Sudhansu R Das
His dwelling place is a small temple like structure located at the height of 4,000 meters between Tsomgo Lake and Kupup Valley in east Gangtok towards Indo China border. His bed, shoes, sleepers and a few household items are cleaned and kept in proper place every day. The soldiers there who look after the shrine say the bed gets crumbled in the morning and the shoes get wet and muddy every day. A bunker is still there right behind the temple from where he fought the intruding Chinese army in 1962. There is a small three feet deep water hole where tourists throw coin and try to find it. It is believed those who trace their coin, their wishes are fulfilled. Major Baba Harbhajan Singh as he is known among the natives continues to guard India’s border in Sikkim even after his death in 1968 due to an accident. He was caught in an avalanche and lost his life. Later a shrine was built by the Indian soldiers which is widely known as Baba Mandir.
Since then Baba Harbhajan Singh has been the guiding angel for thousands of Indian soldiers who brave the snow and chilly wind to guard India’s border in Sikkim. The soldiers feel there is somebody to protect them in this cold and desolate place. The news of Baba passing on intelligence inputs to Indian soldiers from across the border is widely circulated. Hundreds of tourist taxi drivers here believe Baba comes to their rescue when they are in difficult time.
“Once my taxi slid out of road and was heading sharp down only to be locked in a tree branch. I escaped unscathed with little damage to my taxi due to Baba’s grace,” reminisces Narayan, a taxi driver from Sikkim. The belief of Major Harbhajan Singh’s omnipresence and his timely help to natives and soldiers trapped in snow storm or caught in deep gorge is very strong in this Himalayan kingdom. Even the Chinese soldiers have started believing the Baba’s presence. A chair is placed for him during the Flag meeting between Indian and Chinese soldiers at Nathula Gate.
Interestingly, Baba Harbhajan Singh is treated as a regular army personnel and he is granted leave to visit his native place at Kuka Village in Kapurthala district of Punjab every year. In September month an army jeep departs with his suitcase and beddings to the nearest railway station at Jalpaiguri. Whether Major Harbhajan Singh really guards Indo China border or not the belief has boosted the confidence of the Indian soldiers in this inhospitable region.Baba Mandir has become a must see tourist destination as thousands of tourists visit this place every year. Sikkim is one of the rarest ecologically balanced places in the world. Thanks to the fear of Baba’s punishment which let natives and soldiers protect the rich flora and fauna of this region. The income from tourism in Sikkim is more than Rs 230 crore per annum and is increasing every year. The belief indirectly serves the economy, works as a moral booster for the army personnel and helps preserve the biodiversity of this region.