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A Glimpse Into the Life and Times of One of India’s Greatest Engineers – Sir.M.Vishweshwariah


A freelance writer, NLP coach, and lifelong student I enjoy stories of valour in high pressure situations.


Discipline, Dedication, and Determination are the pillars of a successful person. A person perfectly aligned with these three, at times, ends up earning the highest civilian award and today we look into the life of such a person who was the epitome of the above 3 qualities and the Bharat Ratna (Jewel of Bharat) got enriched after being conferred on him. Yes, we are talking about Sir Mokshagundam Vishveshwaraiah a.k.a Sir M V.

Born into a poor family in the southern part of Karnataka on 15-Sep-1861, Sir M V’s life, achievements, and the stature he achieved ensured this day to be celebrated as Engineer’s Day in India. The hardships that he went through during his schooling – lack of facilities, lack of funds - did not deter him from continuing his studies. Due to lack of oil to light the lamp, he studied under the street lamp – an example of his sheer dedication and determination. The street lamp that he studied under is to date preserved in his village as a memorial.

Sir M V completed his civil engineering from the College of Engineering, Pune, and joined as an Assistant Engineer with the Public Works Department of Bombay. From here started the series of achievements of this great personality which was predominantly aimed at easing the life of a common man. The fact that the systems designed and developed by him since 1884 are in perfect functioning condition to this date, reflects the intellectual ability and dedication of this man.

The Engineer Blessed with the Golden Touch

His contribution was not confined to Karnataka alone and where spread across India– to name a few –

Intricate Irrigation System in the Deccan Plateau

Automatic weir water flood gates (this was patented) at Khadakvasla Reservoir – Pune

Tigra Dam-Gwalior

The world-famous Krishna Raja Sagar Dam-Mysore

Flood protection system for the city of Hyderabad,

Technical advice for the construction of Mokam bridge in Bihar across the mighty river-Ganga (when he was above 90 years),

Chartered a plan for construction of a road on the hill between Tirumala and Tirupati

‘Remember your work may only be to sweep a railway crossing, but it is your duty to keep it so clean that no other crossing in the world is as clean.’

— Sir.M.V.Vishweshwariah

When the Engineer turned Chief Minister

In the year 1909, the King of Mysore – Krishna Raja Wodeyar IV succeeded in securing Sir M V’s services for the state of Mysore as a Chief Engineer. While accepting the offer, Sir M V laid down a condition stating that his services should not be confined to engineering alone but also his knowledge acquired through his foreign visits be leveraged for the industrialization of the princely state and imparting of technical knowledge. The King also referred to as Rajarishi (Saint like King) was more than happy to accept these conditions, and the rest as they say- is history.

During the next 3 years, the king was very much pleased with the dedication of Sir M V towards making the state a progressive one in many areas that prompted him to offer the position of Diwan (Chief Minister) of the Mysore Kingdom. This position was usually offered to a person who had rich administrative experience. But the king went out of turn and appointed Sir M V as the Diwan of Mysore in 1912, thus marking the dawn of a golden era for the kingdom.

During his tenure as the Diwan, Sir M V ensured the overall development of the state and set the state on a progressive path. His contribution was admired and respected even by the British officials and the other princely states of India. His contributions were not confined to a single sector of the society but touched upon all areas like

Education (University College of Engineering – Bangalore, Mysore University, Industrial Training Centres at each district of Mysore State, separate colleges and hostels for girls, Sri Jayachamarajendra Polytechnic Bangalore, Bangalore Agricultural University, etc),

Industrialization (Mysore Soap Factory, Mysore Iron & Steel Works, Bhadravati, Mysore Chamber of Commerce, Apex Chamber of commerce, etc)

Banking (State Bank of Mysore)

Irrigation – various canals and the ‘Jewel in the crown’ of Mysore (and India), the world-famous Krishna Raja Sagar Dam. Such is the impact of this dam to the farmers of Mysore, Mandya, and adjoining regions that many of them – even to this day consider Sir M V to be their god and worship him in their pooja rooms

Literature – he had great love for Kannada, his mother tongue, and was instrumental in establishing the Kannada Sahitya Parishat – a platform for various literary activities related to Kannada.

When we look at all the above contributions, we realize that each of these complemented one another. The technical institutes created a knowledge pool that was ready to serve in the industries. This ensured that more industries were encouraged to set base as the conditions were favorable and there was a good availability of skilled manpower. All these, in turn, contributed in a big way to stronger economic development. And what is money alone without a taste for the finer, higher joys of life.

Becoming Sir

Sir M V, along with the King, was instrumental in starting many schemes for the larger good of the citizens. These contributions prompted the British to confer a knighthood on him - Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire in the year 1915.

In the year 1918, he retired from the services of Diwan of Mysore but continued his services to the state and ensured that the Krishnaraja Sagar Dam was completed as per plan.

Even after his retirement, Sir M V contributed immense technical know-how to various projects across the country.

He was awarded the Bharat Ratna- India's highest civilian award in the year 1955.

When Calibre met Character

Even to this day, people of Karnataka – especially the seniors – provide innumerable stories of Sir M V that resonate with his ethics and the 3 attributes with which we started this journey. Just to quote one related to his ethics as recalled by his secretary – Sir M V used to travel a lot on official duty during his tenure as the Diwan of Mysore. During such journeys, he would carry two sets of candles – one for office use and the other for his work. While completing the official paperwork he would use the candle provided by the state and while working on his drafts would use his candle. As a diwan, no one would have questioned him if he had used the state provided candle for his personal work but he chose to make that distinction very clear and adhered to his ethics.

Similarly, his discipline and determination have many stories but I’ll save that for a future date.

On September 15th, let all of us (whether we are engineers or not) make a promise to ourselves to imbibe at least one quality of this great person who lived amongst us and left an indelible mark.

“Without arrogance, I promise you, Sir, that when I salute you, the entire nation salutes you”

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister

To conclude, I would like to mention a quote by the first prime minister of India – Jawahar Lal Nehru on the birth centenary of Sir M V which summarizes all our feelings

“Without arrogance, I promise you Sir, that when I salute you, the entire nation salutes you”

This irrigation expert departed on 14 April 1962 at the grand old age of 101 - immersing all of us in a pool of sorrow.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 sowspeaks


sowspeaks (author) from Bengaluru on October 03, 2020:

Hi Kavya,delighted to know that you enjoyed knowing about Sir MV. Infact there is so much more to his life that I have not touched upon for reasons of length. He was a true Karma yogi.

Kavya Jain on September 19, 2020:

Very informative and excellent elaboration of Sir M.V.'s life. It is amazing that one man has contributed so much to our country. He is truly an inspiration. I enjoyed reading it, such a wonderful tribute it is.

sowspeaks (author) from Bengaluru on September 19, 2020:

Hi Devika, this man was truly amazing and showed how much a committed, disciplined , intelligent, ethical man can achieve! Kudos to the man!

sowspeaks (author) from Bengaluru on September 19, 2020:

Namaste Pranji, I recollect this incident and I believe he had a sort of third sense when it became to engineering. Happy that you shared this incident here. There are many more incidents from his life that need mention. Maybe next time.

Thank you so much for this insightful remark.

sowspeaks (author) from Bengaluru on September 19, 2020:

Namaskara Vidyaji! I am so happy to have you here and so happy to know that so many are moved by this great man and his life-work. people like him never had to teach much , their life was their greatest teaching. If we can take one quality from this man , we can take our life to greater heights for sure. Thank you for your warm remark.

sowspeaks (author) from Bengaluru on September 19, 2020:

Namaste Vanitaji! Delighted that enjoyed this article . He lived a life that is the stuff of legends. He was a true Karmayogi. Salute this great man!

sowspeaks (author) from Bengaluru on September 19, 2020:

Hi Risha! Happy belated Engineers day! The way Sir MV lived his life is indeed moving. Thanks for those very touching remarks, you made my day:)

sowspeaks (author) from Bengaluru on September 19, 2020:

Hi Yogiji, Always a pleasure to have you visit and shRe your feedback. This is one man I always wanted to write about though there is so much more that I have had to leave out. Next time around...:)

sowspeaks (author) from Bengaluru on September 19, 2020:

Hi Danny, Sir Mv donned many hats with ease and did more than justice to each role. This with the simplicity and humility he personified make him a fantastic role model for future generations.

sowspeaks (author) from Bengaluru on September 18, 2020:

Hi Eric, this man was one of a kind and thereby a true inspiration. We need more role models like him. Thanks Eric and keep well !

sowspeaks (author) from Bengaluru on September 18, 2020:

Hi Lorna, this man was indeed extraordinary and I am glad that you felt this way about him. Highly appreciate your comments and the constant encouragement you provide to fellow writers!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 17, 2020:

Interesting about Sir M V of whom I had no idea of and you opened my thoughts to great soul.

Dr Pran Rangan from Kanpur (UP), India on September 16, 2020:

Your article has paid a real tribute to the great Indian Engineer, Bharat Ratna, Sir. M Vishweshwariah.

I have been reminded of an incidence that occurred in his life, when he pulled the chain while traveling in a railway coach. The English passengers and the guard actually reprimanded him for this. When it was found that he had pulled the chain to stop the train as the track had broken down some metres ahead, they had to feel sorry for their action. He had such an astute engineering sense.

Thanks Sowrabha for sharing it.

VIDYA D SAGAR on September 16, 2020:

A wonderful tribute to a great personality on his birthday dear Sowrabha. Sir M V was truly a rare gem. His contribution to society and our country is immense. He is an inspiration to, as you mentioned, not just to engineers but to all of us. An excellent article Sowrabha, thank you.

Vanita Thakkar on September 16, 2020:

Very informative and nicely presented article on the Father of Engineering in India - Sir M Vishweshwaraiah.

Many incidents of his great engineering expertise and insight are famous. He is a great inspiration to every engineer.

This is a nice tribute to him.

Thanks for the nice article, Sowrabha.

Risha Khan from Bhilai, Chhattisgarh on September 15, 2020:

Being an engineer in the field of Information Technology, your article has provided such in-depth knowledge about Sir MV that I feel proud of myself. Discipline, dedication and determination are three pillars of success, indeed. I came to know that he was a humble and down-to-earth person and dedicated his services toward the betterment of the society. This is the reason people till now worship him because of his contribution towards different fields such as industrialization, irrigation, literature etc.

Your story-telling skills work like magic, Sowrabha. I felt so proud while reading your article. Wishing you all the best for your future endeavours!!!!

Seek Inwards Yogi from Hyderabad on September 15, 2020:

Glowing tributes to a great man! Thank you so much Sowrabha ji for the timely article and helping us recall such immense contributions !

Minchu on September 15, 2020:

Very nice aunty, very informative and amazing aunty

Danny from India on September 15, 2020:

An amazing personality and versatile engineer, educator, mentor, civil servant. Sir M.Vishweshwariah donned many hats.

Thanks for sharing Sowrabha.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 15, 2020:

Genertally engineers and philosopher theologians don't mix but I sure like this guy. Thank you.

Lorna Lamon on September 15, 2020:

An excellent article and fitting tribute to this extraordinary man, who from humble beginnings achieved so much. His quote speaks volumes about his character,and one who will always be missed. Well written Sowrabha.

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