Record crowds have been turning up at the 111th Maramon Convention in India, which began Sunday. Believed to be one of Asia's largest Christian conventions, the Maramon gathering brings close to 100,000 people together everyday for a week of preaching, singing and praying.
"This convention is not just a [meeting] of Marthomaites alone. Instead, it is being attended by all sections of Christians, and people of all religions come to hear the speeches," said Dr. Joseph Mar Irenaeus Suffragan Metropolitan, president of the Evangelistic Association of the Mar Thoma Church.
Held since 1896 on the Pampa riverbank at Maramon, the convention is organized by the Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association which is responsible for all the missionary and evangelical work conducted by the church.
Previous years had mainly seen crowds from the Mar Thomaite community from which they renew old friendships and ready for marriage alliances among church members. This year, however, a record number of people from all over India have been drawn to the speeches, read by scholars of Christianity, leaving little time and space for any other activity.
In India, Christianity took root on the Malabar Coast (now Kerala) in the first century AD around the seven churches that are believed to have been established by St. Thomas. Throughout Kerala are Christian families that claim to be descendants from ancestors who were baptized by Apostle Thomas.
Within a population of 30 million people in Kerala, 23 percent are Christian and the Mar Thoma community accounts for around 800,000 followers.
The Mar Thoma Church is in full communion with the Anglican Church.