The muddy Gavdevi ground at Shimpoli in Borivli (West) was sprinkled with saffron and green on Sunday.
In the presence of Narendra Maharaj, chief of the Ramanandcharya Peeth of Nanij in the Konkan, hundreds of men and women, most of them tribals, converted to Hinduism.
This is the first such event in the city, and part of the peeth’s massive re-conversion movement started two years ago.
Women were clad in green and men wore white dhotis, while the volunteers donned saffron.
Those who converted included recently married couples and families from the tribal interiors of Thane and Nashik district.
Many men had their heads shaved for the ceremony. Items for the mass ceremony were placed on banana leaves. A four-hour long sacred ritual was carried out to “purify” them, after which they were accepted as Hindus.
The rituals included the panch gagan snan, bhasma snan and amrut snan. They then took an oath never to abandon Hinduism.
Narendra Maharaj alleged Christian missionaries ventured into rural areas and lured them with financial help and other benefits to convert them.
As the tribals were mostly illiterate, they got converted easily, he said. The Sadguru Narendra Maharaj Sansthan claims to have brought 42,220 people back into the Hindu fold till date, including Sunday’s 1,793 people.
According to Narendra Maharaj, Hindus are declining in number and sooner or later will be rendered a minority.
“There is no other nation that embraces Hinduism; we have no place to go, unlike Christians and Muslims,” he said. “Nepal was the only country that supported Hinduism, but now the Maoists have taken over and declared it a non-religious country.”
He said he opposed votebank politics and condemned the state’s move to take over temples.
He also alleged the state’s anti-superstition law adversely affected Hindus the most.
Asked how the Sansthan ensured a better life for poor tribals, he said: “We are not a rich institution but we do our best by providing them with domestic flour mills, LPG burners and cylinders, some utensils and even employment. We assist them in realising that Hinduism is the greatest religion and induce pride and self respect within them.”
Christian leader and vice-president of the state Minority Commission Abraham Mathai had earlier called the charges of forced conversion baseless and said there was not a single incident that proved any Christian missionary had converted anybody by force or inducement.
“If the Hindu fundamentalists are true in their claims how does the official Christian population of the country remain stagnant at 2.5 per cent — the figure registered in the 1947 census and thereafter,” Mathai said.