Mokshagundam Vishweshwaraiya, India’s topmost engineer and scientist whose name resounded throughout the country, was born on September 15, 1861 in Madanhalll village near Bangalore in Karnataka. His village was located near the Kolar gold mines in Mysore. His father’s name was Srinivas Shastri and mother’s name was Venkchaiya. His parents were loving and God-fearing The family was not financially well-off. But his tooth had instilled good values in him.
He studied at the village primary school. He was a bright, able and brilliant student. Teachers were impressed by his exceptional intelligence. For his high school education he came to Bangalore where he took admission in the Central College. Aware of his father’s financial constraints, he gave tuitions to children to earn some money. He completed his BA In 1881.
Impressed by his brilliance and keenness to study, the principal of the college got him admitted at the engineering college In Pune (Poona) and also recommended his name for scholarship. With his financial worries put to rest, he could now concentrate more on his studies. His principal subject was mechanical engineering In 1883, he graduated with mechanical engineering from Mumbai University with first rank. For his achievement, the Mumbai government appointed him as an assistant engineer in 1884.
He joined the engineering department at Nashik (Nasik) and took charge of his duties with enthusiasm and dedication. Gradually, he groomed himself into an able engineer. Seeing his dedication and perseverance, in 1894, he was given charge of overseeing the construction of Sakkar Barrage in Sindh. Meanwhile, he got promoted to the post of superintendent engineer. He successfully completed the construction of the Sakkar Barrage on time. The construction of this dam work was considered tough and testing. The government too, had put faith in him and handed over charge of construction. With the completion of the dam work, he now came to be recognized as India’s most competent engineer.
He then successfully completed water supply projects in Vadodara (Baroda), Karachi, Pune, Kolhapur, Sangli, Surat, Nashik, Nagpur and other cities. He became renowned all over the country and got quick promotions. In 1906, the government sent him to Aden to study the water supply facility there. He studied the drinking water supply project there and thought of how best we could implement it keeping our conditions in mind.
His success and speedy promotions soon became the envy of his fellow engineers. The atmosphere had become vitiated. He decided to break free from these surroundings. Finally, he resigned from the government service. However, the government gave full credit to him. Even though he had not completed the qualifying years of service, the government decided to grant him full pension.
Soon after his resignation, he left for Europe. Meanwhile, the Nizam of Hyderabad sent him a word to return immediately. Vishweshwaraiya was requested by the Nizam to build a dam on the Musi river, which caused lot of destruction due to frequent floods. Since the project was for the people’s welfare, he accepted it. He developed projects suitable to control the Musi and Esa rivers and successfully completed them on time. This resulted in averting large scale destruction of houses, goods, agriculture and human lives. Agricultural produce increased with regular and uninterrupted supply of water. When this work was completed, King Krishnaraj of,Mysore invited him to the state. He was appointed the ^chief engineer of the state. He held the post for three years. Pleased by his work, the king appointed him as the Diwan of the state. He served for six years in Mysore. He built the Krishnaraj Dam on Kaveri (Cauvery) river and created the world famous Vrindavan Gardens there. Within a span of six years, he developed Mysore into a top class city. He founded Mysore University and Mysore State Bank. Moreover, he also contributed towards the industrial progress by establishing the Bhadravati Iron Works, cement factory, paper industry, sandalwood oil industry soap industry, etc. Thus, it was Vishweshwaraiya who led Mysore state on the path of progress.
He resigned from the post of Diwan and left for a trip abroad, to study modern architecture and get first hand experience of engineering science. In comparison to other countries, he felt, India lagged far behind. After his return, to take advantage of his new experiences, he was appointed member of several committees. Meanwhile, the Bhadravati Iron Works was facing problems. At the king’s request he took charge of the factory and set tt on course. Probably, It was for this reason that Jamshedjt Tata Invited him to Jamshedpur to become a member on the Board of Directors of the Tata Iron & Steel Works Ltd. He rendered his services there till 1955.
Vlshweshwaralya was not only a competent engineer, but also an able administrator. He also took care of the country’s economic condition. In this regard, he published a book In 1934, which received high acclaim. Some famous books written by him are: Reconstructing India (1920), Planned Economy for India (1934), Prosperity through Industry, Memoirs of my Working Life (1960). The British government honoured him with the title of ‘Sir’. Many universities also awarded him honorary doctorate degrees. He received laurels from all over the country. In 1955, the Government of India conferred on him the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest honour. Dr Rajendra Prasad, the then President of India. Invited him to stay at the Rashtrapati Bhavan for ten days. But, Vlshweshwaralya being a disciplinarian believed that an invitee should not stay for more than three days.
On September 15. 1961, he completed hundred years of his life. His centenary was celebrated with much fanfare, publicly and privately. When asked on that day about the secret of his long life, he said it was his punctuality and control over anger. On the occasion of his birth centenary, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, said. “Vlshweshwaralya speaks less and works more.” This great scientist breathed his last on April 14, 1962. We pay our tributes to this great scientist and engineer of India.