people and was one of several places where the Rainbow Family first came together - before the first Rainbow Gathering in 1972. Swift described Shanti Sena as a way that attendees could self-police in a manner that was consistent with non-violent practices. He also helped set up a Shanti Sena tipi at the Vortex festival where the Shanti Sena people could meet or be contacted for help. Because of the successful use of these non-violent techniques, the Shanti Sena teachings and processes were adopted permanently into the Rainbow Family's Gatherings.


  1. ^ Thomas Weber: Gandhi's Peace Army: The Shanti Sena and Unarmed Peacekeeping, Syracuse Univ Pr.1996
  2. ^ Thomas Weber: The Shanti Sena: Philosophy, History and Action, Orient Blackswan, New Delhi 2009

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