Dr. D. Veerendra Heggade is one of the prominent personalities of Karnataka, a philanthropist and the Dharmadhikari of the Dharmasthala Temple in the Dakshina Kannada district. Besides assuming the role of the hereditary administrator of the renowned temple, he is also a member of the Rajya Sabha since July 6, 2022. Apart from his glorious contribution to the temple’s administration, he further extended it to the social, cultural and educational aspects of the society as well.
Veerendra Heggade’s family and personal life
Veerendra Heggade was born on November 25, 1948, as the eldest of four sons to Dharmadhikari Ratnavarma Heggade and Rathnamma Heggade. He hails from the Pergade dynasty of Tulu Jain Bunt lineage of the Digambara Jain community of Dakshina Kannada. Although belonging to the Jain community, his ancestors have served as the hereditary trustees of the Manjunatha Swamy temple of Dharmasthala. His father was illustrious and fulfilled his duties ably as the Dharmadhikari of the Dharmasthala temple. He also involved 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 early age of 20 after the demise of his father. He is the father of his only daughter, Shraddha Heggade. His brother, Harshendra Heggade, is the next proposed Dharmadhikari of the Dharmasthala temple.
The role of Veerendra Heggade as the temple head (Dharmadhikari)
Veerendra Heggade always contributes efficiently to the four Chaturdanas or charities, which form the primary role of a Dharmadhikari. The four danas are Anna Dana (Feed), Aushadha Dana (Heal), Vidya Dana (Educate) and Abhaya Dana (Protect from fear). He has also efficiently modernised them according to the changing times and needs. However, Veerendra Heggade discharges his traditional duties as a hereditary trustee with the same degree of commitment. A noteworthy example is his founding of the Dharmothana Trust, which aims to restore and renovate ancient temples and monuments. Apart from this, the trust also aims at promoting the beauty and importance of classical worship and traditional rituals.
The administrative head of the Dharmasthala temple has also actively conducted the annual ‘Sarva Dharma and Sahitya Sammelana’ at Dharmasthala. 2017 saw the 85th Session of the Sammelana. In 1991, he renovated the Manjunatheshwara temple under his supervision and conducted the reinstallation ceremony.
Apart from fulfilling his duties as the Dharmadhikari, this eminent personality has also contributed to religious harmony. He also installed the 39-foot-high monolith statue of Bhagavan Bahubali in Dharmasthala.
Veerendra Heggede, as a patron of Indian culture and heritage
Veerendra Heggade is a person of varied interests. The Manjusha Museum in Dharmasthala, his passionate creation, is a fine example that portrays his interest in cultural heritage and history. The museum houses artefacts which he collected personally over the last fifty years. Moreover, a Vintage Car Museum attached to this museum with cars from all over the world showcases his love for cars. He also publishes Manjuvani, the monthly journal, apart from various other publications. His interest extends to photography as well.
The Dharmadhikari also promotes Naturopathy, Yoga and Moral education by engaging 5,100 teachers of High Schools and Primary Schools to train more than 4 lakh students every year in these fields. He has further involved himself in preserving 6,050 palm-leaf manuscripts for the “Sri Manjunatheshwara Samskrithi Samshodhana Prathistana,” allowing researchers to use the collection. His contribution extends to reviving the Yakshagana, the traditional art form of dance-drama of Karnataka. Furthermore, he has also contributed to preserving the Tuluva culture and heritage.
Veerendra Heggade as a contributor to education
The visionary Veerendra Heggade has contributed to the field of education in a considerable measure. SDMIMD College in Mysore, which he started, has evolved into one of the top Business colleges in India. As the President of SDM Educational Society in Ujire, he efficiently manages institutions dealing with primary education to medical, ayurvedic, engineering, management studies and hospitals. Sri Siddavana Gurukula, a model hostel he started, involves training in agriculture, moral education and leadership programs for college students. The Rathnamanasa, a model hostel for high school boys in Ujjre, provides training in agriculture, horticulture, and dairying. He also introduced a postgraduate course at Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara College in Ujire.
Veerendra Heggade as a contributor to different aspects of society
Veerendra Heggadae has actively involved himself in social activities for the betterment of society. He is instrumental in feeding around 70,000 pilgrims daily through the Annapurna kitchen at Dharmasthala. This mass kitchen was featured in ‘Mega Kitchens’ on the National Geographic channel. The Dharmadhikari actively involves himself in various rural causes as well. His contribution to the rural development along the coastal areas of Karnataka, comprising 600 villages and six towns, includes agricultural extension, transfer of technology, women’s empowerment, housing, alternate sources of energy, income-generating activities, microfinance, education, health and promoting solar energy. Moreover, his service also extends against alcohol abuse.
Veerendra Heggade has conducted mass marriages in Dharmasthala with the noble view of cutting down expenses in the name of dowry. So far about 12, 262 couples are united in such marriages. In addition, he has also constructed marriage halls in Bangalore, Kallahalli, Bhadravathi, Mysore, Shravanabelagola and Bantwal for middle and low-income families.
Veerendra Heggade, furthermore, in collaboration with Syndicate Bank, Syndicate Agricultural Foundation and Canara Bank, has helped to establish the Rural Development and Self-Employment Training Institute (RUDSETI). It presently has up to 27 branches across India. This institute has trained many youngsters, with a settlement rate of 73 percent as of March 2020.
Awards and Accolades
The Indian Government has recognised Veerendra Heggade’s contribution to society and communal harmony with the Padma Vibhushan in 2015 and the Padma Bhushan in 2000. He has also won numerous other awards for his relentless service to the society. Last but not least, he has travelled worldwide and participated in conferences on religion and peace.