A Travancore in Melbourne!

The erstwhile Travancore State that extended from southern Kerala to its central region has a namesake, in Australia. Not many know about Travancore, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria. On Saturday, a Twitter user Korah Abraham tweeted about it, triggering a mini discussion that saw writer Manu S. Pillai respond, and a few curious folk searched the place in Google.

Suburb of Melbourne

Travancore is a suburb of Melbourne, located not far from Melbourne’s central business district in a part of Moonee Valley. As per the 2016 Census of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the population of Travancore was 2,480. The most common ancestries in Travancore (State suburbs) were Chinese 17.4%, English 14.3%, Australian 10.7%, Indian 6.8% and Irish 6.7%.

Manu S. Pillai, author of The Ivory Throne: Chronicles of the House of Travancore, says he has not seen any documentary evidence but has been told, including by an Australian writer, that Travancore was named after a horse-trader called Henry Madden who supplied horses to Travancore’s Nair Brigade.


Sometime in the first decade of the 20th century, he bought a 200-acre estate and built a mansion which he called Travancore Mansion. This by the 1920s became a school, but a lot of the land around it was sold, leading to private houses and a community emerging there, eventually becoming a suburb of Melbourne, Mr. Pillai says.

Trove, a search engine hosted by the National Library of Australia, reveals that in an obit of Henry Madden in the newspaper The Argus, Henry was said to have a “great deal to do with the trade which made Australian horses famous as remounts for the army in India.” It adds that his firm was one of the largest shippers of horses to India for several years.

Mr. Pillai says in Sydney resides Venu Varma, who was born Rohini Tirunal Venugopal Varma, first great-grandson of Regent Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi.


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