They all have their own reasons for giving up one religion for another. As Jesuit sociologist Rudolf C. Heredia puts it in his book, Changing Gods, Rethinking Conversion in India: "Conversion is a question of personal choice, it involves a rejection, a change or an adaptation of one's identity. A complex set of motivations are involved. The change is the result of a personal quest, which may be more than a religious or spiritual one. Positively, this is experienced as a liberation; negatively, it could be an escape."
So what is it like to switch from one god to another? Outlook spoke to some unlikely converts:
Syed Hadeed is touched by the Word
"I was born in a rich Muslim family of Pune. My parents belonged to families with a rich religious heritage. When I was barely four, my parents separated. My mother and I moved in with my aunt in Hyderabad. From an early age I was taught Islamic traditions and I also learnt to read the Quran in Arabic. However, I went to schools run by the Jesuits and did well both in studies and sports. My mother and I shifted to Mumbai when I was in the sixth standard."It was during this period that I began carefully studying the Quran. However, I found I could not digest the teachings. Yet I did not stop believing in God's existence. This was in the late 1980s. My teenage years and early adult life were difficult-failed relationships, financial hardships and my father's death made me morose. At one point I even decided to end my life by consuming mercury. Luckily, I survived."It was all very strange. On the one hand I was attempting suicide, but at another level, I had an out-of-body experience. I felt my spirit drift to my old school-to the feet of Jesus Christ. I could feel his presence. After a year, I visited the school and saw the following words engraved on the pedestal on which a statue of Jesus stands to this day: 'I am the resurrection and the Life.' I believe the Holy Spirit had led me to Christ. Today, I am serving the Lord through the gifts that he has endowed me with."Naturally, some Muslim friends did not approve of my giving up Islam. The clerics questioned my change of faith. However, this only strengthened my resolve to study the Bible, the Quran, and the Hadiths. Finally, I realised that Christianity was my true calling."
Jaya Ramamurthy says god speaks to her
"Born into a Tamil Brahmin family, I was brought up in an orthodox religious environment. We worshipped numerous gods and observed various rituals. Every Thursday, we also prayed to Sai Baba. At least 150 devotees would turn up at our house for the prayer sessions. Frankly, I could not make any sense of the rituals and yearned for a relationship with a god I could talk to, a god who would listen to me when I spoke to him. "It was around this time that I was afflicted with scabies. I decided to go for a blind date with Jesus in the hope that I would be cured. To my surprise I was rid of my ailment. Years later, at 27, I decided to read the Bible. My mother threw it out of the window. But I did not give up and discovered a god I could talk to. Ever since, I have become far more friendly, and the love of god has changed my life. Today, when I speak, God speaks to me. My relationship with the Almighty has changed my perspective. I have become more respectful towards others."