Death of the Masala Emperor, ‘MDH Dadaji’

Remembering the ubiquitous icon and his story of survival in the darkest times India’s known.

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Mahashay Dharampal Gulati in an MDH TV commercial, 2017. (MDH)

Michaela Stone Cross


December 3, 2020

Mahashay Dharampal Gulati, known mostly as the “MDH Dadaji,” survived most of the 20th century, but couldn’t survive 2020. His death was announced Thursday morning, after his heart stopped while he was undergoing treatment in Delhi’s Mata Chanan Devi Hospital. The 98-year-old “Spice King’s” demise came as a shock; he was memed across the world for his avuncular immortality, his face familiar in South Asian homes around the world. Red-turbaned, pointed mustache, neck wrapped in a string of pearls, he gazed from boxes of Channa Masala and Pav Bhaji spice mix, popping up in commercials as everyone’s grandfather to MDH’s catchy “asli masale sach sach” tune. Hearing about the death of masala’s “immortal chacha” is like hearing about the death of Santa Claus — he was a familiar presence in a year that has been nothing but cacophony and change. 

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