Asia-Pacific, India

Baba Harbhajan Singh The Dead Lifesaver

This is a complementary piece of our August 2017 Issue: Death

Do supernatural elements exist? Is there omnipresence and omnipotence? Is there life after death? Some questions have always remained unanswered. And their remainder as unanswered questions is rather soothing compared to the attempt to answer them.

One Question

One such supernatural question has always been lingering about in a rather strange place, named Nathu La, which is the border between the state of Sikkim in India and China occupied Tibet. ‘Nathu La Pass’ is the name of the border between the two countries and protecting the region even after his death for almost 49 years now is believed to be a soldier deployed in Nathu La in 1965 named Harbhajan Singh.

Who is this Dead Protector?

Shocked? Justified. It is rather shocking but true. There exist among the serene beauty of Nathu La almost about 60 km’s from Gangtok, a shrine of Baba Harbhajan Singh popularly known as the Baba Mandir. Harbhajan Singh was a soldier of the Indian Army who enlisted in the army in the year 1956 and posted to Nathula in 1965. His death in 1968 was a mysterious one as the official version is in contrast with the legend that is told. Officially, Harbhajan died at the age of 22 as a victim of one among the many clashes that happened between the Indian Army and PLA. However, legend describes Harbhajan’s death by drowning in a glacier while he led a column of mules who were carrying supplies.

Legend says Harbhajan himself instructed the search team help find his dead body by guiding a fellow soldier through a dream describing his whereabouts. His whereabouts or just his body’s? Nevermind. It’s said that he also told the fellow soldier to build a shrine in his name. He was cremated with well deserving military honors and awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, which is the second highest military decoration in India.

Baba Harbhajan Singh in his Mortal Days

Harbhajan Singh was born in Gujjarawala district in the state of Punjab on 30th of August 1946. In 1956 he enrolled as a soldier into the Signal Corps. Later in 1965 he was granted with a commission and transferred to 14 Rajput Regiment and 18 Rajput shortly after where he served in the unit as Adjutant in Sikkim until his death.

The Savior Baba

A shrine was built and is still being maintained for Baba Harbhajan Singh in Chhokya Chho. Fellow army men claim that Harbhajan will warn them in the case of attacks from the other side and has been protecting them for decades. It is claimed that he patrols the international border and has been doing it ever since his death.

Spooky? It gets spookier. Even the army men on the other side claim to have seen a figure mounted on a horse patrolling the border all alone. The whole of Sikkim believes and worships Baba Harbhajan Singh. The army men posted in the unit carry his photograph in their wallets and their automobiles in the hope that Baba will protect and warn them of any danger in advance.

Life After Death

The army also believes in the legends. He was promoted to the rank of Honorary Captain and treats him as if alive. A paycheck is regularly sent to his family, and the unit grants him an annual leave on 14th of September every year for a month. All his belongings are sent home to Kapurthala with tickets booked by the army itself and are brought back after a month. This is the time when added measures are taken by the army as their savior is away. Reinforcements are added, and the regiment is alerted until Baba’s return. He officially retired a few years ago. Even today during important flag meetings, a seat is left empty for Baba, both on the Indian and the Chinese side as an expression of respect.

Baba Mandir

His shrine has attracted a large number of visitors over the years, and his devotees have increased manifold. His shrine is a three room structure including his bed and personal belongings, a photograph and all household materials required for a person including utensils, clothes, shoes, and uniforms.

Another room is filled with water bottles which are kept by the devotees as they believe that the water kept in the shrine for a week turn holy and has healing properties used by believers to cure various ailments. Every Sunday and Tuesday of the week, free meals are distributed in the shrine throughout the year.

On 4th of October every year, a ceremony is organized by the Indian Army in memory of Harbhajan Singh and all fellow soldiers who lost their lives defending their territory.

About Akash Krishnan

Akash is currently an English Literature student at Delhi University, learning the fine nuances and reading between the lines of some of the finest literature ever produced. Hailing from an entrepreneurial background, Akash has acquired a sharp eye for economic dynamics and policies, technological advancements, and staying updated on current affairs with a deep interest in global socio-political history. A military school alumnus, Akash values discipline, accountability and unity above all else. When not out and about fathoming the vast knowledge of the world, Akash finds unmatched pleasure in playing music and going on adventures to new, unknown locales.

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