Sri Hanumanbagas Gilda, 97, Leaves a Rich Legacy of Wisdom

By Manu Shah

On 5th December, Sri Hanumanbagas Gilda woke up at his usual hour and asked one of his caretakers to give him a bath. The man was puzzled by this unusual request as Sri Hanumanbagasji normally had a bath later in the day. At 9:16 am, the patriarch of the Gilda family breathed his last peacefully in his ancestral town of Sedam, Karnataka. His son Govind Lalji says that his father “never troubled anyone” all his life and after his mother’s death lived independently in the family’s ancestral house with three people who took care of his needs. 

A highly respected man, Sri Hanumanbagasji was 97 years old when he passed away, but left behind a legacy of wisdom for “those who were fortunate to know him.” At 6 feet tall, he was in relatively good health till his last days and attributed it to a lifelong ethic of hard work.

An early riser, he abstained from addictive habits like tea, led a spartan life and would often remark that his health was by “God’s grace” He was never admitted to a hospital, nor did he suffer from any illnesses such as blood pressure or diabetes. He devoted some time every day to prayer and scriptural study and had an aura of saintliness in the final years of his life.

The most striking trait about him, his grandchildren recall, was his genuine concern for people. When asked how he was doing, he would, in chaste Marwari, reply “The raja khushi raho, byo hi mane raja khushi bana de”(If you’re doing well, that’ll make me happy). As decided by his brothers and him, after his death, the ancestral house will be handed over to a charitable organization.

Sri Hanumanbagasji was not born to riches and luxuries but created his wealth little by little with years of hard work and determination. As a young boy, he worked as a cashier – a job that paid him a paltry 1500 rupees a year. He would go to bed late at night and wake up early to catch the train from Sedam to Hyderabad and back again. At the age of 14, his parents got him married.  Since they didn’t attach too much importance to education, he had to give up his studies, despite his wish to finish high school, and began earning for his family at the age of fifteen.

He would walk 12 kms every day when he was setting up his stone business and was a pioneer in the mining business in Karnataka.  An innate business acumen and knack for accounting led to a string of successful businesses. He also took his responsibility as head of the family seriously and ensured that his brothers were settled, and parents well taken care of. The Sri Kottala Basaveshwara Bharateeya Shikshana Samiti, a charitable organization in a heartfelt tribute, called attention to his many philanthropic endeavors including the establishment of the Sheth Sri Tulsiram Gilda Nrupatunga First Grade Degree college and the Smt. Nirmala Devi Gilda School, Inter College and Degree College for Girls in Sedam. Thousands of students have passed from the colleges. Former Member of Parliament Baswaraj Patil also admired him and often sought his guidance.

He lived through the British administration, the Nizam’s rule and  independent India. He was infuriated when the Nizam of Hyderabad imposed restrictions on placing deities in temples. His success in erecting a temple in Sedam during the Nizam’s rule is just one instance of his enterprising undertakings. The Maheshwari community in the village was successful in building the temple but were not allowed to install the deity. Instead, they installed a picture of Bhagwan Laxminarayan and Sri Hanumanbagasji remained the temple’s managing trustee for many years.

Every evening at 4 pm, Sri Hanumanbagasji would sit on his verandah with a packet of chocolates and distribute it to all the children who came to greet him. When his sons Govind Lalji and Ramakantji  asked him to move to Hyderabad and stay with them, Sri Hanumanbagasji would serenely remark, “I have 100 sons here but only two in Hyderabad.” He would live in Sedam all his life.   

In yet another incident, Vijay narrates how he rarely argued with his mother but on one occasion, he was traveling to Hyderabad with her and was running late.  In the interests of time, he requested his mother to forgo the visit to the Hanuman temple, but she was insistent. When they reached Hyderabad, he complained to his Nanaji and assumed that he would side with Vijay. Instead, his grandfather explained that finding excuses not to visit the temple can easily become a habit.

His great granddaughter Radhika remembers how he would wear his formal cap when the family was leaving and apply the tilak, feed them a betel leaf and press some money in their hands as a token of his love and blessings. Before she left for her higher studies in London, she went to meet him to ask for his blessings and promised him that she would come to see him when she returned. In what turned out to be prophetic, he told her that they may not meet again.

Radhika can still evoke the taste of the betel leaf and his hand on her head.

With inputs from his grandchildren — Vijay Pallod, Sneha Gilda and great granddaughter Radhika Pallod.