In the years 1808 and 1809, the forces of the British East India Company fought a devastating war against the allied realms of Travancore and Cochin, two princely kingdoms located in the south of India. In the end, the might of Christianity triumphed over the forces of Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus and Moslems – or perhaps God, in his usual fashion, was on the side of the biggest guns.
But the victory left the British with a small problem: they had captured a number of prisoners who they regarded as beyond any possibility of rehabilitation. After some time being kept on prison hulks in Cochi harbour (the capital of Cochin, a port called ‘the Queen of the Arabian Sea’), they were deported to Port Jackson. Here, the prisoners swiftly escaped and fled south along the coast, not stopping until they reached the harbour that would one day be known as Port Phillip Bay.
In a valley that reminded them (somewhat) of home, they built a small village, whose centrepiece was a temple to the Buddha. Unfortunately for these prisoners, they were entirely male, and the colony, unable to bring forth another generation, withered and died out before Batman and Fawkner arrived in Melbourne (although there is some evidence that they had contact with fellow escapee William Buckley). A former sailor among the early colonists with a keen eye for architecture recognised the style of the ruins, and correctly identified their origins in Travancore. Unfortunately, the buildings that made up this site have long since been pillaged and their materials recycled into later constructions. Today, nothing except a few street names points the influence the subcontinent once had on this area.
Suburbs near Travancore: