Dharma Adhikari Veerendra Heggade born November 25, 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 October 24, 1968 becoming the 21st Dharmadhikari of Dharmasthala Temple dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva.
Veerendra Heggade’s first major act upon becoming Dharmadhikari was to realise his father’s dream by completing the carving and installation of the 39 ft., 170 ton Bahubali statue at Dharmastala.
In 1982, on the eve of his taking over of Dharmadhikara, Sri Heggade initiated a "grameenaabhivruddhi yojane" (Integrated Village-Welfare Program) within the Belthangadi Taluk. The program included such provisions as funding for poor farmers with agricultural credit, technical training for young people through the RUDSET Insititute program, a temperance effort, and money management classes for rural women. He also established the Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara (SDM) group which manages more than 30 educational institutions.
In 1993, during silver jubilee celebrations of his Patthabhisheka, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, the then President of India, called Veerendra Heggade Rajarshi. In 2000, the government of India awarded him the prestigious Padma Bhushan award for his services in the fields of education, religion and social welfare.
Heggade has been awarded honorary doctorates from Mangalore University, Gulbarga University and Karnataka University for his social welfare activities.
Born in a Jain Bunt family,He is the eldest among the four sons born to Ratnavarma Heggade and Rathnamma Heggade (née Shetty),the others being Harshendra Kumar,Surendra Kumar and Rajendra Kumar.Heggade is married to Hemavathi Heggade and has a daughter named Shraddha. In January 2006, his mother Rathnamma Heggade aged 80 died in Janthigoli when a van collided with the car in which she was travelling.Heggade is a car collector and photography aficionado. His car collection is on display in Dharmastala.
Contribution towards preserving Tuluva culture
Heggade has been a great supporter of preserving Tuluva culture and heritage. The temple town of Dharmasthala hosted The World Tulu Convention from 10 to 13 December 2009. As a precursor to the grand event the organizing committee held Tulu language related educational and cultural programmes in all 7 Tulu speaking taluks in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts. The taluks include, Mangalore, Bantwal, Belthangady, Sullia, Puttur, Karkala and Udupi under the leadership of Heggade.
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