The Coonan Cross – A forgotten Church!
3 January, 1653: Oath of Coonan Cross. Under the influence of the Portuguese Empire a synod was convened at Udayamperoor near Ernakulam in 1599 and the Malankara Church was made part of the Roman Catholic Church. People who wished for freedom from the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church tried to get a bishop from Babylon.
On the request of the Syrian Christians, a bishop named Ahathulla was sent to Malankara in 1652. However, he was captured and killed by the Portuguese in Goa. The Syrian Christians were infuriated and on 3rd January 1653, gathered in large numbers at a church in Mattancherry (Cochin).
They tied ropes to the granite cross in front of the church and by touching the ropes, took an oath severing their connection with the Roman Catholic Church. This incident is known as the Oath of Coonan Cross. (Coonan in Malayalam means bent – The Cross bent to one side during the oath taking ceremony).
According to tradition , out of a population of 200,000 St. Thomas Christians, only 400 remained loyal to the Roman Arch bishop Garcia. The event in 1653 broke the fifty four year old yoke of Roman supremacy imposed at the Udayamperur Synod of 1599.
However, today the church is a Catholic Church and it seems that a Church of historical value has no importance to any of the Non-Catholic Syrian Christian Indian Churches. It is also ironical that this story is taught in Sunday Schools in all these Churches with no historical meaning or significance. The Cross present today appears to be a wooden cross. It does not look like a stone cross that should be a couple of centuries old now as mentioned in all history books.
20 November, 1904: Death of Stephanos Kathanar
20 November, 1904: Death of Stephanos Kathanar – Author of “Shayana Namaskaram”.
Stephanos Kathanar (born on 14 June 1852) was a member of Kallarakkal Peedikayil family of Thazhahkkara, Mavelikkara. He became a deacon at the age of 8. He was an expert teacher of the Syrian Language.
In 1897 he established Thazhakkara Mar Thoma Church and started a library for the parish. Achen is the author of The Shayana Namaskaram– (prayer song usually sung with the evening family prayer or public worship) “njangalkullha karthave…” which is still used by many Kerala Christians.
Achen’s grandson Dr. Samuel Mathai was the Vice-Chancellor of the Kerala University. He was called to his eternal home on 20 Nov 1904.
Free pdf Ebooks for Children to read during their School Holidays
Free pdf Ebooks for Children to read during their School Holidays
Mary Jones and her Bible
(inspired the founding of the British and Foreign Bible Society)
Thampi’s Heart (English) – A story adapted from Christian Folklore
Robert Raikes – Founder of Sunday School
8 March 1835, Freedom for Kerala Slaves. (Munro Island – Travancore)
Slavery was a social evil which prevailed all over the world including what is now the state of Kerala in India. According to the 1836 census there were 164,864 slaves in Travancore vis-à-vis a total civilian population of 12,80,668.
Slaves were treated like animals and the cost of one slave was that of an ox, cost of an ox was 5 (big para) measures of Paddy or Rs. 10/- only. Slaves were chained and sold like animals in markets.
Kottayam, Changanasserry, Thirunakkara, Alleppey, Kayamkulam, Kollam, Attingal, Chirayinkizh, Kaniyapuram, Pettah and Kovalam were the notorious slave trade markets of the time. Churches in Cochin were used as godowns for the slaves except for Sundays. Slaves were exported out of the kingdom. There was no one to speak on behalf of these unfortunate people.
With the arrival and the teachings of the CMS (Church Missionary Society) missionaries, people became aware of this social evil. In 1819, Munro Island was given to the missionaries, by the then Travancore Government along with the slaves residing there on the Island. Munro Island is located at the confluence of Ashtamudi Lake and the Kallada River, in Kollam district, Kerala, India.
In 1833, England passed the Slavery Abolition Law. CMS missionaries, Benjamin Bailey and Joseph Peet made a historic declaration on 8th March 1835, giving freedom to the slaves in Munro Island.
The declaration read as follows:
“We the undersigned, acting as trustees of Munro Island, do hereby declare that… who has hitherto been a slave of the soil, is from this time liberated by us and made a free man and that his wife and offspring are wholly and forever free and are regarded by us only as hired servants and that no one has any right to bring them into servitude again. At the same time we declare that we do not consider ourselves as released from any claim which he or his wife or offspring may have upon us according to custom, privilege or law in consequence of their having been slaves.”
8 March 5. Sd/- Benj Bailey Sd/- Josh Peet,
In 1847, Uthram Thirunal Marthanda Varma became the King of Travancore. The same year CMS missionaries submitted a memorandum to the King requesting him to stop the slavery in Travancore. In 1853, by royal declaration slavery was abolished in Travancore forever. In 1864, the Kingdom of Cochin also made a similar declaration abolishing slavery.
1905: When the Maramon Convention Sermons were printed overnight!
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.
1936: Loud Speaker and Microphone introduced at Maramon Convention (Rare Photos & Audio MP3)
Though the first convention began in 1895, the sermons were delivered to the tens of thousands of church members who attended in a very unique manner. Until 1936, messages of the main speaker were repeated in relay by designated people standing in between the participants of the convention. It was a time consuming process for the message from the front to pass through thousands of participants to reach the back of the audience. In 1936, a loud speaker and mike (microphone) set was brought to Maramon from USA by the famous missionary Rev. Dr. E. Stanley Jones. It was donated by one of the Christian Churches in USA. He was a well wisher of the Mar Thoma Church and encouraged the missionary zeal of the Church.
Read more and see more rare photos at 1921 -1970: World renowned missionary Dr. E. Stanley Jones at Maramon Convention ( See Rare Photos) Hear a sermon by Dr. E. Stanley Jones – Click Here (The sermon is 26 min. — or download the mp3 (11.8 MB).) The sermon title is, “The Gift of the Holy Spirit: The Birthright of All Christians.” The sermon was preached at a U.S. Ashram in August 1960. (This sermon is included in the 2008 book, Living Upon the Way: Selected Sermons of E. Stanley Jones on Self-Surrender and Conversion.) This audio clip is from www.methodistthinker.com
Ban of Tobacco and Paan at the Maramon 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.
Read more about Dr. E. Stanley Jones at the Maramon Convention with rare photos
Maramon Convention 1925: The price of meals
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.
February, 1917: Sadhu Sunder Singh preaches at Maramon Convention
Sadhu Sunder Singh (3 September 1889-1929) the renowned Indian Christian missionary was one of the speakers of the Maramon Convention in 1918. He spoke in Hindi and the translation was done by Mr. M. O. Oommen, Chief Conservator of Travancore.
Sadhu Sunder Singh drew crowds greater than any previous conventions, so much so that before the end of the week the pandal (covered area) had to be enlarged. It is estimated at the final meeting about 32,000 people gathered to hear his message.
March 9 – 18, 1895: The first Maramon Convention
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.