Baba Harbhajan Singh Shrine, Baba Mandir , Nathu La, Sikkim :
Located between Nathula and Jelepla pass at an altitude of 13,123 ft and about 52kms from Gangtok, Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple is popularly known as Baba Mandir. Baba Mandir is a distinguished sightseeing place of Sikkim. The Baba Harbhajan Shrine at Natu La holds special signifance for the men in uniform.
Baba Harbhajan was born on 30th August 1946 at village Sadrana of District Gujranwala (presently in Pakistan ). On 9th February 1966, he got enrolled into the Punjab Regiment of India Army as a sepoy. Serving with 23 Punjab in East Sikkim in 1968, Babaji expired on 4th October 1968 while escorting a mule column from Tuku La to Dongchui La. The death occurred when he slipped and fell into a nullah. The fast current carried his body for 2 kms from the site of accident.It is widely belived that Sepoy Harbhajan Singh appeared in the dreams of a colleague and requested for his “Samadhi” to be constructed. The Unit, in keeping with belief constructed a “Samadhi” approximately 09 kms from the present site. For the convenience of the visitors, the new Baba Mandir was constructed at the present location on 11 November 1982.
There is a believe that water kept at Baba Harbhajan Shrine and later consumed by the ailing person cures him. Therefore devotees place bottles of water in the name of the ailing person and later take it away. This blessed water has to be consumed over a period of 21 days and no member of the family is supposed to consume any non-vegetarian food during this period.
The ceremonial flag mast has been installed to further divine patriotic blessings of Baba Harbhajan. This flaf mast was sponsored by the ‘ Flag Foundation of India” headed by Shri Naveen Jindal, Hon’ble Member of Parliament. The National flag was ceremonially unfurled for the first time on this mast on 4th April’14 by Lt. Gen K J Singh, AVSM, GOC Trishakti Corps. The Tiranga or Tricolour, our national Flag, is a beautiful combination of equal proportion of Saffron on the top, signifying courage and sacrifice, White in the middle signifying purity and good and Green at the bottom denoting growth and auspiciousness. The Chakra in the centre of the White band is a wheel with 24 spokes in Navy Blue signifying the “ Dharma Chakra “ that stands for life in movement and death in stagnation.
The Baba Harbhajan Shrine at Natu La holds special signifance for the men in uniform. To pay homage and seek Baba’s blessings, Units deployed on the watershed and those frequenting the operational area from the hinterland have placed plaques on the wall to commemorate their stay in the sector. Project for placing plaques near the Baba Harbhajan Shrine was conceptualised by Commander, 63 Mountain Brigade to provide uniformity and aesthetic sense to the surroundings. Units which have served under Trishakti Corps and other formations have placed their Plaques for the blessings of Baba Harbhajan Singh. The plaques represents their belief and devotion towards this revered shrine. The project was undertaken and completed by 18 JAK RIF ( Agrim Atharah ) under the aegis of 63 Mountain Brigade.
In fact there have been reports that Chinese soldiers across the border having seen a turbaned sentry doing his rounds at night. Many sentries here believe that Harbhajan comes here every night as his camp bed sheet gets crumpled every morning and his polished shoes turn muddy by the evening. While Harbhajan Singh is dead since long, his live memories have resulted in several actions from the army which is rarely seen. Out of sheer belief that he his spirit is still around, he has been promoted to the rank of honorary Captain.
Every year during his annual leave, Harbhajan is known to visit his hometown in Punjab even today although he is well past his retirement age. Every year on 11 September two soldiers actually accompany his uniform in a jeep up to Siliguri then in a train to his hometown. In fact his salary is still sent to his home. On one side of the temple is Harbhajan Sing's Office where he is believed to be carrying out his day to day work. Next to it is his dining place. A room has his bed, shoes and uniform. There is a souvenir shop here and a cafe. Over the years the temple has become a place of pilgrimage. Inside the temple you will find large photo of turbaned Harbhanaj Sing which is worshipped. You will often find that army trucks passing by stop here and soldiers come and offer quick prayers before proceeding. Although this temple is on a roadside, it is surrounded by mountains in all sides and the views all around are magnificent. If you are lucky, you will get lots of snows here, particularly after October. Some Indian soldiers believe that in the event of a war between India and China, Baba would warn the Indian soldiers of an impending attack at least three days in advance. During flag meetings between the two nations at Nathu La, the Chinese set a chair aside to honor him.
At a distance of 60 km from the majestic Gangtok city towards the legendary Nathula, you will find a road leading towards the Kupup valley up to Tukla. A bifurcated road from Tukla would connect to the Old Baba Mandir (Bunker). At this place; the samadhi of Baba Harbhajan, famously known, as Old Baba Mandir has been built.
One usually covers this temple along with a visit to Tsongmo Lake or Nathula Pass. A round trip from Gangtok including Tsomgo Lake and Baba Mandir takes about Rs 3,500 by a reserved SUV. Due to the high altitude, there is lack of oxygen in the air. You should take adequate precautions. Permit is required to visit Baba Mandir. You can get it at Sikkim Tourist Center at Gangtok or through your hotel if they arranging the trip. It takes about 3 hours one way from Gangtok to cover both Tsomgo and Baba Mandir. So start early and carry heavy woollen clothes.