M. Visvesvaraya (1860 – 1962)
- September 14, 2020
By Samyukhtha Sunil
Known as ‘The Father of Engineering’, Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya left behind a legacy that fast-tracked India’s technological and infrastructural transition, paving the path for a modernised India through sheer perseverance and determination. It is in the celebration of his legacy that India observes September 15th as National Engineer’s Day.
Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, fondly called Sir MV, was born to a poor Brahmin household on September 15th, 1860, in Muddenahalli near modern-day Mysore. It was believed that his father died when Sir MV was barely 15 years old. From then on, his journey in completing his school and college education was one that was filled with endless obstacles and hardships. He acquired a B.A degree from Central College in Bangalore. He went on to earn a scholarship for a civil engineering course from the College of Science in Pune which he completed as the valedictorian. Sir Visvesvaraya’s dedication towards his education was so strong that he would often study under the light of streetlamps late at night to catch up with his portions. During his time in college, he made a small sum of money by tutoring children after classes while still managing to top his university! He led a constant balancing act between earning for his family and trying to pursue his dreams in the field of engineering.
Soon, he was hired by the Public Works Department for the Government of Bombay where he began to develop a keen interest in water irrigation systems, drainage and water supply. Early in his tenure, he even built a structure he dubbed the ‘syphon’; it could redirect water from the Panjra river into the nearby drought-stricken village of Datari. He was deeply passionate about the water conservation system, and his ideas and thoughts were far ahead of the times that they lived in. They helped bring modern irrigation and conservation systems to developing India.
It is believed that, while Sir MV was working on his syphon project in Datari, there was a night of heavy rainfall that caused the river to breach its banks and overflow. Sir. Visvesvaraya took shelter with some locals in the vicinity for a couple of days, but on the third day, he yearned to get back to work. The man apparently swam back across the river with the help of the local workers! It’s safe to say that he was willing to go to any extent for the passion he had for his work!
Armed with immense experience and ideas aplenty, he was appointed as the Diwan of Mysore in 1909 under the post of a Chief Engineer. His instincts told him to take on larger infrastructure and education projects to ramp up development in Mysore, which the Government gladly agreed to. What followed was a massive transformation that revolutionized the state of Mysore forever.
His most significant project during this tenure was the construction of t...