chapter  4
The Drama of Conversion in the Courts of South India : Challenges to Aggressive Missionary Enterprise and Changing Judicial Attitudes in the Nineteenth Century
ByJohn ]. Paul (Fitchbury State College )
Pages 30

One of the recurring phenomena in south Indian religious history has been, and still is the conversion of individuals and communities, who formally abandoned the creeds, ethics, and rituals of their forbears and embraced a new set of attitudes, beliefs, and practices . 1 "The process of conversion," observed Forrester, "is a complex one"2 and involves an interplay of several factors - economic, social, political and/or theological; these factors provided the motivational underpinnings for the many conversions that took place down the centuries. However, the episodic conversion of hundreds of people, mainly from lower rungs of society, to Christianity in the nineteenth century created a plethora of issues that had never been anticipated or discussed before in Indian society. For example, whether or not an individual's exercise of choice in religion was legal against the accepted customs of one's caste or sub-caste, whether or not a person should retain the same privilege and status that he once had within his immediate family and community prior to his conversion, and whether or not he was entitled to the same opportunities that others enjoyed under the protection and treatment of government were questions that demanded much reflection, wisdom, and forethought.