The first Maramon Convention was held from 9th March (Friday) to 18th March (Sunday) in 1895 at the Parapuzha Manalpuram of the River Pamba (the location was situated between the famous Aranmula Temple and the Maramon Church) about one kilometer away from the present venue. It was a ten day event.
The pandal (tent) could accommodate about 7000 people. Mr. David and Mr. Wordsworth, both missionaries from Ceylon (today known as Sri Lanka) were the main speakers of the convention. Mar Thoma Metropolitan Titus I gave the leadership for the convention meetings. Deacon Kakkasseri Varghese of Kunnamkulam (7 July 1867 – 4 June 1897) translated the messages from English to Malayalam for the audiences to understand.
Date 8th February 1900 Time 3.30 am on 8 February morning
An earthquake tremor shook the village of Puthen Cavu near Chengannur and surrounding areas in the early hours of 8th February 1900. Not many details is known about the incident, however, it is well documented by Rev. Thomas Walker in his book and passed on as oral legend by many elders. Thomas Walker was a principal speaker at the Maramon Convention from 1899 to 1912.
In the early days of the Maramon Convention, due to the limited means of travel, guest speakers used to arrive days or weeks in advance. In this time they would attend fellowship meetings and deliver messages to nearby congregations.
Rev. Thomas Walker wrote in his diary on 7th and 8th Feb, 1900, about an incident where he had preached and asked people to repent, that night the earth shook and people thought it was he who was responsible for the tremors. Many went on their knees and repented:
February 7. Last night we had a very solemn meeting, and I gave an opportunity to any seeking souls. Thank God, there were some; but oh, how many are indifferent, crowding to hear, but not willing to give up sin. The moment I had finished praying, some of the converted men struck up prayer of their own accord, red-hot if you like: they pleaded for the unconverted.
Then came my trials. I asked those who had held up their Hands to stay behind, and a number did so. But the other people would stand all round. They are not accustomed to quiet after-meetings, and simply refused to go away, even when asked five or six times. The Achans have no command over the people. At last I had fairly to drive them out before I could deal with those poor souls.
In the C.M.S. churches here they have full control of their congregations; but in the Syrian churches, none. And they have made up their mind that they can have none. You cannot get a single Syrian congregation to go off quietly after a service, for the sake of either Christ or souls. It makes it very difficult to get at anyone who is impressed. We were at least twenty minutes getting the people (or most of them) away last night. It seems to me that it is a case of either taking after-meetings in the mass (which is most unsatisfactory), or not taking them at all. Well, one has just to go forward trust the Lord. He knows the circumstances, and can help. And, praise Him, He knows every heart which is hungering for Him.
February 8. We had a solemn service last night, and sent them home with earnest warnings; but except for a quiet time on our knees, did not attempt an after-meeting. Well, in the very early hours of this morning I was suddenly roused from sleep to find the whole ground quivering with an earthquake. You have probably had the same shock. It seemed to last several minutes at least. I felt perfectly quiet under it, and then subsided towards slumber again. Not so the people. There were shouts and cries and prayers all over the place. There seemed to be a tremendous commotion. After a time they came thumping and knocking at my doors and windows, so I had to light a lamp and get up.
My room soon filled with men, some converted and some unconverted. They quite connect the earthquake with the solemn warnings I have been giving here. I told them last night in the pandal that I could do no more, and must just leave them to God. I asked them to go home and say truthfully in His presence, I am saved, or I am not saved. Then followed this earthquake shock, and they immediately connected the two together. It seems in a real sense God’s confirmation of His word by signs following. Call it a coincidence if you please, with Divine before the coincidence. & quot; “Well, I spoke to them, and two young men professed to repent on the spot, while I warned again several others. I then turned into bed and went to sleep again.
One of the Christians said, This morning’s meeting must be for the unconverted. It is against our practice, as the morning meetings are intended to help Christians; but I felt it was God’s will that I should go and preach on earthquakes. So I got some notes together, and a large crowd assembled. The Rev. T. K. Joseph turned up to help me. We had a very solemn time, and I told them that God was giving them another chance and a special warning.
Afterwards I called on any who wanted to turn to Him to stand up, and several men did so, and several women. I then got them to the front of the table where I stood, and we had an after-meeting before the whole pandal, in public. I felt that, after the earthquake, anxious souls ought not to shirk publicity. We were at it till nearly twelve o clock,…”
Lent starts on Sunday 10th February 2016 and ends with Easter Sunday on 27th March 2016. We are expected to set apart a time for serious reflection, self-examination and renewed commitment with fasting and prayer during the Lent season. Our Church observes 50 days as the Lent period including the 40 days in which our Lord fasted and 10 days commemorating His passion and crucifixion.
Fourteen meals for One rupee. During the early years of the Convention, restaurants and hotels were not in existence. Kappi Kadas (coffee/tea shops) and Chottu Kadas (rice shops) were the only available eateries at the Manalpuram (river bed) venue of the convention.
One of the famous chottu kada’s was managed by Kunjan Varkey Chetten from Edathua. He would serve 14 full meals for just one rupee and 228 full glasses of black coffee (Chakkara Kappi) also for Rs.1 in the early 1920’s.
Having lunch at Maramon Convention. (Photo courtesy Facebook Group)
Dr. Eli Stanley Jones was born in Baltimore, Maryland, USA on 3rd January 1884. He was a faculty member at Asbury College, Kentucky, USA when he was called to missionary service in India in 1907 under the Board of Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
He was one of the main speakers of the Maramon Convention from 1921-1970. His messages combined evangelistic challenges with social concerns. The Maramon Convention is one of the largest Christian convention in Asia, and is held at Maramon, Pathanamthitta, Kerala, India annually in February. The venue is on the vast sand-bed of the Pampa River next to the Kozhencherry Bridge. It is organised by Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association, the missionary wing of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church. The 124th Maramon Convention is happening in 2019.
“For more than half a century Dr E. Stanley Jones proclaimed the Gospel of Christ and applied it to people’s personal, social, national, and international problems. He moved among statesmen and among leaders without portfolios as counselor, friend and worker for peace and goodwill.
Dr Jones became a friend of Mahatma Gandhi and wrote an appreciative biography of Gandhi. In 1950, Dr. Jones provided funds for India’s first Christian psychiatric center, and clinic currently known as Nur Manzil Psychiatric Center and Medical Unit at Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India.
In 1946, with the help of friends in USA, he donated the first loud speaker setup to the Maramon Convention. He is also the founder of the Sat Tal Christian Ashram movement, Nainital, Uttarakhand, India. He died on January 25, 1973 in his beloved India.
In the 1920s, India began to develop greater appreciation for its own history and culture and greater pride in its own unique contributions to world civilization. Stanley Jones was one of the very first to realize the possibilities that this change in India’s intellectual and spiritual culture created for Christianity and especially for Western Christian missionaries. But he could not fully understand the astounding scope and depth of the possibilities without experiencing the history and culture of his adopted country for himself. So, what better way to immerse himself in the ethos of India than to visit Indian ashrams?
This is exactly what he did. In 1923, he spent two months at Santiniketan, the ashram of the world-famous poet, Rabindranath Tagore. Three years later in 1926 he visited Gandhi’s ashram at Sabarmati.
It is no exaggeration to say that Jones’ visits to these ashrams changed the course of his life. In fact, in 1930, he established his own ashram as a spiritual retreat for Christians modeled on his experience with Ashrams in India. But this was only the first of hundreds of Christian ashrams that would eventually be established throughout the world. These ashrams are truly the work of the Holy Spirit as they continue to inspire, refresh, and renew thousands of Christians in many nations today.
~ From “Ordinary Man, Extraordinary Mission: The Life and Work of E. Stanley Jones” by Stephen A. Graham
Right from its initial years, many women speakers have made a great impact on the Maramon Convention. Mrs. F.S. Nicholson and Miss. S.C. McKibbin conducted special meetings and Bible classes for women during the convention in 1905. They are remembered for their devoted service to the women of Travancore particularly in the education field. They established the prestigious Nicholson Syrian Girls Higher Secondary School and Training Home in 1910 at Kattode, Tiruvalla, Kerala.
Other eminent speakers included Miss Amy Carmichael, founder of the Dohnavur Mission, Tamil Nadu, Miss Kellaway of Vanitha Mandiram, and Miss Grower to name a few missionaries who encouraged women towards the Lord’s work through Bible classes during the early days of the Convention.
The use of tobacco and paan was a way of life in Kerala during the first half of the 20th Century. It was an essential item at social events such as marriages and other family gatherings. Tobacco and paan was easily available through shops all over Kerala. It was a common sight to have people attend the Maramon Convention meetings with beedi and murukkan in their pockets.
Through his messages, Dr. Stanley Jones urged people to refrain from the use of tobacco products. During one meeting, he asked the convention participants to bury their tobacco (which they were carrying) in the sand on the pandal floor. In another meeting, he collected all the tobacco products from the people and burnt it near the pandal in front of everyone.
It is only after much persuasion that the people stop using it and today it is not permitted at the Maramon Convention pandal.
At present, Maramon Convention messages (full text) are printed and sold on the next day morning from counters for the convention attendees. This enables people to take home the sermons of the previous day and read them again and share the sermons with people who were not able to attend the convention. These printed sermons are also shared in cottage prayer fellowships, parish prayer groups and for personal prayer and meditation.
However, few people know that this practice started in 1905. There were no microphones and speakers. The convention messages were repeated in relay by three persons – at times four or more – standing in different places of the pandal to make it audible to the thousands of people who attended. This relay process took a long time and was tedious for the audiences. The printing of messages in 1905 became a real blessing for all and continues to be so today. Today, God has blessed the Church members with technology which enables them to watch the Convention live through web streaming and receive updates on emails and websites.
Given below is the report about this, from the Thomas Walker’s biography.
“1905 Wednesday, February 22. I awoke feeling very weary, for the heat was extraordinarily oppressive, and seemed to take all the life out of one. The Syrian brethren made one very good arrangement this year.
Each day’s addresses wore printed by night at their printing press at Tiruwella, eight miles away, and were on sale the next day in a booth near the pandal. Thus
the printed pages supplemented the speaker’s voice, and carried the message far and wide.”
~ Rev. Thomas Walker was one of the main speakers at the Maramon Convention from 1898 to 1912. He was a Church Missionary Society (CMS) missionary from Tirunelveli. He emphasized the importance on studying the Word of God (Bible) and to promote the missionary work of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church.
A pdf resource sheet for Parents / Sunday School Teachers to explain to their children facts and events chosen from the history of the Maramon Convention.