D. Veerendra Heggade (born 25 November 1948) is a philanthropist and the hereditary administrator/Dharmadhikari of the Dharmasthala Temple. He succeeded to the post of Dharmadhikari at the age of 20, on 24 October 1968 becoming the 21st Dharmadhikari of Dharmasthala Temple. In less than four decades, since he assumed responsibilities in 1968, he has carried his heritage to greater heights. Not only by continuing to protect the essence of the Kshetra, but also by achieving remarkable progress in his service to mankind.
Considering the magnanimous service rendered by Heggade to mankind, several organizations, Universities, Government Bodies have honored him with awards. In April 1993 he was honored with the title "Rajarshi" by Shankar Dayal Sharma, President of India. Heggade has also been honoured with the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan award, India's third and second highest civilian awards. He has been awarded with the coveted Karnataka Ratna award for the year 2009. This has been awarded to Heggade as a recognition to his outstanding contribution to humanity. Karnataka Ratna is the highest civilian award in Karnataka.
D Veerendra Heggade was born the eldest son of Dharmadhikari Ratnavarma Heggade and his wife Rathnamma Heggade (née Shetty). He belongs to the Pergade dynasty of Tulu Lineage, who are the hereditary trustees of the famous Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatha Swamy temple in South Kanara district of Karnataka. Despite being the trustees of a Hindu temple, the family are of the Jain religion, and they belong to the Digambara Jain . Sri Veerendra Heggade has three younger brothers, Harshendra Kumar, Surendra Kumar and Rajendra Kumar , and a sister, Padmalata. He married Hemavathi Heggade in a match arranged, as is traditional in India, by their parents. Veerendra Heggade and Hemavathy Heggadthi are the parents of a daughter, Shraddha.
As the eldest son, Veerendra Heggade succeeded his father as Dharmadhikari (administrator) of the temple and its properties, which are held in trust for the benefit of devotees and of Dharma. He is the twenty-first member of the Pergade dynasty to hold the position of Dharmadhikari of the Dharmasthala Temple. As he has no sons, his heir is his senior-most younger brother, Harshendra.
Dharmadhikari Veerendra Heggade is a car collector and photography aficionado. His car collection is on display in Dharmastala.
Works and contributions
What distinguishes Shri Veerendra Heggade is that while being the head of a revered religious institution, he is, today, far more than that. His years of practicing 'active' Dharma have given him a vision that combines social issues such as education and environment with religion.
Contributions to Indian culture
- He continued the tradition of the Kshetra to hold annual ‘Sarva Dharma and Sahitya Sammelana’ at Dharmasthala. The 85th Session of the Sammelana was held in 2017.
- He is a patron of Art and Literature, a voracious reader, publishes a publication series and a monthly journal "Manjuvani".
- To propagate Naturopathy, Yoga and Moral Education, 400 Teachers of High Schools and Primary Schools train more than 30,000 students every year in Yoga, Moral and Spiritual Education.
- He has contributed to the revival of "Yakshagana" by maintaining pure traditional approach to Yakshagana.
- MANJUSHA a Museum was established displaying rare collections of antiques and contemporary rare and valuable collections. A ‘Vintage Car Museum’ attached to this Museum has interesting cars from many Nations.
- 4000 Palm-leaf manuscripts are preserved and research is conducted by Scholars for "Sri Manjunatheshwara Samskrithi Samshodhana Prathistana"
- Started Free Mass Marriage every year in Shri Kshethra Dharmasthala since 1972. 10,000 couples wedded under this scheme by April 2004.
- Constructed Marriage Halls at Bangalore, Kallahalli, Bhadravathi, Mysore, Shravanabelagola and Bantwal for the benefit of middle and low-income people to conduct marriages.
- Introduced a Rural Development Project, in Coastal District of Karnataka, comprising 600 Villages and six urban towns. The project is facilitating empowerment of 1,35,000 families in agriculture, transfer of technology, women empowerment, housing, alternative sources of energy, income generating activity, micro finance, education and health.
Recently has been propagating the importance of tapping solar energy and provided such facilities to several villages.
- Established the Rural Development and Self-Employment Training Institute (RUDSETI) in collaboration with Syndicate Bank, Syndicate Agricultural Foundation and Canara Bank to train the rural un-employed youth for Self-Employment and Volunteers for Rural Development in 1982. Since then 20 branches of the RUDSETI were started all over India. Up to June 2004, 1,50,000 youths have been trained and settlement rate is 65%.
- Hosted several National Seminars including the one on "Rural India Real India" to mark the diamond jubilee celebrations of Syndicate Bank.
Contributions to education
- Introduced Post Graduation course at Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara College, Ujire
- Started SDMIMD College Mysore which occupies the place of top MBA colleges in INDIA.
- "RATHNAMANASA" - A model Hostel with training imparted in Agriculture, Horticulture, Dairying and a concept of future farmers and citizens was established for High School boys at Ujire.
- "SRI SIDDAVANA GURUKULA" - A model Hostel for College students at Ujire, inspires students in agriculture, moral education and training in leadership programmes.
- He is the President of Dharmasthala Manjunatheswara Educational Trust and SDM Educational Society, Ujire, which manages educational institutions from primary to engineering, medical, ayurvedic and management institutes as well as hospitals.
Contribution towards preserving Tuluva culture
Dharmadhikari Heggade has been a great supporter of preserving Tuluva culture and heritage.
Awards and honours