Sir M Visvesvaraya, popularly known as Sir MV, was an engineer, statesman, and scholar. Sir MV served as the Diwan of Mysore during the period of 1912-1918. In 1955, he was honored with Bharat Ratna. For his contributions to public goodness, he was bestowed as Knight Commander, by King George V, during the British Indian Empire.
September 15 is celebrated as Engineers day, in his loving memory. Sir MV was recognized for engineering the Krishna Raja Sagara Dam located in Mysore. Also, he was one of the Chief designing engineers for bringing up a system for flood protection in Hyderabad.
Sir M Visvesvaraya– An art student turned engineer
Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya was born on 15th September 1861 to a Telugu Brahmin Family in Muddenahalli village in Chikkaballapur District. His parents were Mokshagundam Srinivasa Shastry and Venkatalakshmamma. Mokshagundam Srinivasa Shastry was a renowned Sanskrit scholar. At the age of 12, Visvesvaraya lost his father.
Sir MV enrolled for his early education in Chikballapur, where he completed his primary education. Then for his high school education, Sir MV came to Bangalore. In 1881, after receiving a bachelor’s degree in Arts from the Central College in Bangalore, affiliated to the Madras University, he pursued civil engineer from the reputed College of Engineering, Pune.
Sir M Visvesvaraya and the building of the Krishnarajasagara reservoir and dam
The Krishnarajasagara dam is the biggest landmark in Mysuru. Dating back to the 1930s, this 130 feet high dam isn’t just a popular tourist attraction, it is also the source of irrigation and drinking water for large parts of Karnataka. The dam is closely linked to two individuals; Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, the erstwhile king of Mysuru at the time this dam was built and the dam’s designer and engineer, Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya.
At the time of its planning and construction, the project was unprecedented not just in India but around the world. Dam building was a relatively new pursuit. It took over a year of planning and political, technical and financial negotiations with all the parties involved for the Krishnarajasagara dam project to be given the green light.
Recognizing the need for a dam
In 1902, India’s first hydroelectric power plant was set up in Sivasamudram. From here electricity was supplied to many parts of Karnataka including the Kolar gold mines. This was fine in the monsoons and winters but in the summers, the dipping Cauvery water levels did not allow the plants to operate at full efficiency.
As a result, the state defaulted on meeting power demands and often had to pay heavy fines. After failing to resolve the issue with make-do arrangements like using sandbags to shore up water, the officials decided a large reservoir was required upstream of Sivasamudram.
The first plans
William McHutchin, the Mysore’s Public Works Department’s Chief Engineer and his deputy, Captain Bernard Dawes began a systematic survey of the area. In 1908, they drew up a plan for a multipurpose reservoir in Kannambadi.
The water collected in this reservoir could be used for irrigation as well as to generate electricity. It was a highly technical and expensive project with an estimated cost of Rs 440 lakhs at the time. The plan never progressed in part because of the high costs and also because of McHutchin’s retirement and Dawes’s death in a drowning accident.
The responsibility of reworking the project fell on an Indian engineer, M Visvesvaraya.
M Visvesvaraya Replanning the Krishnarajasagara dam
It is believed that before taking over the Mysuru PWD, Visvesvaraya had toured Egypt and taken particular note of the Aswan dam. He had also worked on other Indian dam projects such as the Khadakwasla dam and the Bhatghar dam.
In 1910, Visvesvaraya and his engineers took on a fresh survey of the region and made preliminary sketches for the dam and reservoir project. The plans were quite different from the initial plans in terms of technicalities, practicalities and costs. It was designed to become the core of an irrigation system that would promote commercial agriculture and industrial enterprises.
It was designed to be constructed over a decade and with a completed capacity of 39 TMC. Visvesvaraya predicted that the irrigation share of the project capital would be as much as 8%.
Negotiating the fine print
Building a dam is no easy task and Visvesvaraya took on an active role in negotiations with all parties involved. His negotiations with the Kolar mining companies resulted in the companies agreeing to pay a higher price for electricity supplied in the next decade.
Since the damming of the Cauvery waters would impact the flow of water into the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, Madras had to give prior permission. The Madras government had been planning their own dam over the river in Mettur and worried that the Krishnarajasagara dam would not leave enough water flow for this project.
They also objected on grounds that it may endanger the farmers in the Tanjore delta. Visvesvaraya proved to his Madras PWD counterparts that his dam would not affect water flow into Madras but this was not enough to gain approval.
Discussions continued until September 1911 when Mysuru got the support of Viceroy Lord Hardinge who suggested reducing the capacity of the dam. The two governments then agreed to build an 11 TMC reservoir with foundations wide enough to permit later expansion that would irrigate a maximum of 25,000 acres.
Financing the project
Despite reducing the project costs, the reservoir would still need approximately Rs 160 lakhs. In addition, Rs 94 lakhs would be needed to expand the Mysuru railway network to the region. There were of course objections from within the PWD department on greenlighting such an expensive project. At the time, the government treasury had only around Rs 124a lakhs of which Ra 54 lakh was available for investments.
The department was against taking a loan from the savings banks. The discussion went back and forth for many months until it fell to the Maharaja to take a decision. Visvesvaraya had the king’s ear and was finally able to get the project sanctioned in October 1911.
Building the dam
Construction for the dam began in 1911 and with it, Visvesvaraya took on the role of Dewan. Despite his new responsibilities, he continued to track the project and took back the reins in 1918. As the dam grew taller, its effects began to be felt. By 1915-16, farmers with lands irrigated by the project’s canals had started growing sugarcane crops. Electricity production at the Sivasamudram project was also ramped up.
By the early 1920s, the dam had reached a height of 80 feet and work on the second stage commenced. By then the courts had ruled that Madras could not keep the Krishnarajasagara dam height from being raised.
Mysuru’s symbol of progress
With its completion, the Krishnarajasagara dam became the state’s symbol of progress. The Cauvery valley was transformed and Mandya grew to become a prosperous sugar belt. The success was so resounding that today Visvesvaraya enjoys a near-deified status in the region.
M Visvesvaraya‘s successful career line
After successful completion of civil engineering Sir MV, joined the PWD department, of Mumbai. Later he joined the Indian irrigation commission, where he carried out some effective irrigation techniques in the Deccan area.
Sir MV was patented for designing automatic barrier water floodgates. These floodgates were initially installed at the Khadakvasla Reservoir near Pune in 1903. Later with successful implementation, similar floodgates were designed and installed at Tigra Dam and Krishna Raja Sagara Dam.
Sir MV was privileged enough to be sent to Aden to study the various techniques in water supply and the drainage system during the year 1906-07. Later he became societal for his impeccable contribution to make Hyderabad city flood-free. His ideas helped the city of Vishakhapatnam port to be saved from sea erosion. Even at the age of 90, he undertook work on designing and advising in the building of dams across rivers.
Sir M Visvesvaraya’s tenure as Diwan of Mysore
Before serving as Diwan of Mysore, Sir MV served as the Nizam of Hyderabad and did some eminent services for the state. During his service as the Diwan of Mysore, he was founded eminent institutions such as Mysore Soap Factory, Bangalore Agricultural University, and Parasitoid Library, State Bank of Mysore and Mysore Iron and Steel Works.
Many other industries started off during his tenure as the Diwan. Sir MV was known for his timeliness, intricate ideas, dedication etc. Sir MV also played a vital role in promoting the Kannada language. Sir CM had designed the layout of Jayanagar in the South Bangalore and is supposed to be the best locality to be designed ever in Asia.
Sir MV was known for his timeliness, intricate ideas, dedication etc. Sir MV also played a vital role in promoting the Kannada language. Sir CM had designed the layout of Jayanagar in the South Bangalore and is supposed to be the best locality to be designed ever in Asia.
During his tenure, the outlook of the Mysore had changed and many industries and public sectors came up providing good opportunities to people. He was even involved in the founding of the first Engineering College – Government Engineering College, Bangalore 1917 (currently University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering).
Bangalore-Chikballapur Light Railway
The historic Bangalore-Chikballapur Light Railway was another project that began while Sir M. Visvesvaraya was the Diwan of Mysore. It was sanctioned in 1909 as a two-feet, six-inch gauge railway line.
The section between Devanahalli and Chikballapur became operational on August 1, 1915. This was the first railway line established by a private enterprise.
It ran under the guarantee that if the company earned less than $5 of the capital, the Princely State would pay the difference. On the other hand, a surplus earned would be shared equally between the company and the government.
The Nandi Halt is along this route. Sir M. Visvesvaraya is believed to have been credited with the design of the building’s walls and edifice. Today, the line has been modernized to a broad gauge line and the Nandi Halt building stands derelict but beautiful.
A few office held by Sir MV
- Assistant Engineer, Bombay Government Service [in 1884]
- Chief Engineer, Hyderabad State [he served only for 7 months starting April 15, 1909]
- Chief Engineer in Mysore State [Nov 15, 1909]. He was also Secretary to the Railways.
- President of Education and Industrial Development committees in Mysore State
- Dewan of Mysore. [for six years starting 1912]
- Chairman, Bhadravati Iron Works
- Member of the Governing Council of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
- Member of the Governing Council of Tata Iron and Steel Company [TISCO]
- Member of Back Bay enquiry committee, London
- Member of a committee constituted in 1917 to make recommendations regarding the future of Indian States.
Sir M.V retired in 1908 and Sri Krishnarajendra Wodeyar, Maharaja of Mysore, was eager to secure the services of Visvesvaraya to serve Mysore. He joined as Chief Engineer in Mysore because he wanted challenging opportunities. Sir M.V. had earned a reputation for his honesty, integrity, ability and intelligence. He had introduced compulsory education in the State which later was embodied as a fundamental right in the Constitution of independent India.
Sir MV – A visionary who spearheaded development
To name a few of the many things he was responsible for:
- The architect of the Krishnarajasagara dam – or KRS or Brindavan gardens. One of the biggest dams in India which irrigate a hundred and twenty thousand acres of land. This was built at a cost of Rs 2.5 crore. It changed a barren Mandya district into rice granary, provides drinking water to Mysore and Bangalore.
- Bhadravati Iron and Steel Works – as its Chairman he rescued it from becoming extinct.
- Mysore Sandal Oil Factory and the Mysore soap factory
- Mysore University – Sir M.V.’s question was “If Australia and Canada could have universities of their own for less than a million population, cannot Mysore with a population of not less that 60 lakhs have a University of its own?”
- State Bank of Mysore (it was first named as ‘The Bank of Mysore’)
- Public libraries in Mysore and Bangalore
- Encouraging girls to attend school.
- Mysore Chambers of Commerce
- Kannada Sahitya Parishad or the Kannada Literary Academy
- Sri Jayachamarajendra Occupational Institute, Bangalore – funded by the ENTIRE money [Rs 200,000] he earned from rescuing Bhadravati Iron Works.
- In 1912 he set up Hebbal Agricultural School, now University of Agricultural Sciences.
- In 1903 he designed automatic, weir water floodgates, installed at Khadakvasla reservoir.
- He implemented irrigation system in Karnataka.
- Sri Jayachamarajendra Polytechnic Institute.
- The Bangalore Agricultural University (University of Agricultural Sciences).
- The Century Club
- Visvesvaraya College of Engineering, Bengaluru
Sir M.V. was never interested in fame or publicity. But they came to him on their own. Every university in India sought him out to confer honoris causa. The universities of Allahabad, Andhra, Bombay, Calcutta, Jadhavpur, Mysore, Patna and Varanasi.
Some of the honors and laurels conferred on Sir M.V.,
|1904||Honorary Membership of London Institution of Civil Engineers for an unbroken period of 50 years|
|1906||“Kaisar-i-Hind” in recognition of his services
|1911||C.I.E. (Companion of the Indian Empire) at the Delhi Darbar
|1915||K.C.I.E. (Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire)
|1921||D.Sc. – Calcutta University|
|1931||LLD – Bombay University
|1937||D.Litt – Benaras Hindu University (BHU)|
|1943||Elected as an Honorary Life Member of the Institution of Engineers (India)
|1944||D.Sc. – Allahabad University
|1948||Doctorate – LLD., Mysore University
|1953||D.Litt – Andhra University
|1953||Awarded the Honorary Fellowship of the Institute of Town Planners, India
|1955||Conferred ‘Bharat Ratna‘ (The gem of India), the highest distinction of the country|
|1958||D.Sc. Jadhavpur University Calcutta
|1958||‘Durga Prasad Khaitan Memorial Gold Medal’ by the Royal Asiatic Society Council of Bengal
|1959||Fellowship of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Sir M Visvesvaraya’s Memorable Persona
There is no dearth of interesting anecdotes about Sir MV.
Some of these revolve around him being a stickler for punctuality and a strict disciplinarian; there are others that dwell on his sense of honesty, integrity, and professionalism. The fact that he was always impeccably dressed has also been well-documented.
When Sir MV was offered the position of Dewan of Mysore State, it is said that he invited his relatives for dinner. He told them that he would take up the offer on one condition: that they (the relatives) should not come and ask him to use his position as Dewan to help them get their personal work done.
Sir MV And Mahatma Gandhi
Sir M.V. belongs to that small band of eminent Indians whose ideas and achievements have been among the truly creative and formative force of modern India. Sir M.V.’s slogan was Industrialize or Perish and Mahatma Gandhi’s view was Industrialize and Perish.
In 1921 Gandhiji launched his non-cooperation movement which Sir M.V. did not agree with. Sir M.V. wrote to Gandhiji urging him to be better dressed in view of the upcoming Round Table Conference. Sir M.V. used to be immaculately dressed.
In August 1927 Mahatma Gandhi visited Mysore State (reported on September 1, 192, issue of YoungIndia). In a speech during that visit Gandhi said,
Bhadravathi (Iron Works), like Krishnarajasagar Dam, is a tribute to the patriotism and constructive genius of Visvesvaraya, who has placed his talents, knowledge and industry and all his time and energy at the service of Mysore. One thing that strikes us most here is that the whole undertaking is from top to bottom a self-contained one. The originator is a Mysorean, at any rate, entirely South Indian. That is a thing about which you and India may well be proud.
Books Authored & Contributed By Sir MV
- Planned Economy for India, 1861-1962, Bangalore, Bangalore Press, 1934
- Memoirs of my Working Life, Bangalore (1954)
- Unemployment in India: Its causes and cure, Bangalore City, Bangalore Press, 1932
- Prosperity through Industry Move towards rapid industrialization (Second edition), Bombay, All-India Manufacturer’s Organization, 1943
- Post-War Reconstruction in India (Address at the quarterly meeting of the Central Committee, September 2, 1943), All-India Manufacturer’s Organization
- Nation building: a five-year plan for the provinces, Bangalore City, Bangalore Press, 1937
- District development scheme: Economic progress by forced marches, Bangalore, 1940
- A Brief Memoir of my Complete Working Life, Bangalore, 1960
Sir MV’s Final Years
Sir MV’s extraordinary feats resulted in the government of India bestowing him with the Bharat Ratna award in the year 1955.
The centenary of the birth of Sir M.V. was celebrated in Lalbagh in Bangalore. Prime Minister Nehru flew down to Bangalore by a special plane to honor the greatest son of India. Sri Jayachamaraja Wodiyar presided over the function.
Sir. M.V. died on April 12, 1962, at the age of 102 years, 6 months and 8 days. As per his wish, he was cremated in his birthplace, Muddanahalli.
- In Kannada: ಅತ್ಯುತ್ತಮ ಮುತ್ಸದ್ದಿ – ಅಪ್ರತಿಮ ಅಭಿಯಂತರ ಸರ್ ಎಂ ವಿಶ್ವೇಶ್ವರಯ್ಯ
- Nugu Dam, Heggadadevana Kote, Mysore
- KRS Dam / Brindavan Gardens, Mysore
- Other Personalities from Karnataka
- Sri. M Visvesvaraya Dam – A 101 Year-Old Dam
- Hulikere Tunnel – Central Asia’s First Underground Irrigation Tunnel
- A must read article about Sir MV
- Paul Chinnappa – The Link Between India And The Montessori School System