Renowned philanthropist and administrator of the Dharmasthala temple in Karnataka’s Dakshina Kannada district, Dharmasthala Veerendra Heggade, is likely to take oath as Rajya Sabha MP later in the day on Thursday. Heggade was nominated to the Rajya Sabha earlier this month. His nomination came alongside that of three other eminent personalities — ace music composer Ilayaraja, Olympic athlete PT Usha and screenwriter V Vijayendra Prasad.
His nomination filled the void the coastal region of Karnataka has had in the Upper House. After the demise of senior Congress leader and former Union minister Oscar Fernandes on September 13, 2021, the coastal region did not have any representation in the Rajya Sabha. Heggade was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 2015.
73-year-old, Heggade, is the hereditary trustee of the famous Dharmasthala Manjunatha Swamy temple in Dakshina Kannada district. He is the 21st in his line to hold the position which has been passed on from father to son in his family. Heggade belongs to the Digambara Jain. Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded Heggade on the former’s visit to the temple and said, “Shri Veerendra Heggade Ji is at the forefront of outstanding community service. I have had the opportunity to pray at the Dharmasthala Temple and also witness the great work he is doing in health, education and culture. He will certainly enrich Parliamentary proceedings.”
The eldest son of Dharmadhikari Ratnavarma Heggade and Rathnamma Heggade, Veerendra was born on November 23, 1948. He comes from the Pergade dynasty of Tulu lineage. Besides being the administrator of one of the most famous temples in Karnataka, Heggade is also a well-known philanthropist. For over five decades now, he has led various transformative initiatives for rural development and the promotion of self-employment.
He came up with the Shri Kshethra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project, which is an initiative for rural development and self-employment in Karnataka. This project now includes more than 49 lakh members. He has also been conducting free mass marriage each year in Shri Kshethra Dharmasthala since 1972. Since April 2004, about 10,000 couples have been married under this scheme. Heggade is also credited with the revival of Yakshagana, maintaining a purely traditional approach. He is a patron of art and literature, and runs the Kannada monthly magazine Manjuvani’. He has also established ‘Manjusha’ – the museum that displays rare collections of antiques and contemporary rare and valuable artifacts. A collector of old cars, Heggade has attached his vintage car collection to the museum which is accessible to all.
His philanthropic activities were recognized by the State and the Central governments. He was awarded the Karnataka Ratna award – the highest civilian award in the state – in 2009.