USA Doctor Gives Legacy For Village of His Youth: Dr. and Mrs. Gowda
The recently retired Dr. C.K. Hiranya Gowda, 72, still seems mildly surprised that he survived his childhood. At age eight, he walked with four other children three miles each day from his village to attend middle school in Mulabagal town in Southern India. The trip entailed twice-a-day passage through a forest and occasional confrontations with cobras, bears and wild elephants. As a Mulabagal high school student, he felt fortunate to have avoided the perils of plague, cholera, small pox, diphtheria, typhoid and malaria that cut short the lives of some of his classmates.
Surviving these dangers, he studied medicine at Mysore Medical College, completing in 1960 his MBBS, the equivalent of an MD in the United States. He married Saraswathi Devi in 1961 and moved with her to the United States where he continued his medical training. A journey that started with a young child padding through an Indian rain forest led to a forty-year medical career as a teacher and practitioner of Otolaryngology, the diagnosis and treatment of ear, nose, throat, and head and neck disorders.
Now with his professional career behind him, Dr. Gowda and his wife continue to help children from small villages in India like his own. They have done so both directly and through a fund he and his wife have established at the Hindu Heritage Endowment. "I am very passionate about the philosophy of the Hindu religion," Dr. Gowda said. "The Hindu scripture was given by God. But Hinduism is not monolithic. People pray in many different ways. Hinduism respects those paths." His devotion to Hinduism continued in the United States where he became a founding member of the Hindu Cultural Center of Tennessee in 1980 and helped build the magnificent Sri Ganesha Temple in Nashville. He wanted to repair and build temples in India as well.
"In our small village we had no temple, no place to reflect together and set goals for ourselves," he said. His plans to build a Sri Ganesha Temple in his home village of Chamaraddahally began to unfold during his annual visit in September 2006. "We held the groundbreaking ceremony with villagers and former villagers attending. Their enthusiasm was overwhelming." The Gowdas have also funded the repair of five temples serving small villages in Mulabagal Taluk. In 1985, they underwrote the completion of a water supply system in his home village, complete with a bore well and a storage tank for the 500 villagers. "This was a preventive medicine project," he said. "There have been almost no gastroenteritis cases in my village since then."
Dr. and Mrs. Gowda have adopted five children in India through the Adopt-a-Child program of Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, supported a variety of high schools in India, and funded student scholarships. The couple believes deeply in preserving Hindu religion and culture. Their fund at the Hindu Heritage Endowment aims to build one small Hindu temple for every five villages. "We hope to bring together successful people from these villages and encourage them to contribute financially to building these monuments to preserve Hinduism" (Contributions to HHE Fund #55 are tax-deductible for US residents). Dr. Gowda has returned to India almost every year since 1971, lecturing at medical schools and treating patients without charge. The breadth of the Gowdas' interests is reflected in their charitable remainder trust, which lists 18 causes including the Hinduism Today Complimentary Subscription Fund and the Karnataka Temple Development Fund with HHE, the Red Cross, the Nashville Rescue Mission and the Elephant Sanctuary in Howenwald, Tennessee.
The Hindu Heritage Endowment is pleased to enroll Dr. C.K. Hiranya Gowda and Saraswathi Devi Gowda as members of its Legacy Sangha which honors those who have included HHE in their estate plan.