India is a land of cultural and religious diversity. There are millions of temples and other places of worship dedicated to different deities. Some of these shrines are so unusual that it might be hard to believe the facts and rituals associated with them.
One of these unusual temples is the Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple. So far, you would have heard of soldiers protecting the country from enemies while alive, but the deity of this temple is a soldier of the Indian Army who is believed to be protecting the border even 48 years after his death.
Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple is situated in a beautiful valley at a short distance from the Nathula Pass in Sikkim.
Baba Harbhajan Singh, the deity of Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple was a soldier of the 23rd Battalion of the Punjab Regiment. Many of his believers refer to him as the “Baba” and have given him the status of a saint. He is revered among soldiers of the Indian Army who built his shrine as the “Hero of Nathula”.
Harbhajan Singh drowned and died in the year 1968 in Sikkim. After three days on intensive search, his body was found and cremated. According to army folklore, Singh appeared in a dream to one of his fellow soldiers and asked him to build a memorial for him. Soldiers of his regiment constructed the memorial which has now come to be considered a shrine. The temple presently has three rooms, one serving as his office, one storeroom and one living room.
According to widely held mythology in the military men of that area, Baba Harbhajan Singh not only safeguards the close-to 3000 military men of Nathula Brigade guarding the border with China at a feet of 14,000 feet but also gives them a notice three days in advance of any attack.
The temple is guarded by uniformed military personnel from the nearby army unit who stands barefoot at the door of the temple. Some soldiers of the unit also polish Baba’s boots, make his bead, clean his uniform and move his portrait between the office and the bedroom in the temple. The soldiers cite that they find Baba’s boots muddy and his bed linen crumpled.
At present, Baba is an honorary Captain in the army and has been moving up the ranks even after his death. His salary is sent to his family regularly. When he is supposed to visit his home, which, according to popular belief, happens on September 13 every year, a berth is booked for him on the Dibrugarh Express. Three soldiers accompany his portrait and suitcase to Kuke village in Kapurthala district of Punjab, where he is greeted with a lot of enthusiasm.
His existence and the beliefs associated with it are not restricted to the Indian Army alone. This is very well proved by the fact that Chinese Army sets a chair aside for Baba Harbhajan Singh during all its customary flag meetings with the Indian Army.