India is a secular country with home to various religions, with residences of their deities located across the country.
But did we know, our country is also the home to the temple of a deity who once served the nation as an Indian soldier – Baba Harbhajan Singh. Locals believe spirit of the legend still guards the border. An annual holiday is celebrated in September in the memory of the saint.
Yes that’s true, not only Indian jawaans but Baba is still popular among the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), who also believes in the subject of this legend.
Harbajan Singh served as a Sentry of the Punjab Regiment. Posted at the China border, Singh used to be a part of the border patrol force. In October 1968, with no concrete evidence, he suddenly disappeared. People believes he fell into a stream and drowned. Even after a long search operation, his body could not be found.
After a few days, he reappeared in the dream of a colleague, addressing him the exact location of his body. Thereby, asking the sentry to erect a shrine on his name.
Located between Nathula and Jelepla Pass at an altitude of 13,123 ft and 52 kms away from Gangtok, Baba Harbajan Singh is popularly known as Baba Mandir.
Unique in many ways, you don’t need to take off your shoes to enter the temple. It does not incorporate of any priest. More of a museum, the temple consists of five rooms with belongings of the saint. There are brass bust statues of the Baba, his uniforms, his beds, his personal effects and his photos.
Something more interesting is the annual leave, that he is availed with. Even he goes to his hometown, after attaining the leave. A rail berth is booked in his name while moving into his hometown via a train from New Jalpaiguri to his Punjab village. Two soldiers accompany “Baba “ in his journey. His bed is made on the berth, along with the photo and his uniform, laid out on the seat. As believed, the bed shows distinct signs of use the next morning. The temple does not open up during the period of his “leave”. After a month of his return, business is resumed back. Even his salary is still sent to his home at Punjab.
Infact, Chinese soldiers across the border have also seen a turbaned soldier, who comes in a horse to guard the nation. People believe it is Baba Harbhajan Singh who protect the soldiers.
According to reports, even sentries here believe that Harbhajan comes to protect the country every night as his bedsheet, (his belonging kept in the museum) remains crumpled every morning, while, his polished shoes turn muddy by the evening.
Bhuvan Bam and Divya Dutta visited the place for their short-documentary movie titled ‘Plus Minus’, based on Baba’s legacy. Directed by Jyoti Kapur Das, the documentary won the Best Short Film at the 64th Filmfare Awards.