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The Shanti Mantra (or Peace Mantra) from the Upanishads is the essence of all religions and this mantra finds its culmination in the Indian temple town of Dharmasthala or Shri Kshetra Dharmasthala which is situated on the banks of the Nethravathi River in the Dakshina Kannada district in Karnataka. The town is built on and is a perfect embodiment of the ideals of religious tolerance, the confluence of faith, and selfless dedication. Dharmasthala displays all the shades of the meaning of the word dharma (traditionally, religion, ritual, righteousness, duty, alms, piety, as well as justice, truthfulness, freedom from fear, solace, peace, and fulfillment). The word sthala (site or place) adds an element of activeness to the ideal of dharma such that the town not only touches but also makes a “transformational difference” in the lives of all men and mankind in real-time. Dharmasthala abides by the principles that everyone should live together, eat together, and grow together without any kind of enmity. Three different faiths are followed in harmony not only within the boundaries of the Dharmasthala temple complex but the entire town is also imbued with the spirit of oneness. The Jain Tirthankara-s (spiritual teacher and savior of dharma) are worshipped on the same holy grounds as the native dharma daiva-s and Lord Manjunatha (trans., ‘Lord of the Snow’, an avatar of Lord Shiva). The people who live in Dharmasthala or the pilgrims who visit the town are not divided on the basis of religion, faith, caste, creed, or gender. 800 years ago, according to a popular legend, Dharmasthala was known as Kuduma in Mallarmadi, then a village in Belthangady. A Jain chieftain of the Tulu lineage by the name Birmanna Pergade (later Heggade, a derivative from the Tulu word Pergade) and his wife Ammu Ballathi lived in a house called Nelliadi Beedu and was well-known for their hospitality and generosity. This house was located close to the Chandranatha Swamy Basadi. Four dharma daiva-s or guardian angels of dharma – Kalarkai, Kalarahu, Kumarswamy, and Kanyakumari assumed human form and visited Pergade’s dwelling and instructed the couple to provide shelter, free education, and food to the destitute. Pleased by their hospitality, generosity, and observance of dharma, the dharma daiva-s reappeared in Pergade’s dream and explained the purpose of their visit. They also instructed Pergade to vacate Nelliadi Beedu and use it solely for the worship of the dharma daiva-s and dedicate his life to the propagation of dharma thereafter. In return the dharma daiva-s promised Pergade and his future generations protection, renown, and abundance of charity. Pergade immediately built another abode besides and left Nelliadi Beedu wherein he built four shrines dedicated to the worship of the four daiva-s. Nelliadi Beedu has since then only been used as a place of worship of the four dharma data-s as well as a place which is renowned for its hospitality to all. Pergade was also asked by the daiva-s to choose two people of noble birth as well as four worthy people to act as the heads of the four shrines and assist Pergade in his duties. Soon, Pergade invited Brahmin priests to perform rituals at the four shrines. It was then that these Brahmins requested him to install a Shivalinga besides the shrines. Hearing this, the daiva-s sent Annappa Swamy, their vassal to obtain the linga of Lord Manjunatha from a pond at Kadri near Mangalore. The Manjunatheshwara Temple was built around this Shivalinga. When in the 16th century, Devaraja Heggade (descendent of Birmanna Pergade) invited Shri Vadiraja Swami of Udupi to visit Nelliadi Beedu, he came but refused to accept bhiksha (alms and food offering) because he felt that the idol of Lord Manjunatha had not been installed according to proper Vedic rites. Heggade then requested Annappa Swamy to reconsecrate the same himself which Annappa Swamy did by observing all the Vedic rites. Annappa Swamy himself named the site Dharmasthala (or the abode of charity, religion, and righteousness). Even today, upon visiting Neliyadi Beedu, pilgrims would notice that the ideal of selfless dedication and the customs which were started by Pergade and his wife have not only persisted but have also been strengthened by the 21 generations of the Heggade family since Birmanna Pergade. Shri Manjayya Heggade (1889-1955, administrator of Dharmasthala from 1918 to 1955) and Shri Ratnavarma Heggade (administrator of Dharmasthala from 1955 to 1968) are regarded as the architects of the present-day Dharmasthala as it was because of their efforts that the temple town came to occupy a place on the pilgrims’ map. They also did everything possible to make the pilgrims feel welcome and comfortable at Dharmasthala by providing them with the best possible facilities when it came to accommodation and amenities including hostels for the destitute which to date provide free shelter and food. Dharmasthala is truly a modern city as Shri Ratnavarma Heggade also established educational institutions in the town. His descendant, Shri Veerendra Heggade (b. 1948, present administrator or Dharmadhikari of Dharmasthala and the 21st in line), like his forefathers, abides by his duty of propagating dharma as dictated by the dharma daiva-s. He also ensures that the rituals are accurately observed in the temple of Lord Manjunatha. Having observed the ideal of dharma for the past 21 generations and fulfilled their duties to be just and righteous, the Heggade-s have acquired an “aura of divinity” and become the earthly representatives of the dharma daiva-s and Lord Manjunatha. As a result, the Heggade-s have had and still have a lot of religious, social, and cultural duties which include organizing annual mass marriages, promoting the fine arts, as well as ensuring that the four traditional dana-s (donation) – anna-dana, aushadha-dana, vidya-dana, and abhaya-dana (donations of food, medicine, education, and freedom from fear respectively) regularly take place. The Heggade-s are also supposed to act as the emissaries of Lord Manjunatha and as saviors and caretakers of law (similar to the judiciary) which they ensure by resolving civil complaints (referred to as hailu-s) by giving their verdict which is accepted with reverence and as law by civilians of all faiths, caste, and creed without any question. Not only this but the verdict given by the Heggade-s is accepted by all civil courts of the country. Veerendra Heggade is also known for having established numerous schools, colleges, and courses across Karnataka. Further, he has introduced various schemes for women, farmers, and the unemployed. Dharmasthala is also known for being an important center for learning yoga in the country and Veerendra Heggade has introduced many schemes related to the learning of yoga. The science of Ayurveda and natural therapy are also given special provisions in this town. The Heggade family has given way to numerous trusts, each of which looks after different matters such as the Dharmatana trust which takes care of renovating ancient temples, and the Shanthivana trust which has led to the creation of numerous health and peace schemes. For his contribution to society and mankind, Veerandra Heggade has been honored with many awards over the years. The most notable among these are the Padma Bhushan Award (2000), the Karnataka Ratna title (2009), an honorary doctorate from Karnatak University (2010), and the Padma Vibhushan Award (2015). The town of Dharmasthala “has always been a patron of art and culture”. The Heggade family maintains a touring Yakshagana troop (a form of traditional theatre which developed in parts of Karnataka and Kerala and combines music, dance, dialogue, make-up, costume, and numerous stage techniques), encourages the flow of new ideas, and hosts the annual Sarva Dharma Sammelana and Sahitya Sammelana as the continuation of the traditions of the kshetra and to spread the knowledge of religious tolerance. The worship of Lord Manjunatha at Dharmasthala often overshadows the fact that the town has also been the seat of the Jain Tirthankara-s for centuries and has remained as one of the most important Digambara shrines of South India. The Dharmadhikari is truly the key to every activity connected to the worship of Lord Manjunatha. However, to this day, he has retained the Jain faith of the Pergade lineage. This is evident through the Trikala puja that is performed at the Shri Chandranatha Swami Basadi which continues to be an important center of Jainism to date. The Dharmadhikari carries out all the rituals at the Shri Chandranatha Swami Temple just the way he performs all the rituals at the Shri Manjunatheshwara Temple. Dharmasthala is said to be “a miracle of paradoxes for those who come in curiosity”. Truly, the confluence of faiths, the service of all men and mankind, and the pious devotion to God and man alike are what make Dharmasthala unique. Consequently, when it comes to seeking alms or peace, there is no place better than Dharmasthala to come to. The temple town is truly a multifaceted kshetra (a bahurupi or a place with many forms and faces) wherein dharma and karma become one. In other words, Dharmasthala is the embodiment of the ideal that dharma is in karma or one’s actions.