He has defeated dead. Believe it or not but it is true, one of its kind of story in the world- a man from an Indian army in a Nathula border is still doing his duty even after his death some three decades back.
60 km from Gangtok towards the panoramic view of the Nathula landscape a road leads towards the valley of Kupup. Here is the shrine of Baba Harbhajan popularly known as Baba Mandir. Baba Harbhajan has been guarding the international boundary of the two Asian giants, the China and India over the last three decades. But believe me he does it alone. Even the army men on the other side of the International Wall confirm that they had seen a man riding a horse all alone patrolling the border.
Born in Brondal village of Kapurthala, Punjab Harbhajan Singh joined the 23rd Punjab Battalion on February 1966 as a sepoy. The year of 1968 when the states of Sikkim and North Bengal was under the rage of great natural catastrophic where landslides, floods and heavy rain had taken thousands of lives across the two states. On October 4, 1968 sepoy Harbhajan Singh was escorting a mule caravan from his battalion headquarters in Tekula to Dengchukla, he fell into a fast flowing stream and was drowned. Search for Sepoy Harbhajan was made with no results it was on the fifth day of the missing, his colleague Pritam Singh had a dream of Harbhajan Singh informing him of his tragic incident and his dead body being found under the heap of snows. Harbhajan Singh desired to have a samadhi made after him. Pritam Singh ignored the dream as just as an imagination but later when the body of Sepoy Harbhajan Singh was found at the spot where Harbhajan Singh had informed the army official was taken aback and to mark respect and towards his wish a samadhi was constructed near Chhokya Chho.
Baba Harbhajan Singh warns the dangerous activities on the border through the dreams of fellow army men. Even Chinese army men believe to have seen a human figure doing patrolling in the night across the border. Baba Harbhajan Singh is today honoured the rank of Honorary Captain and his samadhi reconstructed at the junction of Kupup Gnathang road and the pathway leading to Menmoichu Lake as apart of the watershed memorial complex.
Over the years the shrine of Baba Harbhajan has obtain huge devote across all frontiers. Baba is respected and worshiped by every army men in Sikkim. They believe Baba would forecast accident in the valley much ahead of the happening.
Baba Mandir is three room structures. The central room has a large portrait of the Baba along with other Hindu deity and Sikh Gurus. To the right of the central room is the personal room of Baba. The room has every household belongings required for daily activities, from clothes, shoes, slippers and a neat sleeping bed, it is all well maintained. The uniforms are neatly ironed and shoes polished ready for use. Opposite to this room is a small room that has an office cum store room. The room is filled with water bottles, unused slippers, tooth brushes and other items offered to Baba. The followers believe that the water kept in the Mandir after a week would turn into holy water and cure every ailment. People believe that the slippers kept here would help patients with gout and other foot problems and so on. That devotee who cannot visit the shrine sends letters to Baba that is opened by the associate of Baba. These letters usually have the request for the Baba to help solve personal problems and the gratitude for being helped.
Every October 4 a special ceremony is organized by the Indian army out here to honour the role of Baba Harbhajan Singh as well as the mytars of Indian army who laid their lives for the safeguard of the country. Every Sunday and Tuesday throughout the year puja is observed at Baba Mandir where free meals are distributed among the devotees. These are the best days to visit Baba Mandir for any visitors.
Despite the blessing of the Baba the armies at Nathula border are in high alert when Baba goes on an annual leave from September 15 to November 15 every year. Even leaves for other army men during the months are cancelled and extra cautions are sought after.
This true legend of Baba Harbhajan is only next to the significance of Lord Kanchenjunga for the people of Sikkim.
Photo: Rajib Mukherjee
Article Courtesy: Proud to be a Sikkimese
Donggala, Sulawesi Tengah
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