Kalmane Kamegowda, who built 17 ponds in Mandya, Karnataka

Kamegowda was nicknamed ‘Adhunika Bhagiratha’ by local villagers for his tireless efforts in digging 17 ponds over the last 40 years.

Kamegowda
Kalmane Kamegowda near a pond built by him. Photo by starofmysore.com.

The 84-year-old Kamegowda shot to fame after Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his monthly 66th edition of ‘Mann Ki Baat’ on All India Radio lauded his efforts and called him ‘Water Warrior’ on June 28, 2020. He was earlier conferred the Karnataka Rajyotsava Award in November 2018.

Popularly known as Kere Kamegowda or Pond Man, he single-handedly built more than 17 ponds in the barren hills of Kundinibetta near his village Dasanadoddi at Malavalli taluk in Mandya District, Karnataka, died due to age-related ailments at his house on Monday, reported Express News Service, 18 Oct 2022.

Kamegowda was nicknamed ‘Adhunika Bhagiratha’ by local villagers for his tireless efforts in digging 17 ponds over the last 40 years.He also planted more than 2,000 trees.

There was a reason why Kamegowda started ponds: he used to take his sheep to a nearby hill for grazing and couldn’t find water there for them.

Kamegowda named two ponds after his grandkids

Mandya youths, Abhi Gowda and M B Naganna Gowda, who made a short documentary film on Kamegowda, said that the lakes can cumulatively store up to 33 crore litres of water. It was TNIE (The New Indian Express) which first featured Kamegowda and his efforts under the headline, ‘Shepherd from Karnataka builds 14 ponds on barren hill, turns his village green’.

Sharing his good and bad experiences with TNIE about his journey, Kamegowda had said that as the rainwater flows down from the hills leaving them dry and barren, he came up with the idea of developing water-holes, and ponds for birds and animals. He also said he had spent around Rs 10 to 15 lakh from his hard-earned money, and awards he got, to develop the ponds.

His sudden popularity made some of his fellow villagers envious of him and they even complained to Mandya Deputy Commissioner that Kamegowda’s claims are false and he has not dug any pond.The falsehood was exposed, and he was duely rewarded.

The crusader was living separately from his children and earned his own livelihood after the death of his wife Kempamma. Kamegowda named two ponds after his grandchildren Poorvi and Krishna. He also named two other ponds developed by him as Rama and Lakshmana. The KSRTC had honoured him with a lifetime free bus pass in 2020.

The Pond Man was first recognised by Rashasiddeshwara Mutt seer who felicitated him for his good work. He was also conferred with awards from KV Shankaregowda Trust and Mysuru Rangayana. The other awards he received are Rama Govinda Award, Malavalli Dhanaguru Mutt’s Shadakshara Deva Award and Chitradurga Murugga Mutt’s International Basavashree Award.

Kamegowda’s health started deteriorating after he suffered an injury in his right leg when some villagers attacked him with weapons allegedly to stop him from digging ponds in 2017. He was admitted to Mandya Institute of Medical Sciences (MIMS) in July 2020. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had described Kamegowda as ‘Jala Rushi’ (Water Sage).

He was popularly known also “water warrior’, reported PTI which said he developed 16 lakes on a barren hillock at his village in Malavalli taluk of Mandya district.  


Over the years these ponds caught water during the monsoons, and now there is water in them even during peak summers. He also planted saplings by the side of the ponds he dug – bearing the expenses for all these from his own savings.


Expressing grief over Kamegowda’s death, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had called him a “water sage” and “modern Bhagirath”.

(https://t.co/i8qlXNddMZ – Basavaraj S Bommai (@BSBommai) 

He who had no formal education, had turned an entire Kundooru Betta hillside at Dasanadoddi village green over the past four decades.

About 42 years ago, Kamegowda realised that Kundooru Betta (Hill), which is located beside his village, had very less greenery. Realising that there was no water retention on the hill as whatever water it received from the rain, either ran down the hillside or got evaporated or absorbed, he thought of developing a watering hole for animals and birds and went on to create more than 16 ponds. With a desire to ensure a green cover on the Kundooru Betta, Kamegowda had also planted more than 2,000 saplings on the hillock. Today, there is a lush jungle on the hillock that is a treat to the eyes.

Documentary Film Director T. Kempanna’s documentary on the legendary water warrior Kamegowda, was selected for the International Film Festival of India under Nature category, organised by the Government of India.

Madikeri Akashvani, in its ‘Krishi Ranga’ programme on July 15, 2020, had featured ‘Pond Man’ Kamegowda in a programme.

Awards received

Recognising Kamegowda’s selflessness, the State Government had awarded Rajyotsava Award in November 2018. Smt. D. Ramabai Charitable Foundation and Sri M. Gopinath Shenoi Charitable Trust, Mysuru, had also presented an award to Kamegowda in 2018. City’s Rangayana had felicitated Kamegowda in 2017.

In 2020, Kamegowda, who was suffering from neurological problems, suddenly developed severe pain in his right leg following which he was admitted to Malavalli Taluk Hospital.

District Health Officer (DHO) and others, who came to know that Kamegowda was admitted to the hospital, had rushed to the hospital and enquired his health. Kamegowda leaves behind two children and a host of relatives and friends. His last rites at Dasanadoddi village were attended by many including officials and other dignitaries.  

https://starofmysore.com/pond-man-kere-kamegowda-dies-at-84/

His was a story similar to that of  Dashrath Manjhi (14 January 1934 – 17 August 2007, also known as Mountain Man,  was an Indian laborer from Gehlaur village, near Gaya in the eastern state of Bihar. When his wife died in 1959 due to injury caused by falling from a mountain and due to the same mountain blocking easy access to a nearby hospital in time, he decided to carve a 110 meter-long (360 ft), 9.1 meter-wide (30 ft) wide and 7.7 meter-deep (25 ft) path through a ridge of hills using only a hammer and a chisel. After 22 years of work, Dashrath shortened travel between the Atri and Wazirganj blocks of Gaya district from 55 km to 15 km. He travelled to New Delhi to get recognition of his work and was rewarded by then Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar. In 2016, Indian Post issued a postage stamp featuring Manjhi.

Dashrath Manjhi
Dashrath Manjhi on 2016 stamp of India.

In 2011, director Kumud Ranjan working for the state-owned Films Division of India produced a documentary based on Manjhi’s life titled The Man Who Moved the Mountain.

In August 2015, a Hindi movie Manjhi – The Mountain Man was released and well received. The movie was directed by Ketan Mehta. Nawazuddin Siddiqui played the role of Manjhi along with Radhika Apte as Falguni Devi.

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