Dr. Veerendra Heggade-ji, a philanthropist, great visionary, educationist and social reformer and a recipient of the nation’s second highest civilian honor – Padmavibhushana Award. Dr. Heggade is the hereditary Administrator/Dharmadhikari of Dharmasthala temple.
Dr. Heggade – a highly respected and renowned personality is lovingly called ‘Khavandaru’ a parsi word which means protector or Owner. It literally means that he is the head of a particular province.
At a time when Education is no more a service but a money making business; Dr. Heggade through his visionary thinking has established colleges which impart education as a service at low and reasonable fees. The temple connoisseur and social worker par-excellence has set ‘bench-marking’ standards through his notable contributions in education and co-operative sector at Dakshina Kannada in general and Dharmasthala in particular.
Born on November 25th, 1948 to ‘Ratnavarma Heggade’ & ‘Rathnamma Heggade’ Dr. Heggade was the eldest among the four sons and a sister. He was later married to ‘Hemavathi Heggade’ in a traditional marriage all arranged by his parents and are the happy parents of ‘Shraddha Heggade’ now married to ‘Mr. Amith’ a businessman from Bangalore and the proud grandparents of ‘Manya’ who both the Husband & Wife hold dear. Dr. Veerendra Heggade-ji took over the reins as ‘Administrator of Dharmasthala’ and became the ‘Dharmadhikari’ in the year 1968 after the untimely demise of his father ‘Ratnavarma Heggade’ and is currently the ’21st Dharmadhikari’ of the ‘Pergade Dynasty’.
At a tender age Veerendra Heggade was enrolled into Siddavana Gurukula – a free for all school started for the poor and needy who could not afford education. Late. Ratnavarma Heggade wanted his son to understand the practicalities of life, poverty and hence enrolled his son to Siddavana Gurukula.
Dr. Heggade learnt the nuances of life in Siddavana Gurukula and the foundation laid by his Father has made him a social reformer, educationist and power behind the transformation of the lives of millions of poor people of Karnataka through his innovative thoughts and supreme ideas. Although, Dharmasthala is in Dakshina Kannada (South Canara), it is being visited by lakhs of pilgrims from various parts of the State and the country. Dharmasthala is regarded as the holy abode of Lord Manjunatha Swamy.
During 1994 when the entire Nation was impressed by the outstanding success of Dr.Heggade’s ‘Rural Development Programme’ and the whole country gazing at Belthangady; Dr.Heggade was deeply bothered by the fact that Dakshina Kannada was one among the districts with a high alcohol consumption rate. Belthangady was no exception. Many people had lost their lives due to Alcoholism and the Alcoholism had ruined thousands of families across Dakshina Kannada.
Dr.Heggade, during this time also realized that alcohol addiction was the main reason behind economic backwardness amongst the people in Dakshina Kannada.
In the years 1994-96, anti alcohol waves grew stronger. The hostility of alcohol consumers and sellers also rose enormously. A lot of conflicts and clashes took place during this period of time.
Dr.Heggade kept his reputation at stake and pressurised the government to declare Belthangady as “Alcohol Free”. After several rounds of discussion and despite stiff opposition from several quarters, the persistence of Dr.Heggade paved off and in the year 1996-97 sale of Alcohol was officially banned in Belthangady.
However, this gave rise to a new problem. The shops which sold IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor) made surplus profits. Illegal Arrack and wine shops made huge profits as a result of ban. Sale of illegal arrack started creating law and order problems in Dakshina Kannada. These adverse developments despaired Mr.Heggade, after which he finally agreed to withdraw the ordinance.
Dr. Heggade did not go back after the set back and was far from giving in. After a lot of thought and arrived to the conclusion that instead of fighting the demon of addiction it was time to fight against Alcohol on a bigger perspective. Dr. Heggade through an array of programmes started to promote de-addiction and called the members of rural development programme and designed the blue print of de-addiction movement.
“We started Jana Jagruthi Movement with the active involvement of the society. This programme is not Dharmasthala’s alone but inspired by Dharmasthala. Under this programme Jana Jagruthi Vedikes (Community Development Associations) were formed in all the villages. They created awareness of ‘Swasthya Sankalpa’, a programme to educated people about health hazards caused by addiction. To address addiction scientifically we organized De-addiction camps. In these camps the Addicts were treated for a period of 7 days. During the De-addiction programme they were not treated as Alcoholism or Addiction but as patients possessing all humane traits including compassion, love towards family and friends etc. These patients were brought into the camps, transformed and given a new life. To purge a patient’s mind the Patients were thought self belief, psychology and medical sciences in various sessions. The social de-addiction camps were a huge success.
If there is a leakage in one’s vessel of fortune, no matter how much you fill it, it just drains out. Likewise even though a person is capable of leading a fruitful life, addiction can drain those prospects. Thus through the ‘Jana Jagruthi Movement’ we inspired people to lead an addiction free life.
The de-addiction sessions comprises of various therapies including Counselling, Bhajans, Yoga, healthy diet, entertainment and many more activities. Patients are rejuvenated through these sessions, which help them come out of Alcoholism.
To keep in touch with de-addicts after the camps, economic strength is given to them to bring them back to the mainstream.
Post de-addiction programme “Navajeevana Samithi” was formed to provide Economic strength through loans and other financial schemes. Jana Jagruthi Vedike and Dharmasthala Rural Development have conducted more than 750 de-addiction camps across Karnataka. One of the surprising facts is that more than 50,000 people have attended the camps and close to 70% of the have quit alcohol and returned to mainstream.
The next challenge was stopping the youth from addiction; in this regard the ‘Swasthya Sankalpa’ programme was started. It included visiting schools, colleges and creating awareness amongst youth about the bright future they can have with all the health and social benefits from an addiction free life.
Jana Jagruthi Vedike is selflessly indulging in de-addiction and serving all classes of society by the help of society itself. This work of Dr.Heggade deserves the highest appreciation.
In order to curb the menace of Alcoholism which was rampant in Belthangady and parts of Dakshina Kannada, Dr.Heggade started a campaign with the slogan ಕಳಿ, ಗಂಗಸರ ಬುಡ್ಕ, ತೆಳಿಗಂಜಿ ಪರ್ಕ” (ಹೆಂಡ, ಸಾರಾಯಿ ಬಿಡೋಣ: ತಿಳಿ ಗಂಜಿ ಕುಡಿಯೋಣ). Quit liquor; drink porridge. This particular slogan was not just confined to posters and publicity material but Dr.Heggade himself led from the front by visiting families of those affected by Alcoholism to understand the problems faced by the families whose breadwinners were under the addiction of Alcohol.
Since alcoholism was prevalent among the Farmers and labourers, Dr.Heggade introduced ‘Pragathi Nidhi’ – a scheme wherein the Farmers were given loans. Dr.Heggade was also instrumental in starting ‘Self Help’ groups and these groups were also eligible to get loans to carryout various activities for their living.
As a result of these initiatives from Dr.Heggade, the poor, landless labourers, farmers have managed to build homes, give education to their children and lead a dignified life. Most importantly, they have quit their addiction to Alcohol completely and leading a very good life with their families.
On people switching over to ‘AYUSH’ form of treatment of late.
The treatment methodology prevalent now is such that to treat the ‘diseased person’; rather than the cause, but the objective behind is to remain healthy forever and prevent diseases.
Ayurveda provides treatment to remain healthy forever. It focusses on prevention of diseases. It also takes into account the various seasons and the remedies; medicines are formulated by our ancestors after indepth research on various medicinal herbs, seasons, body systems and other factors. For example: more emphasis is being given on Millets these days. However, this is not new, this had been practiced by our ancestors earlier also. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors knew which crop had to be cultivated during that particular season. Due to all these reasons Ayurveda form of treatment has to be revived and given more emphasis. The focus should be on creation of ‘Healthy Society’and lead a ‘Healthy Family’.
How Yoga is beneficial to our health.
Dr.Veerendra Heggade-ji: Yoga is not an exercise; One institution which i know introduced Yoga as a part of their Physical Education. This is not correct. Yoga is a way of life and should be practiced for a healthier life. Why i consider Yoga as very important is firstly it gives the much needed exercise to the body. A fit body will help in a creative and healthy brain. Yoga not only helps you get fitter physically but also prepares you mentally to be fit and fine.
Tips and advise to keep oneself fit and strong.
Dr.Veerendra Heggade-ji: Physical activity is very important to remain fitter and stronger in the longer run. Our Farmers have always been healthier because they work hard in the fields; wake up early in the morning and starting working in the fields, which is a rigorous physical activity. There has also been a myth nowadays that Yoga should be practiced by those who follow a sedentary life style which sans any physical exercises or confined to sitting for long hours. By doing Yoga all parts of the body get very good workout. Pranayama and breathing exercises will instill energy and keep you calm throughout the day. Energy and drive is very important and it should be maintained in the right balance throughout the day. For example an office goer feels very enthusiastic and full of energy in the first few hours in the morning; as time subsides he will feel hungry, less energy and sleepy post lunch. This is because of low energy drive in him. Practising Yogasana and following a good dietary style will help him make fit and have a great energy drive throughout the day. Yoga and Pranayama is necessary for all; be it a farmer, student, office goer, house wife etc. Regular practice of Yoga and Pranayama will build patience, resilience and make you more agile in your daily lives.
Your advice for people to follow a good dietary conforming to Ayurveda :
Dr.Veerendra Heggade-ji: Everyone loves to have tasty food. Everyone has that desire and craving to eat tasty, spicy food and desserts, sweets etc. At the time of eating such food the person will not be in a position to decide whether the food he is taking is nutritious and good for his body. Only the person consuming the food is the best judge of his body. He should know what is the right intake to his body. The fact what kind of food is good for his/her body is not known to his family, doctor or his kith and kin. Only the person who consumes the food knows which food is easy digestable to him. Which food does not suit him and makes him feel sick. The responsibility of having one’s food is the individual’s responsibility. I am not against craving of food; however, there should be a limit to consuming of food which should be best decided by individual himself.
Your take on addiction to drugs, alcohol and smoking:
Dr.Veerendra Heggade-ji: Bad practices such as alcohol addiction is in existence from thousands of years. However, there were places earmarked to those who indulged in such practices and seperated from the society in the past. There were specific places where people could indulge in such practices. However, that is not the case now. Alcohol centres, Bar, Wine shops make their presence right in front of Schools, Hospitals and Religious centres. People have to be ‘socially responsible’ to ensure these are away from such sensitive places. I would sincerely and earnestly advice all of them to quit alcohol if they are addicted to it. You are solely responsible for your health, your family, your future and shaping the society.
The response of ‘Deaddiction programmes in Belthangady’ ‘Self Help’ groups created by you:
Dr.Veerendra Heggade-ji: We have created Jana Jagruti Vedike – which has created several awareness programmes throughout Dakshina Kannada district in general and Belthangady in particular. More than 1,050 Deaddiction camps have been organized which have been hugely successfull. I am happy to inform that thousands of persons who were addicted to alcohol are now leading good lives with their families due to such programmes.
How people can use Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani and Siddha in their daily lives effectively.
Dr.Veerendra Heggade-ji: Media has an important role to promote AYUSH. I am really happy that a channel has been started specifically for AYUSH. I am really happy and i hope AYUSH T.V. attains popularity to maximum extent possible. I do not know the financial constraints behind the start of this channel; but i wholeheartedly support the objectives; vision and mission of the channel to the fullest extent. AYUSH T.V. – has been telecasting a series of educative programmes on Yoga, Healthy Food practices, Pranayama etc and i am really happy that such social transformation measures have been taken up by AYUSH T.V.
Advice to students who are pursuing Ayurveda and those who are looking forward to pursue Ayurveda in the near future:
Dr.Veerendra Heggade-ji: Every subject, course has a degree of ‘uncertainty’. The demand for a particular trade, occupation might increase or decline due to various factors. But i strongly feel that such variations are less in in the Medical sector; especially in Ayurveda. Allopathy is a highly respected profession in Medicine. I have huge respect for Allopathy. Allopathic Doctors have bright and lucrative careers, some of them wish to serve the community; particularly, the poor and needy. However, some of them are after the pleasures of life and take the profession on a commercial basis completely disregarding the service initiatives of this great profession. Doctors, irrespective of thier specialisation should not forget the service of this noble profession and continue to treat patients till their last breath. Ayurveda is a great career and students who are looking to pursue a career in Ayurveda should not hesitate and take up this profession.
Importance of people’s involvment in programmes such as ‘Roga Muktha Karnataka’ (Disease free Karnataka) and ‘Roga Muktha Bharatha’ :
Dr.Veerendra Heggade-ji: People always welcome and appreciate any good moves by the government, society or Media. One such example is Baba Ramdev teaching Yoga in a very popular T.V. channel. This show is immensely popular and watched by all. It might take time for people to differentiate between the good or bad; but over a period of time people will definitely appreciate the good. Good will always prevail over the bad.