Mitraniketan K. Viswanathan
Born (1928-02-08) 8 February 1928 (age 94)
Died28 April 2014(2014-04-28) (aged 86)
OccupationSocial reformer, Philanthropist, Environmentalist
ChildrenAsha, Chithra, Beena
Parent(s)R. Krishna Panickar
G. Karthyayani
AwardsPadma Shri
K. P. Goenka Award for Environment
Platinum Jubilee Endowment Trust Award
Jamnalal Bajaj Award
Rabindra Puraskar
Henry Dunant Red Cross Award

Mitraniketan K. Viswanathan (8 February 1928 – 28 April 2014) was a social reformer, philanthropist and environmentalist in Kerala, India. He founded Mitraniketan, a non governmental organization in Vellanadu, Thiruvananthapuram in 1956.


Viswanathan was born on 8 February 1928 in Vellanad, Thiruvananthapuram District, Kerala, India.

He did his schooling in Thiruvananthapuram and joined Visva-Bharati University, founded by Rabindranath Tagore and completed Siksha Bhavana in 1953. Later he continued his studies in the US, the UK and in Scandinavia. During his days in the US, he came in touch with Arthur E. Morgan which helped him shape his later years.[1]

On his return to India, he founded Mitraniketan, The Home of Friends, in 1955, which works in the fields of innovation, training and extension in community development, environment, science, education and appropriate technology.[2] The organisation has since grown to cover 60 acres of land housing Mitraniketan People's College,[3] a Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), a training centre for women, a fully equipped bakery, pottery centre, and a technology transfer programme.[4]

He was the patron of Kerala Voluntary Action League (KAVAL), a network of Non Governmental organizations.[5] Further, he chaired many organisations and attended conferences in India and abroad[1] and served as a member of many government boards.

Viswanathan inspired many with his Gandhi-like commitment to simplicity and the poor. Daniele Giovannucci, who went on to found the Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA) worked there in 1990–91 with Professor Will Alexander as they explored the paradox of extraordinary levels of human development despite high levels of poverty. The Mitraniketan experience pointed Giovannucci and Alexander and the dozens of researchers they assembled there to insights about development decoupled from economics to rely on universal education and literacy, relative gender equality in a formerly matrilineal society, and collaborative use of simple yet effective technologies. This enigma emerged originally in the work of scientists Richard Franke and Barbara Chasin who began researching the region in the late 1980s (see, for example, Radical Reform As Development in an Indian State) and was highlighted in a short article by Bill McKibben.[6]

He died on 28 April 2014 due to heart related problems at a private clinic in Thiruvananthapuram.[4]


He was a winner of many awards and fellowships, including Platinum Jubilee Endowment Trust Award by Indian Merchants Chamber, K P Goenka Award for Environment by Asian Cables Foundation and The Jamnalal Bajaj Award for application of science and technology in rural areas. He was awarded Padmashri by Government of India in 2009.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "Blog Archive » BIODATA of K. Viswanathan". Santhigram. Archived from the original on 2 May 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  2. ^ "Mitraniketan Viswanathan Passes Away". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  3. ^ "Mitraniketan Peoples College | NGOPost". Archived from the original on 29 May 2014. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  4. ^ a b "'Mitraniketan' Vishwanathan dead". The Hindu. 27 April 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  5. ^ "Blog Archive » Mitraniketan Viswanathan Passed away". Santhigram. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  6. ^ "The Enigma of Kerala".
  7. ^ Padma Shri Awards (2000–2009)
  8. ^ Jamnalal Bajaj Award#List of awardees