Dewan Sir K.Seshadri Iyer - Tireless builder of modern Mysore

The bust of Seshadri Iyer in Kumara Park West. Bangalore.

Angelo Mysore. Colonial period, India

During the British colonial rule in India all the highest  executive,  judiciary and administrative positions were held by the British officials and many of them passed the Indian Civil Service (ICS) examinations conducted in London. Well educated Indians were not allowed to hold higher positions. The higher positions attained by the Indian talents were of subaltern in character. At a time like this better opportunities were offered to extremely talented Indians and many of them held positions of eminence such as Dewan of princely states representing the interest of the British rulers and at the same time ruling the state on behalf of the ruler. They did their job with care and passion and won the appreciation of the British rulers.  There were many eminent Dewans  like  Sir. C.P. Ramaswami Iyer, Sir Seshayya Sastry, Sir. Madhava Rao, Sir. Salar Jung, Raghava Avenger et al to name some. Sir Seshadri Iyer, Dewan of Mysore made a niche  for himself and gained a reputation as one of  best Indian administrators  during the colonial period. He was the builder of Mysore state and visionary whose selfless service, vast contributions and dedication go down in the history of Karnataka. 

Sir K.S.Sheshadri Iyer: (1883-1901)

Sir K. Seshadri Iyer KCIE (June, 1845 - September, 1901;  also Sheshadri Aiyar), who was born in a small village near  Palghat (now in Kerala) of the then Madras Presidency, was the second Dewan of Mysore state since the reinstating of the Wadiyar family on its throne in 1881. Previously the princely state was under the British control for 50 long years years. Thanks to men like Bowring, Cubbon and even Viceroy Canning who followed a biased policy and consequently Krishnaraja Wodeyar lost his real power, a victim of circumstances. The ruler died in 1868 a broken man within the year of rendition. The British press highly condemned the high handed attitude of the British rulers and finally the British crown interfered and the kingdom was at last restored to the ruler.

Maharaja Sir Sri Krishnaraja  Wodiyar 1906

Rangacharlu, a graduate of Madras presidency college, was an exceptionally  brilliant and courageous  administrator and won the appreciation of the honest British officers when  he daringly  exposed the weakness of certain British  administrative policies, etc., while working as the controller of Maharajah's household and the prevalence of corruption among the British officials. In 1881 Chamaraja Wodiyar was installed as the ruler, surprisingly on the same day Rangacharlu was made the Dewan of Mysore, a covetous job that he deserved very much. Unfortunately Rangacharlu died within 2 years after becoming the Dewan. It was he, who recognized the unusual talents of Seshadri Iyer and strongly recommended him for the Dewanship. Earlier Mr. Iyer closely worked with Rangacharlu, when he was the Deputy Collector of Calicut (now in Kerala) and thus began a long friendship and a through understanding between them. Rangacharlu came to Mysore in 1868 and within a short period Seshadri Iyer also moved over to Mysore as Judicial Sheresdar. Later Iyer became the controller of the Royal household when Rangacharlu assumed the position of Dewan.

Seshadri Iyer, succeeded Rangacharlu and had the unique distinction of having served the princely state of Mysore as the Dewan for the longest period from 1883 to 1901. He graduated from the famous Presidency College of Madras  where his mentor was the famous educationist  E. B. Powell  and qualified himself as a lawyer by taking a B.L degree  from the University of Madras in 1874. His forefathers on the fraternal  side were from  Ganapathi Agraharam in Tanjore district (now in Tamil Nadu) at the turn of the 19th century.

The following are the well-known, innovative  reforms introduced by Sir Seshadri Iyer during his tenure for the benefit of the state. He did implemented several major works in full consultation with the Maharajah, a good gesture that was well appreciated by the Royal family members  close to the ruler:

It was Mr. Iyer who chalked out plans for the construction of Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore as he thought the future students needed better quality education to serve the country well. At the initiative of Mr. Iyer,  the then ruler of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, donated  roughly  372 acres (1.51 km2) of free land in Bangalore to an educational  institution. It  become the Tata Institute of Science, later known as the Indian Institute of Science in 1911. IIS, Bangalore is one of the premier institutions in India for advanced quality education.  Mr. Seshadri Iyer was instrumental in laying railway lines, covering roughly 270 kilometers (roughly 170 miles) in the state. For the benefits of the government employees he started the Insurance scheme for them. 

He introduced Shivasamudram Hydro - electric power project, the first one in Asia, to improve the agricultural  as well as electricity production of the state. He encouraged starting of industries in the state and paid serious attention to the needed infrastructure. 

The Shivasamudram project began producing electricity in 1902 covering Kolar Gold Field (KGF). The power was transmitted through transmission lines, covering a distance of  147 kilometers, then longest line in the world. and later to  Bangalore in 1905. 

The princely state had good relationship with the British administration, in particular, the Madras presidency. When the Mettur dam construction work was on in 1930 across the river Cauvery and Stanley reservoir,  the princely state under Mr. Iyer supplied necessary power from the Shivasamudram hydroelectric power station.

mr. Iyer paid serious attention to the health care of the people living in the state that resulted in the establishment of Victoria hospital in 1900 in Bangalore to serve the public.

He constructed the famous Glass House at the famous garden in Bangalore - Lalbagh in 1889.

He meticulously codified the revenue lands in the state and started agricultural banks to help the land owners and cultivators who had to depend on loans from private parties at higher interest rates. He also undertook cleaning of water tanks - desilting, etc., to improve irrigation and better water storage.

The Bangalore city  saw a lot of improvements during his period  He built the Chamarajendra Water Works to take care of the city people's potable water needs, by connecting supply lines from Hesaraghatta Lake, 18 km away, in 1894. He began the extensions of Basavanagudi and Malleswaram in 1898 to reduce congestion in the city.

Sheshadripuram (a city extension created in 1892), Sheshadri Road, Seshadri Memorial Library, and a statue in Cubbon Park bear Mr. Iyer's name in recognition of his vast contributions he made to the kingdom and the city.

Mr Iyer, being a gentleman as he was, always owed a debt of gratitude to his friend and predecessor late Dewan Rangacharlu who died at an early age and saw to it his family was comfortably settled financially. He also took care of the family of Purnayya, whose dedication and loyalty in a difficult time to the British helped them get rid of Tipu Sultan.

He gave importance to women's education and made provision for  special  scholarships for the talented students to go abroad for higher studies.

Like many Dewans throughout his tenure he faced several troubles caused by some jealous members of the royal family who expected him to bestow some favors. Mr. Iyer was loyal to the ruler and stood the ground firmly and went by strict rules. Consequently some kind of misunderstanding did arise between him and the ruler on a few occasions. Also he was criticized severely for being autocratic and arbitrary and such criticisms never dampened his spirit to do his duty with better care and more attention.  On sidelines he took active role in Indian national congress. He was an ardent patron of Sringeri Saradha  mutt and follower of the teachings of Vivekananda.
Though Seshadri Iyer crossed sword with Lord Curzon over policy matters, it was Curzon who was generous enough to propose a public memorial for  him  in recognition of his superb contribution to the development of Mysore. When Iyer's statue was unveiled,  Lord Hardinge spoke highly of him and considered him one of the  few best Indian administrators British India ever produced.