The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

Origins of Conversions and Converts

This lecture series is presented by Mr. Sohail Hashmi (Independent Scholar, New Delhi). Read more about his research here.

Part 1: Who were the Converts and Who Converted them? 

About the lecture

Perhaps the most coveted debate in contemporary India, the history of conversions in India, as stated by eminent scholar Sohail Hashmi here, goes back to at least 2500 years to the Vedic era. Since then, conversions from the more dominant Brahmanical religion to other faiths has been common and a major shift is only seen around the 12th century C.E. with the coming of Islam into India. Through this lecture Mr. Hashmi focuses on the initial period of conversions, when communities from lower social groups collectively moved towards Buddhism and other such religions that promised a more ‘humane existence’ to its followers. He also touches upon the gradual eclipse of these alternative faiths and the revival of Brahmanism that occurred in the later centuries.


Part 2: Role of Sufis in Conversions in India

About the lecture

As mentioned in the previous video, in the later years Brahmanism underwent a revival around the 8th and 9th centuries C.E., which gradually led to the demise of Buddhism and Jainism. However, this same period also saw an influx of scholars, merchants, soldiers, and Sufis in India that led to an amalgamation of cultures on the one hand and the emergence of new people-centric traditions on the other that became highly popular. Poets and artists like Kabir, Raidas, Guru Nanak established religious orders that saw conversions of a large section of the Dalits and other underprivileged castes.

Adding to all of this, in this segment Mr. Hashmi also focuses on the conversions to Islam in the aftermath of the 11-12th centuries when Islam emerged at the center of polity in India. In this process, Mr. Hashmi entangles with the prominent arguments on ‘forced conversions’ by Muslim rulers of India, not only debunking such theories but also posing new questions that must be answered when looking back into this period of conversions in India.