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Sir MV – Knight Commander of the Indian Empire

It is to honour his achievements and contribution towards the country that India celebrates Engineer's Day on Sir MVs’ birthday.

Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, popularly known as Sir MV (15th September 1861 – 12th April 1962) was an Indian civil engineer and statesman and the 19th Diwan of Mysore, who served from 1912 to 1919. Engineers Day is celebrated in India, Sri Lanka and Tanzania on 15th September in his memory. He is held in high regard as a pre-eminent engineer of India. He is still exemplified for his role of chief engineer in the construction of Krishna Raja Sagara dam in North-West suburb of Mysore city and his precision as a chief engineer of the flood protection system for the city of Hyderabad.

Sir, M Visvesvaraya adopted to practical thinking to solve very intricate problems.  His vision and forethought were astonishing. His inventive genius is manifested itself in several ways.  We find the imprint of this great man’s multidimensional personality in all that he has done – Irrigation Projects, Water Supply Scheme and Drainage, Heavy industry establishments, Consumer Industries, Industrialising Agriculture, Purpose-built Educational Institutions, Upliftment of Poor and weaker section, democratize and collective administration are some of the contributions by the Great Visveswaraya. He was a simple Soul with continuous learning, visiting the Western Countries for studying, developing and initiating new measures for his own country.

His achievements are known across the country but what we are unaware of is the journey. It is famously said that a journey makes a man wherever he inspires to be. It is obvious to have a curiosity to know about the man who inspired generations. This article briefs off his journey while subtle highlighting on his famous achievements and reinstates the widely known line ‘ It is not what you are but what you do defines you’.

Go through this interesting journey.

Early Life of Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya,; 

Sir, M Visvesvaraya was born to a humble Telugu Brahmin Family from Mokshagundam, briefly settled in Chikkaballapur, Karnataka.

After losing his father at the age of 15, he moved from Chikkaballapur to Bangalore and joined Wesleyan Mission High School in 1875. During his Education at Central college, he started tutoring for his living. In 1880 Sir M V passed BA Degree with distinction, qualifying for a scholarship from the Government of Mysore, to pursue Engineering outside the state. Bombay Government was offering a job to the first rank securing students, Sir MV with hard work and dedication, secured his job at PWD at the very young age of 23 years in 1883. Completed LCE, FCEL with the first rank in 1883. 

First Project – Courageous and Hardworking MV 

As Assistant Engineer, MV began his services from Nashik, First Project was Construction of Syphon on the river Panjra at Datarti near Dhulia.  During the execution, due to heavy rains and monsoon, he was struck at the nearby village for three days, he was cut off from the Camp-site, after three days he swims back to the camp site as the floods had not yet receded. He faced all difficulties with strong will and courage. His team and Executive Engineer were taken back by Sir MV’s hard work and courage. Executive Engineer then encouraged MV to appear for the departmental exam in Practical Engineering, which qualified MV for quick promotion. 

Extraordinary Engineer 

After the Syphon Project, he was posted in Poona to work in road and buildings followed by posting as in charge of Water supply and  Drainage of Sukkur in Sindh. His works on supplying Water from Indus river to Sukkur (Hilly area), by employing Well in the river bed connected by tunnel, the water was not only filtered but purified as well. the work was praised by Lord Sandhurst, then Governor of Bombay.  

Inventive Genius 

Poona source of water was from Lake Fife at Khadakwasla, during monsoon, much water was flowing out over the Water Weir. MV employed an Automatic waste weir, thus the gates will open only after the dam storage limit of 8 feet is reached. Thus, increasing the overall storage by 25%. At present, the system is employed at various dams in India including Krishnarajasagar Dam in Karnataka. 

Block System

Within a few years of joining the service MV was known for his extraordinary Engineering abilities. 1901 – 1903 Government of India, asked MV to suggest the best suitable system to increase irrigation in a given amount of water. MV suggested triennial rotation of crops.  MV introduced the system in Nira Canal. At present, the system is used in different parts of the country.

Continuous Learning and Skill development 

  • Keeping in mind the Industrial and Agricultural development of India. Sir MV has Visited Japanese Industrial centres, several parts of America, Canada, Europe and Russia at his own expense. Collected valuable knowledge of modern industries, irrigation works, water supply and sanitation, business methods etc.,
  • His intentions of Modern India was more evident, On Close study made during his visit to Ford Industries at Detroit (USA ) Ford Factory. He produced a practical scheme of establishment of automobile industry in India. 
  • MV Contribution to Hyderabad, to solve the flooding issue by implementing for 2 reservoirs across Moosi river, One 82 miles away and the other6.5 miles away from the city.  
  • Detailed scheme of development if the Hyderabad City. his suggestions were carried out from 1922 till 1930, based on his suggestion and supervision. In 1930 he compiled a full report on Hyderabad City’s deficiencies and remedial measures.

Beginning of an Era of Progress of  Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya

In 1909, he started as Chief Engineer in the State of Mysore. The great deficiencies and needs of people attracted his attention. To take an initiative towards establishing a methodical and scientific approach towards political and administrative reforms, Education Agriculture and Irrigation, Power Industry, transport and Social Welfare.

Pioneer in Economic Planning;

MV Set up an Economic Conference with Three basic committees to deal with Agriculture industries, Commerce and Education. The Committee collected statistical data to disseminate the knowledge and practical guidance to the people for a rapid socio-economic progress.

The conference was presided by MV to establish a Cooperative effort by people and active leadership by the government in Stimulating Rapid Economic advance.

Pioneer in Economic Planning in India

Mysore state was the First Indian State to conceive Representative assembly during British India. More powers were given to the Representative Assembly and Half-yearly sessions were held for this purpose. The legislative council was enlarged in lines of Council in British India and the members were given the right of objection against the proposal of the Government. The initiative paved the way for democratizing the council and attract people’s interest towards administration. He Modelled Mysore Civil Service Exam inline with Indian Civil Service Examination. This helped the young man with ability to fill high offices in the state.

sir MV

System of Efficiency Audit

Sir MV, geared the administrative machinery to promote state’s development in a planned way by making people understand the importance of working efficiently, grievance redressal within specified hours, regulate and standardize the work in government offices, manuals were published and circulated among the officials, introduced System of Efficiency Audit. Sir MV toured different parts of the state and contacted the people. Cultivated the habit of hard work, also imbibe modern ideas. Purposive tours with the head of the departments, to evaluate growth potential and development of every taluk.

Education Revolution in Mysore State, Now Karnataka

Sir MV took a couple of initiation to uphold education standard and to make it accessible to all.  Some of the initiatives are;

  • Compulsory Primary Education
  • Promoting Elementary Education by giving grants and subsidies for construction of buildings
  • Education of girls at all levels. In 1917, Maharani College in Mysore was raised to First Grade College having Bachelor of Arts. Separate Hostels for Women students from 1917.
  • Established University of Mysore in 1916, “… The General object in the broadest sense is to encourage learning to promote higher education, to create a culture, to light a torch that would dispel the gloom ignorance from the remotest corners in the country. The Specific aim of the Mysore university should be to develop the intellectual ability and executive power of our citizens and to afford training necessary to prepare future manufacturers, merchants, businessmen, economists, lawyers, scientists, engineers, statesmen etc.for the country.
  • Special emphasis on technical education, suggested the Engineering College to provide various courses in various branches of engineering and applied chemistry.
  • His chief idea was to train persons who could handle modern machinery of several kinds and who in turn could train others also. The Institute soon became model for Polytechnic institutes.
  • In 1913, Agricultural school was opened at Hebbal Bangalore, with a large farm. For the Benefits if farmers and with provision for short courses.

In his words, “Low level of Education, Lack of initiative, ambition and power of organisation, Lack of Capacity for planning among the leaders and low economic condition and absence of any effort on a planned basis for improvements and developments. My one aim is, therefore,  was to plan, promote and encourage developments chiefly in education industries, commerce and public works to enable people to work well, earn well and live well”

It is difficult to parallel to Visvesvaraya whose span of active working life covers about eight decades. “Work, Work hard, hard work does not kill, it is worry that kills.”, “Work is worship and service to the nation is the goal and purpose of all education and knowledge” – these are the Slogans he often repeated.

Contribution of Sir MV cannot be summarised in a single article. He is a Visionary Person, who dreamt of India as a Self-sustainable country with all potentials, by gathering knowledge from different parts of the world.

His contribution cannot be summarised only to Engineering, No field of activity escaped his attention. Sir MV never sought publicity or fame but honours came to him from many quarters spontaneously.

Sir MV

Few stalwarthy Recognition of Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya

  • 1904 – Elected as a Member of the Institute of Civil Engineers, London 
  • 1906 – Worked out Water supply scheme for Port of Aden, the government awarded “Kaiser-i-Hind” Medal. 
  • In 1911, he received the title of “Companion of the Indian Empire”
  • In 1915 Knight Commander of the Indian Empire”
  • honorary doctorate from eight universities and many other honorary positions, medal and awards.
  • In 1955, the highest distinction of “Bharat Ratna” was conferred on him by the President of India”.

There is no other person he could be compared. It is said in ancient Indian lore that an Ocean can be compared only with itself and the Himalayas with themselves and with no other. To conclude we are ending a famous line of him, which stands true even in modern times, “Progress would be achieved only if efficient men were put in charge and funds to meet all reasonable demands allotted for expenditure from time to time”. 


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