Veerendra Heggade is the Dharmadhikari or administrative head of the famed Dharmasthala temple which is situated in the Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka. He is the temple’s 21st Dharmadhikari and has made a name for himself as a philanthropist.
His Early Life and Role
Veerendra Heggade was born on November 25, 1948 as the eldest of four sons. He belongs to the Jain community of the Dakshina Kannada region. His father Ratnavarma Heggade also served as Dharmadhikari of the Dharmasthala temple, besides involving himself in other activities such as establishing educational institutions and serving as a member of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly.
Veerendra Heggade took over as Dharmadhikari of the temple at the young age of 20, after the death of his father. He had been in the process of preparing for his graduation from Bangalore University at the time.
His Key Activities and Establishments
On taking over the role of the Dharmadhikari, Veerendra Heggade immediately worked towards realizing his father’s long-cherished dream of installing a Bahubali statue at Dharmasthala. The statue was installed in 1975. Today, visitors to Dharmasthala can see this 39-feet-tall statue which has been carved out of a single piece of rock by sculptor Renjala Gopal Shenoy.
The Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara (SDM) Educational Society group set up by Veerendra Heggade manages a number of educational institutions.
In collaboration with Syndicate Bank, Syndicate Agricultural Foundation and Canara Bank, he has helped established the Rural Development and Self-Employment Training Institute (RUDSETI), which now has at least 20 branches across India.
He has also helped establish healthcare facilities, yoga camps, mass marriages and even a museum of vintage cars. He has spearheaded drought and flood relief activities in Uttara and Dakshina Kannada districts.
Veerendra Heggade is also known to be an ardent supporter of Tulu people from the Dakshina Kannada region and their culture and has set up a school to promote the art of Yakshagana. He played an active role during the World Tulu Convention of 2009 which took place in the town of Dharmasthala. He has also graced a number of other important public functions and programs.
Recognition and Awards
Veerendra Heggade has received honorary doctorates from Mangalore University and the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Bangalore.
In 1994, he received the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award from Akhila Bharatha National Integration Conference, New Delhi. He also received the FICCI Award for Shri Kshethra Dharmastala Rural Development Project (SKDRDP) in 1994.
The government of Karnataka has honored Veerendra Heggade with the Rajyothsava Prashasti. He became a recipient of the Padma Bhushan award conferred by the government of India in 2000.
His Personal Life and Family
Veerendra Heggade is married to Hemavathi Heggade and the couple has a daughter together, Shraddha Heggade. Rathnamma, his mother, breathed her last in the year 2006 during January.
He is a shutterbug and likes photography, and he also has a great collection of cars. You can spot his car collection in Dharmastala.