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Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya: Model engineer and scholar

This noted scholar is best known for his role in the construction of the Krishna Raja Sagara Lake Dam. His birthday, September 15, is celebrated as Engineer’s Day.

inspiring-lives Updated: Jan 14, 2020 18:50 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya received the Bharat Ratna in 1955 for his work in engineering and education.
Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya received the Bharat Ratna in 1955 for his work in engineering and education.(ILLUSTRATION: Rushikesh Tulshiram Gophane)

Born in the Muddenahalli village in Karnataka’s Kolar district to Mokshagundam Srinivasa, a Sanskrit scholar and teacher and Venkatalakshamma, a homemaker. Srinivasa wanted to give his son a good education but passed away when the latter was just 15. The boy gave private tuitions to supplement his meagre financial resources. He obtained a BA degree from the Central College, Bangalore in 1881. With financial assistance, he enrolled at the College of Engineering, Pune and received a Licentiate in Civil Engineering. In 1883, he secured the first rank in the LCE and FCE Examinations.


The Bombay government appointed Visvesvaraya as an assistant engineer in the Public Works Department and he implemented projects in Nasik, Khandesh and Pune. He then took up a job with the Indian Irrigation Commission and helped create a system of irrigation in the Deccan region. In 1895, he had also designed and implemented waterworks for the Sukkur municipality. In 1906-07, the government sent him to study the water supply and drainage system in Aden, where he implemented a designed and implemented a project. He also used his expertise to solve the problem of erosion of Visakhapatnam port from sea water.

In the 1900s, Hyderabad city faced recurrent floods. In his capacity as a special consulting engineer, he supervised the engineering works in the city to help solve the problem. Designing the flood protection system for Hyderabad earned him celebrity status. In 1909, he was appointed the chief engineer of the princely state of Mysore, a capacity in which he had administrative duties and contributed to development.

Many industries came up during his tenure as the Dewan, including the Sandal Oil Factory, the Soap Factory, the Metals Factory, the Chrome Tanning Factory and the Bhadravathi Iron and Steel Works. He played a key role in setting up the Government Engineering College in Bangalore in 1917 which was renamed as the Visvesvaraya College of Engineering in his honour. As the chief engineer, he was the man behind the construction of the Krishna Raja Sagara Lake and dam in 1924 across Kaveri river in the Mandya district near Mysore. He worked for about 30 years as an engineer, 20 years as an administrator, and around 20 years as a government advisor.


The British government conferred the Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire on Visvesvaraya in 1915. He received the Bharat Ratna in 1955 for his work in engineering and education. He also received honorary doctoral degrees from eight universities in India.

Personal life

Visvesvaraya was an idealist, lived a simple life, and gave his best to his profession. Incidentally, he was elegantly dressed even in old age. After a long, productive life, this illustrious engineer died on April 14, 1962 at the age of 102. The College of Engineering, Pune, where he had studied, erected a statue in his honour. The Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum, Bangalore, was also established in his name.


1. Visvesvaraya designed the locality of Jayanagar in south Bangalore as one of first planned neighbourhoods in the city. It was also Asia’s largest housing colony at that time and had a well-planned layout.

2. He helped set up the Government Engineering College in Bangalore in 1917. It became one of India’s first engineering institutes and was named University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering.

3. The London Institution of Civil Engineers awarded him with an honorary membership. The Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore) awarded him a fellowship. Eight universities awarded honorary degrees such as DSc, LLD, and DLitt. He had chaired the session of Indian Science Congress in 1923. A newspaper survey at that time said that he was the most popular person in the state of Karnataka.

4. Two metro stations named after the role model for engineers are the Sir M Visveshwaraya Station, Central College in Bengaluru and the Sir Vishweshwaraiah Moti Bagh station in Delhi.


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