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Know your city: From university to museum, Sir M Visvesvaraya left a mark of memories for Bengalureans to celebrate him

September 15, Sir M Visvesvaraya’s birthday, is celebrated as National Engineer’s Day. While the work of the 19th Diwan of Mysore, known as India’s first civil engineer, is there for all to see and learn from, there are iconic monuments in Bangalore to celebrate and remember him for his contributions to the world of engineering.

One such establishment is the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technical Museum, right in the heart of the city, on Kasturba Road, inside Cubbon Park. According to the 10-year annual report between 1965 and 1975 archived in the museum library, a society called Visvesvaraya Industrial Museum Society was formed through the help of various organizations and the central and state governments.

Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technical Museum (express photo by Jithendra M)

The building contains a total of 40,000 square feet of space over four floors as well as a 2,500 square foot basement to house a workshop. To give the museum a national character, the company offered the building to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in 1962 for the establishment of an industrial and technological museum.

Shortly after taking over the building, CSIR formed a planning committee and prepared a master plan for the museum. The first task when establishing the museum was to create an infrastructure so that models and exhibits could be planned, designed and manufactured within the museum itself.

Electricity playing an important role in the daily life of citizens, the museum deemed it appropriate to open its first gallery on the theme of “electrical engineering”. The gallery was divided into three different sections; the first section dealing with the principles of electricity and magnetism, the second with telephony and the third dealing with the application of electronics in industries. This first gallery was inaugurated by former Prime Minister and then Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Indira Gandhi on July 27, 1965.

Since then, the museum has evolved over the years with chief curators introducing exhibits related to engineering and space science, making it interactive and more experiential. In fact, archival documents also point out that the first 10 years of the museum witnessed an attendance of nearly 55 lakh. As of 2022, museum officials are witnessing an annual attendance of around 10-11 lakh.

Marut Aircraft installed near the museum entrance. (Express photo by Jithendra M)

The museum welcomes you with the engine room, the dinosaur enclave and a replica of the famous Wright brothers’ airplane spread over a large space. The museum is also equipped with an electrical engineering gallery, a fun science, a space technology gallery, a biotechnology gallery, a science for children, a BEL room of electronics, a a 3D show and a science park, among others.

The latest addition to the museum is Seeds of Culture, an exhibit that provides insight into the influences of traditional Indian knowledge in botany and medicine in the global context.

The museum also houses the oldest steam engine in Bengaluru, built in 1888-89 by Dubs and Co, Glasgow. It belonged to the former Mysore State Railway, then to the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway, and now belongs to the Southern Railway. It was last operated between Mysore and Ashokapuram.

Facing the road is a Marut Aircraft set up near the entrance to the museum. The Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd Marut was India’s first attempt to design an indigenous jet fighter aircraft since its separation from British rule. The Marut was the first model produced for the Indian Air Staff in the 1950s.

The UVCE trains brilliant engineers

Swami Vivekananda once said, “Education is the manifestation of perfection in an individual. In fact, it is in this context that the University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering (UVCE) at KR Circle set out to nurture bright and sharp intellectuals in the world of engineering. According to the memory of the centenary of “Niranthara” University, the history of UVCE dates back to the series of events that have unfolded since the famine of 1882 in Mysore State.

To relieve the public affected by the great famine of 1882, rural irrigation and other projects including the laying of the railway line between Bangalore and Mysore were undertaken. Mysore state was well known for its irrigation works and most of the engineers in the public works department were busy importing some engineers from outside the state.

To meet the growing demand for engineers and provide an opportunity for students in Mysore, a college of science was established and engineering was taught there. It was liquidated after forming a lot or two. In addition, several industry-related activities, including factories, mining, and the laying of meter gauge and narrow gauge lines, among others, have been undertaken. Visvesvaraya, who was named Diwan, submitted proposals for the rapid development of the state’s irrigation and energy resources and for the start-up of industries and the expansion of communication systems.

These activities in the new field of industry gave rise to a great demand for skilled workers and foremen. To meet this demand, the government opened a school of mechanical engineering in Bangalore with the late SV Shetty as superintendent around 1913. He was later delegated to the electrical department and hence loaned to the education department.

To boost higher education and enable students in Mysore to play their part in the field of engineering, Mysore University was founded in 1916 as a unitary type. Along with the birth of the university, an engineering college was also established in Bangalore in 1917, as some facilities regarding housing and work already existed in the engineering college.

According to the order of the government, the college was only temporarily located in Bangalore. Initially, education and training was provided in only two branches of engineering, civil engineering and mechanical engineering.

In fact, the establishment of the university met with many setbacks and efforts were made to thwart the attempt of several influential circles. However, the university proposal had the stamp of Visvesvaraya throughout with the strong support of Maharaja of Mysore Krishna Raja Wodeyar.

The School of Mechanical Engineering was established in 1913. The necessary buildings were set up between Cenotaph Road and Post Road. This was the start of the current main building of the college facing the Krishnarajendra circle. The central part now housing the library was also erected at this time and some structures were erected to house stores, a forge and a carpentry.

Previously, the electrical department had set up buildings and a carriage barn as part of a plan to operate a streetcar service in the city. The necessary equipment had been ordered and even shipped from the United States for this historical interest. Unfortunately, the famous German raider Emden had torpedoed the ship during the First World War, thus sinking the plans in the sea forever. KR Seshachar, an illustrious alumnus of Madras University, has been appointed as the first director. He modeled the courses on the Madras model with some modifications.

Later, in 1917, the institution was converted into a full engineering college as the Government College of Engineering and was affiliated with Mysore University. It is the fifth engineering school to be established in the country and the first in Karnataka. In 1964, the college’s affiliation changed from Mysore University to Bangalore University.

In 1971 the college was renamed Visvesvaraya College of Engineering and in 1972 it was again renamed University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering. In the same year, the institution also launched evening classes in electronic engineering.

The city campus, located at KR Circle, houses the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Department of Electrical Engineering, Department of Electronic Engineering, and Department of Computer Science and Engineering spread over 12.5 acres of land. Civil Engineering and Architecture Departments are located at Jnanabharathi Campus, Mysore Road. The institution currently offers eight undergraduate programs and 24 postgraduate programs and the institution has awarded more than 200 doctorates.

After the trifurcation of Bangalore University, the state government decided to develop UVCE, which was under Bangalore University as an autonomous institution like IITs. The government has brought into force the Visvesvaraya University College of Engineering Act 2021 effective March 25, 2022.

On the recommendation of the state government, the governor of Karnataka on August 10 appointed B Muthuraman, former president of Tata International and Tata Steels, the first chairman of the board of governors of the university for four years. Notable alumni of the university include computer scientist DR SS Iyengar, IAS officer Manjunath Prasad, Prahalada, former director of the Defense Research and Development Laboratory, actor HG Dattatreya, musical director Manomurthy, theater practitioner Prakash Belawadi, former cricketer CK Nandan, actor Ramesh Arvind among others.

Statue of Visvesvaraya at KR Circle

Overseeing the UVCE is a five-foot-tall statue of Visvesvaraya installed at KR Circle. The statue was unveiled by former Indian President VV Giri on September 14, 1970. On September 15, 2021, on the occasion of Engineer’s Day and to mark the birth anniversary of Visvesvaraya, the Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai dedicated the “Sir M Visvesvaraya Chowka” to the KR Cercle.

The statue of Sir M Visvesvaraya installed at KR Circle. (Express photo by Jithendra M)

Maintained by the BBMP, the chowka is made of boards bearing famous quotes from Visvesvaraya. The chowka also has a mini library consisting of books related to Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Bengaluru Roads among others.

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