The Krishna Raja Sagara Dam, popularly known as KRS Dam, is built on the river Kaveri and its tributaries, Hemavathi and Lakshmana Theertha. The KRS Dam and the ornamental garden, Brindavan Gardens, attached to the dam are one of the most visited tourist spots in Mysore. The dam was planned and built over a hundred years ago with traditional materials and techniques. Maharaja Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV had the dam constructed to help the people of the kingdom during a severe drought. Planned by Sir M Visvesvaraya, the chief engineer of Mysore, KRS Dam was the first dam to install automated crest gates. The dam is still a major source of drinking water for people and provides irrigation in Mandya, Mysore and Bangalore.
The Problem: Drought
The kingdom of Mysore was reeling from a severe drought in 1875-76. The region of Mandya and Mysore had always been dry and the summers were brutal. The people of the region mass migrated during the summers to escape the heat. The lack of water meant no irrigation, so crop failures were common. But the drought wiped out almost one-fifth of the kingdom’s population. The river Kaveri was seen as a potential solution and Visveswaraya, Chief Engineer of Mysore, planned a dam to be built across the river. A dam would be a potential source of drinking water for the people and could be used for irrigation in the areas in and around Mysore.
The Solution: A Dam Across Kaveri
The kingdom’s financial condition at the time was critical. So when the Chief Engineer of Mysore, Sir M Visvesvaraya presented the blueprint of the dam, it was met with heavy opposition. The finance ministry felt that the project would serve no purpose. They further added that a lack of demand for the electricity produced would mean that it wouldn’t be of complete use. The Madras Presidency was opposed to the project too and appealed to the imperial government not to approve it.
However, Visvesvaraya wasn’t deterred and he approached the Maharaja of Mysore and the Diwan, T Ananda Rao. The king consented and commissioned the construction of Krishna Raja Sagara Dam on 11th October 1911. A sum of INR 81 lakhs was set aside for its construction.
Building KRS Dam
The construction of the Krishna Raja Sagar Dam, which would provide drinking water and be a source of irrigation, started in November 1911. Over 10,000 workers were employed for the construction of KRS dam in the Kannambadi village. According to the initial plan, the gravity dam was to be 194-feet high with the capacity to hold 41,500,000,000 cu ft (1.18 km3) of water. But this plan had to be dropped and the structure that stands today is 131 feet high with a total capacity to hold 1,368,847,000 m3 of water.
Krishna Raja Sagar dam was constructed using traditional stone masonry and a lime-pozzolan mortar called surki, which acted as the binder. The dam has 48 gates (six sets of eight gates), which opens and closes automatically with the rise and fall of water in the reservoir. Visveswaraya installed these gates instead of spillways to prevent the dam from flooding. Each of the cast-iron gates has a sill, lintel, side grooves and plates. The eight gates are connected to a deadweight through pulleys and chains. The deadweight is in turn connected to afloat. Together, this makes up the “balance weight.” This “balance weight” works in a masonry well, both of which are in the rear of the dam.
The deadweight and the float are placed behind each other so that it has four gates on each side. The balance weight moves to the top and the float moves down when the sluice is closed by all eight gates. Water comes in from the reservoir through an inlet pipe (1 ft diameter) in the well. When the reservoir reaches its maximum permissible level, water comes in causing the float to rise. The rise of the float makes the balance weight fall, which pulls up the gate and discharges water from the reservoir. When the water level in the reservoir falls, the well gets emptied through an exit pipe.
A Thousand Helping Hands To Make The Dream A Reality
Six months before the completion of the construction of the project, it ran into a dead-end. The funds had all been used, and there was no more money to finish the construction. The king had already sold his jewellery for the project, but the mounting costs of labour and construction meant that money too ran out. Faced with a dead-end, the brilliant Visvesvaraya had an impractical idea. He sent messages to all the village headmen to meet him near a village in Mandya the next day.
Since it was such short notice and there was no agenda mentioned in the message, Visvesvaraya didn’t expect more than 5-10 headmen to attend the meeting. However, to his surprise, over 500 people were waiting to meet him. Visvesvaraya was not alone; he was accompanied by the king of Mysore. The king spoke to the people and mingled with them like a commoner. He spoke to them about the project, he explained everything and hid nothing. He said the project had run out of money. He then asked the people if they would consider working for free for four weeks until he could come up with a solution. He even mentioned that he planned to mortgage one of his palaces to fund the project. No one in the audience responded.
The dejected king and the chief engineer went back to Mysore. The next morning, just as they were discussing mortgaging the palace, the king’s secretary rushed in. He rushed them to the palace balcony. It was a sight to behold. The palace courtyard was filled with thousands of people, young and old. They all had come, for one thing, to finish the dream that was KRS Dam. Everyone would pitch in to finish the Krishna Raja Sagar project and they would do it without pay.
Thanks to the efforts of a brilliant engineer, a humble king and the people who worked to make their dream a reality, KRS dam was completed in 1924. The dam that stands today is a testament to the perseverance and hard work of all those people and the genius that was Sir M Visvesvaraya.
The beautifully landscaped Brindavan Gardens lies adjoining the KRS Dam in Mysore. The ornamental garden is spread across an area of 60 acres. The then Diwan of Mysore, Mirza Ismail had a penchant for gardens and founded it in 1927. The Brindavan Gardens are laid out in three terraces with manicured gardens. The terraces are dotted with water fountains, foliage and flowering plants. The garden also has several ficus trees, topiaries, gazebos and pergolas in each of the terraces.
The Krishna Raja Sagara lake lies in the centre of the gardens, and visitors can go boating on the lake. The musical fountain is the main attraction of KRS Dam and Brindavan Gardens. The light beams and water in the fountain burst out synchronized to a soundtrack, and appear as if they’re dancing. The soft colourful lights and the dancing bursts of water in the late evening transform this place into a fairytale land.
Sir M Visveswaraya: The Genius
Long before India got independence or the advent of modern technology, Sir M Visvesvaraya planned and built KRS Dam. Born to a poor family in Muddenahalli, Visvesvaraya or Sir MV, as he is affectionately remembered, went on to become one of the greatest engineers and statesman in India. The genius engineer is considered to be the maker of modern Mysore. Visvesvaraya has been instrumental in the construction and setting up of several institutions and industries across the state and the country.
The 107-year-old Krishna Raja Sagar dam, which provides a livelihood to millions of people in Mysore and Mandya, is one among his greatest legacies. Visvesvaraya was not only a skilled engineer but also a powerful technocrat in the Mysore kingdom. But his creations also show his humanitarian side and selflessness.
Facts About KRS Dam
- This dam is named after the Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna Raja Wodeyar IV, who commissioned its construction.
- It was built by one of the greatest engineers that India, Sir M Visvesvaraya.
- KRS Dam is also locally called as Kannambadi Katte or Dam because the town it is built in was formerly known as Kannambadi.
- It was built across river Kaveri for the Mysore and Mandya districts in Karnataka.
- Three rivers, namely Kaveri, Hemavathi and Laksmanathirtha meet near the KRS Dam.
- The water of KRS Dam further flows towards Mettur Dam in Tamil Nadu.
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit KRS Dam is during or after the monsoon season (June to August). Due to heavy rainfall, the water level of the dam increases and sometimes the water gushes out of the gates as they automatically open on reaching 124 feet.
How To Get There
Located just 24 km away from Mysore, KRS Dam can be easily visited through city buses. These buses from the city bus stand are available to drop one directly near KRS Dam. If you are coming from the railway station, you can either take the auto-rickshaws or state-owned buses. It will take a few hours to reach the KRS dam.
Distance From Other Places
It is 24 km from Mysore. It is 143.5 km away from Bangalore. It is 480.3 km away from Chennai. It is located 2.2 km from Venugopala Swamy Temple.
FAQs About KRS Dam:
The construction of KRS Dam began in 1911 and was completed in 1932.
The KRS dam is located in the settlement of Krishna Raja Sagara, Mysuru in the state of Karnataka.
Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV was the Maharaja of Mysore who commissioned the construction of KRS Dam in Mysore.