Noted social worker, temple connoisseur and head of the Karnataka-based Shri Kshethra Dharmasthala the abode of Lord Manjunathaswamy, Dr. Veerendra Heggade, on Wednesday said that he was extremely humbled to receive the Padma Vibhushan award and added that he would rededicate himself for further activities.
Dr. Heggade said that he had been conferred this award due to lord's grace.
"I thought I must rededicate myself for further activities. Whatever activity I do, it is with the experience I gain from the temple. I talk to nearly 500 to 1000 people a day and on Sunday and Monday I talk to 2000 people. When I talk to them, I get a lot of information from them, they tell their personal, family and social grievances and they tell me about very intricate matters about their families ," said Dr. Heggade.
"When I gather all this information, I do not take it as a normal matter and say just go pray in the temple and be blessed. I go one step ahead, I take it as a social activist," he added.
Expressing utmost satisfaction to receive the award, Dr. Heggade said that his institution has a history of 600 years.
"All the 600 years, Shri Manjunathaswamy temple has been discharging two types of duties. One is serving the Lord Manjunathaswamy in the temple and looking after all the activities of the temple premises. The other one is looking after all the devotees, who come to visit Dharmasthala to have darshan of Lord Manjunathaswamy and perform seva to him," said Dr. Heggade.
"Along with that me as Heggade of Dharmasthala, I am supposed to discharge several charitable and philanthropic activities as a duty. I have been doing all this as a duty not as a choice, but as a duty to perform. We have done more organised way of disciplined charity with organised programmes and all the aid and help reaching the beneficiary directly and innovative of discharging all this charity for the past several years. So naturally, it is the recognition by the king, the king is the government, when the honour from the highest authority is given you feel that perhaps they are satisfied with the good work we have done, that is the satisfaction I have," he added.
Talking about his service to mankind, Dr. Heggade said that he considers it as his duty.
"I do everything as a duty, but in that duty is there a way to improvise it from traditional ways of attending to those issues and needs. Secondly, I have a very curious mind and eye for the social issues, social problems and social evils," Dr. Heggade said.
"The rural development project started so that faith in god may be returned. There is self employment, micro finance, women empowerment and so on. Every day, I get new ideas, and fortunately I have got a good team of people with me. When I say can we do this, they never say no," he added.
Dr. Heggade further said there are many programs that are continuing programmes.
"When I go back after this honour, I may get new ideas and fresh thoughts. So, when I come back next time I will have new things to tell," he added.
A well known visionary of our times, Dr. Heggade, 67, a Jain, has always been a keen student of humanity and human behavior, and spent more than four decades wisely guiding a multitude of devotees visiting the Shri Kshethra Dharmasthala and helping them to face the challenges that come up before them from time to time.
Assuming the mantle of Dharmasthala at the very young age of twenty in 1968, Veerendra Heggade, as the chief of the Manjunatha Swamy Temple that is located within the Shri Kshethra Dharmasthala, has acquired considerable fame for implementing several unique socio-economic programs for the welfare of mankind, and has also played a leading role in modernizing temple administration in Karnataka.
The village of Dharmasthala is regarded as the abode of Lord Manjunatha Swamy. The village also has a temple dedicated to Lord Chandranatha Swamy and also has the giant 39-foot monolithic statue of Lord Bahubali, which was erected by Dr. Heggade and his followers in 1982. For this one act alone (the erection of the statue of Lrd Bahubali), Dr. Heggade has been conferred the title of "Abhinava Chavundaraya".
A connoisseur of ancient temple architecture, historical monuments and antiques, Dr. Heggade is also well known for his community charity drives and promotion of literary festivals such as the Kannada Sahithya Sammelana, the Thulu Sammelana and fairs for farmer welfare.
As the promoter of the Dharmothana Trust, he has been at the forefront of renovation drives related to historical buildings in Karnataka. Till date, over 200 temples have been renovated under his guidance. Large museums have also been established to preserve the nation's heritage.
An outstanding example of his social work has been the marriage of 12000 couples through the Dharmasthala network.
In 1982, Dr. Heggade conceived and promoted the public-private partnership Rural Development Self-Employment Training Institute (RUDSETI) and now that concept has acquired national dimensions. Today, there are 26 RUDSETI's in 13 states that have helped over 200,000 unemployed become respectable citizens.
Another well-known experiment of Dr. Heggade has been the Shri Kshethra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project (SKDRP), a self group initiative that has resulted in the mobilization of 1.8 million families in Karnataka into 170,000 self help groups who have cumulative savings of Rs.410 crores and a loan turnover of Rs.4500 crores.
Dr. Heggade's other areas of interest include promotion of sustainable energy programs and prevention of alcoholic abuse
Since the year 2000, he has been a recipient of 19 national and global awards, including the Padma Bhushan (2000), the Karnataka Rathna (2009), the Rajiv Gandhi Award (2007), the Nadoja citation from the Hampi Heritage University (2010), the Basavashri Award (2009), the Kannadiga of the Year Award (2004) and others. He is also a recipient of honorary doctorates from Mangalore and Drew Universities. (ANI)