47-year-old from Belagavi on mission to 'save gods'

A Belagavi resident is on a crusade to collect idols and photo frames of gods and goddesses, dumped by roadsides or trees, and dispose them of scientifically

Published: 26th June 2022 05:55 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th June 2022 05:34 PM   |  A+A-

Veeresh Hiremath

Express News Service

BELAGAVI: What does one do with old, torn, broken photo frames of revered gods? Worshipping photographs of gods and goddesses is common in Indian homes, and when they become frayed and torn, people are nonplussed about how to dispose of them. The frames ultimately end up at the foot of trees near temples, in corners on footpaths, base of electric poles, and on the banks of rivers. Sometimes, devotees even throw them into the flowing river.

Realising this problem, Veeresh Hiremath (47), a resident of Belagavi, has started a mission to pick up photo frames and idols of gods and dispose of them scientifically. He is also educating people that leaving them on roads is an insult, after worshipping them for years.

Hiremath, a native of Rajhansgad village of Belagavi taluk, 16km from Belagavi city, works as a Public Relations Officer at Vijaya Ortho and Trauma Centre (VOTC) Hospital in Belagavi. After office hours, he is on duty on the roads, removing photographs of gods and giving them a proper place. Till now, he has collected at least five truckloads of photo frames and idols, and disposed of them scientifically.

Born in a farming family, Veeresh would take his livestock grazing after school hours. He loved collecting pictures of gods from dumped photo frames and invitation cards. Today, he has become a crusader, doing his bit to dispose of these objects of reverence, thrown carelessly in public places.

The fire to bring about a change in society was sparked in Veeresh during the lockdown imposed in 2020 for the Covid-19 pandemic. Making use of his free time, Veeresh teamed up with his friends under the banner ‘Sarva Lokaseva Foundation’ and started full-fledged work, visiting the surrounding villages.
Veeresh shares his mobile number and appeals to people to share photographs and locations of dumped photo frames. Every weekend, they collect the photo frames and idols, and store them on farmland owned by social worker Yallojirao Patil on Bauxite Road in Belagavi.

With the help of four photo frame makers, Veeresh disposes of the frames scientifically. They separate glass, cardboard, wood frames, nails and photos of gods. The wood and board are given away as fuel to cook food for the poor, while the glass is given to foundries for recycling. The photographs of deities are burnt after swamis and purohits perform certain rituals.

They have also put up a board asking people to contact Sarva Lokaseva Foundation to hand over photo frames, instead of leaving them on roadsides. Appreciating his deed, seers say, “People worship God for moksha, but Veeresh is working to give moksha to Gods.”  Seeing his work, many people have started contacting him to hand over unwanted photo frames. Frames which are in good condition are put up on his WhatsApp status for those who wish to collect them, for free. He also gets calls for photo frames of specific gods, or personalities such as Basaveshwara, Dr BR Ambedkar, Chhattrapathi Shivaji and others.

Aims to set up Deva Bhoomi I plan to set up a ‘Deva Bhoomi’ in the centre of Belagavi, where anyone can keep used photos for free. As we receive some good quality photo frames, some people call us for them. I also plan to start ‘Ghanta Gadi’, which visits people on Sundays and collects photo frames from their doorstep.

Veeresh and his team have also taken up planting saplings of holy trees such as ‘Bilva Patra’, also called Bengal quince, Banni Mara, also called shami, banyan, peepal and neem trees. They plant only one or two saplings at temples, so they are easy to maintain. Asked why they chose these trees, Veeresh says they are considered holy in Hinduism, and people fear the curse of God if they remove these trees. We aim to plant 1008 ‘Bilva Patra’ saplings this year, said Veeresh.  



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