In less than three decades he has not only preserved the essence of the kshetra, but has also achieved remarkable progress in his service to mankind. Shri Veerendra Heggade’s first major act since he became Dharmadhikari was to realise his father’s dream by accomplishing the carving and installation of Bahubali, a feat that carried his heritage to greater heights.
Dharmasthala represents religious tolerance wherein the caste, creed and faith of pilgrims are no bars. For here, the Jain Theerthankara is worshipped on the same consecrated grounds as the native Daivas and Lord Manjunatha (Shiva). The priests are Vaishnavite Brahmins and the guardian of the temple a Heggade, a Jain by faith. Altogether forming a confluence of faiths that harmonise in belief of the Omnipotent. For those who come in need Dharmasthala is an oasis. Annapoorna Choultry, the beautiful dining hall has been constructed to feed 3000 guests comfortably at one time. Six modern Guest Houses provide generous hospitality to the pilgrims.
Mr.Veerendra Heggade unceasingly reaches out to the needy. During the severe drought that almost crippled life in North Karnataka, Mr.Heggade toured these districts, identified the needy and distributed a phenomenal 50,000 sarees. The floods in the South Kanara District in 1974 too saw him extend a helping hand to the flood affected. Yet again in 1992 when surprise floods wreaked havoc in Gadag, the Dharmadhikari was in the forefront, helping resettle victims through donations in cash and building material. The recent floods in Mangalore saw him rush to the aid of the people with a donation of over 2 lakh tiles for reconstruction activity. These are but a few examples of how Shree Heggade continues to be an angel of mercy to those in need.
Shri Kshethra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project ® (SKDRP), the poverty eradication programme conceived by Shri Veerendra Heggade was commissioned in 1982 and has encompassed all the 81 villages of Belthangady District, covering 18,000 families. The Beneficiaries are the poorest among the poor. The SKDRP has spent more than Rs.10 Crore in developmental projects. This has generated more than Rs.90 Crore besides creating rural employment improving the living standards of the people. In 1995 the SKDRP bagged the FICCI award for its outstanding achievements.
In 1972 Shri Heggade introduced the beautiful concept of ‘mass marriage’ at Dharmasthala. Following the tradition of the Kshetra where all religions and castes are welcome, hundreds of couples were married in accordance with their personal religious rites. The expenses for the wedding dress, mangalsutra and wedding feast for a limited number of couple’s guests were all borne by the Kshetra. Today this event has become an annual feature at Dharmasthala with around 500 couples being joined in wedlock on each occasion. This has helped the eradication of social evils like dowry, casteism, untouchability and financial debt.
In the field of health care, Mr.Hegde’s contribution is unlimited. The Mobile Hospital established by him is fully equipped to deal with emergencies and provide medical treatment to the rural folk at the inaccessible interiors of Malnad area. A modern T.B.Sanitorium is built by Dharmasthala Manjunatheswara Medical Trust to give relief to the patients of tuberculosis.The Ayurvedic Hospitals at Udupi and Hassan provide Ayurvedic medicines as per the ancient text. The Nature Cure Hospital built on the banks of the Netravathi River, has created renewed faith in the system based on the five elements of Air, Earth, Ether, Water and Light. SDM Eye Hospital at Mangalore, is one of the most modern allopathic eye treatment centres.The SDM Dental Hospital caters to regular dental needs and specialised treatments such as oral implants, surgery for cleft lip and other orthodontic surgeries. Shri Heggade has been actively involved in propagating the practice of Yoga, the ancient system of fitness. Surya Namaskara Camps are regularly organised where Yoga is taught to the masses. Further 250 high school teachers are trained in Yoga every year, who in turn teach at least 100 students each.
Shri Manjunatheshwara Cultural and Research Foundation established by Shri Veerendra Heggade conducts research on religion, literature, arts and crafts. The ancient scripts are being deciphered by scholars and experts and translated into modern language so that the gems of ancient literature may once again find their true place in Indian literature. Manjusha, the museum established by Shri Heggade displays the cultural artifacts of the past. His collection of horse driven carriages and vintage cars have been restored to pristine condition and everyone of them is totally roadworthy. Shri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara Dharmothana Trust has been s established for the preservation of temples.
Shri Heggade has been instrumental in bringing about the revival of Yakshagana, the ethnic dance-drama unique to the district of Dakshina Kannada. He has started a school for Yakshagana were budding artists are trained in the intricacies of this highly demanding art form. The ancient ethnic crafts, Navalgund Carpets and Kasuti Embroidery have been revived on a non-profit basis.
Shri Veerendra Heggade has established many new experimental and contemporary educational institutions. The Rathna Manasa free hostel provides free boarding and lodging for students of the 8th, 9th and 10th standards. He has to his credit set up 4 Higher Primary Schools, 4 High Schools, 12 Colleges and 12 Other Institutions.
Considering the magnanimous service rendered by Dr.D.Veerendra Heggade to mankind, several organizations, Universities, Government Bodies have honoured him with awards. In April 1993 he was honoured with the title ‘Rajarshi’ by Dr.Shankar Dayal Sharma, President of India. For his social work in 1985, the Government of Karnataka honoured him with ‘Rajyotsava Award’. Several Religious Mutts have conferred honourific titles such as ‘Dharmarathna’, ‘Dharmabhushana’, ‘Paropakara Dhurandara’ and ‘Abhinava Chavundaraya’. Public Relation Society of India, Bangalore honoured Shree Heggade ‘Man of the Year’. In 1994 he was conferred with ‘Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award’. Mangalore University honoured him with a Doctorate causa honoris.