Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple: Story of Patriotic Ghost Soldier

 In General, Holidays, Story, Travel

“Two strangers meet on a train journey to Jalandhar. A middle-aged woman who is frustrated with her mother-in-law and a 22-year-old army soldier “Baba” Harbhajan Singh. They start a conversation and the thoughts of the soldier on life lead to the woman’s character pondering over the “plus-minus” of her husband which eventually changes her thought process.

She thanks the soldier for listening and helping her. They also discover that they both are going to Kapurthala and the woman gladly invites the soldier to meet her husband. Upon reaching Jalandhar other 2 soldiers board the train and take the luggage of Harbhajan Singh. 

The woman tells her husband about the soldier and asks him to meet Harbhajan Singh. Not finding him anywhere on the station, she inquires about him only to realize that “Baba” Harbhajan Singh died years ago”. 

This is the plot of an award-winning Indian short film “Plus-Minus” starring Bhuvan Bam and Divya Dutta which is loosely based on the story of Harbhajan Singh Temple. Except for the woman talking to the ghost of Baba Harbhajan Singh, everything in the film is based on real-life events.

Yes, the army reserves a seat every year for Harbhajan Singh and carries his luggage to his hometown when the dead soldier is on leave. Still confusing? Well, let me start with the complete life story of this “ghost soldier” and the story behind the Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple at Nathu-La in Sikkim.

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About Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple in Sikkim

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If you are going to visit Sikkim, with the best Sikkim Tour Packages, your itinerary will include visiting the Indo-China border at the Nathu-La Pass. Nathu-La pass is a must-visit place, just 52 km east of Gangtok – the capital of Sikkim.

Regarded as the “Hero of Nathu-La”, the Baba Harbhajan Singh temple was built in devotion to the former soldier. The Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple is located at 12,651 ft on the intersection of Nathu La and Jelep La.

Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple in Sikkim is built inside a bunker with 3 rooms. The central room has a large portrait of Harbhajan Singh along with other Hindu deities and Sikh Gurus. The room on the right is the personal room of Harbhajan Singh with all his personal belongings – the neatly kept uniform, polished shoes, well-maintained sleeping bed, and other household belongings. 

The last room is an office and a store room filled with water bottles, unused slippers, and other items offered to Baba Harbhajan Singh. The followers of Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple believe that the water kept here turns holy after a week and can cure any ailment. Additionally, the slippers kept here would help patients with foot problems, etc. Many who cannot visit the Harbhajan Baba Mandir send letters to thank him or ask for help to solve their problems.

Now let’s understand the life story of Harbhajan Baba to learn why the army built the Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple in Sikkim.

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Life Story of Baba Harbhajan Singh

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Early Years 

Harbhajan Singh was born in a Sikh Family in Kapurthala’s Brondal village, Punjab on 30th August 1946. He completed his preliminary education here and then matriculated from the DAV High School in Patti, Punjab, in March 1965. 

In Feb 1966 he was enrolled as a soldier in Amritsar and joined the Corps of Signals. Harbhajan Singh was only 20 years old when he joined the 23rd Punjab Battalion in February 1966 as a sepoy. He was then transferred to Nathu La in Eastern Sikkim.

Life in Army

Baba Harbhajan Singh served as a sepoy in the Punjab Regiment posted in Sikkim. In 1968, when the states of Sikkim and West Bengal faced significant natural disasters like landslides, floods and heavy rainfall.

On 4th October 1968 sepoy Harbhajan Singh was escorting a mule column which had supplies and relief material from his battalion headquarters at Tukla to Deng Chukla. It is believed that he fell into a fast-flowing stream and drowned. The army had sent a search party to find sepoy Harbhajan Singh’s dead body, but they could not find it.

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Life in Army After Death

The most interesting part of Baba Harbhajan Singh temple begins after the death of Babaji. After searching for the body of sepoy Harbhajan Singh for several days, the army personnel failed to retrace his body. But, then something unsual happened!

Pritam Singh, a colleague of Harbhajan Singh had a dream of Harbhajan Singh informing him of his death and telling him the location where is exactly died. Babaji also desired the building of a memorial dedicated to him. Obviously, the army did not believe Pritam Singh at first, but to everyone’s shock, the body of Sepoy Harbhajan Singh was found exactly at the spot where he had told him in the dream.

Thus, the Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple in Sikkim was built near his cremation spot by his regiment at Chhokya Chho. Soon, the military expanded the shrine into what it looks like today and based on the military mythology, religion and belief Harbhajan Singh earned the title “Baba” meaning a saintly man. 

The story does not end here, there is so much more. Baba Harbhajan Singh was constantly moved in ranks and his salary was sent every month to his family until he retired from the army in December 2016 as an honorary captain. 

But what made him move up his ranks even after death?

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Well, even after death many soldiers reported his sightings around the Indo-China border. It was believed that Baba not only protects the 3000 army personnel of the Nathu-La brigade but also guards the 14000 ft high border point along the border. 

He used to come in dreams of these soldiers and warn them about the attacks planned by the enemies in advance, which turned out to be true and helped the army to tackle the situation. Not only the Indian army, the People’s Liberation Army of China also reported sightings of Babji. The Chinese troops believed that they saw a human figure dressed in army uniform patrolling the border alone at night.

The Chinese troops also respect the Baba Harbhajan Singh temple. During the customary flag meetings between India and China, the Chinese army used to keep an empty chair aside for Harbhajan Baba until retirement.

In some more surprising incidents, the belongings of Babaji which are kept in the Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple would get muddy and crumble as if they were worn throughout the day. Surprisingly these belongings were also found clean the next morning, just as the army personnel would keep it.

Many soldiers who lack discipline in terms of uniform, or those who dozed off while patrolling at night, were reported to be slapped by the ghostly figure of Harbhajan Singh. Though they did not see anyone nearby, they experienced a slap across their face.

Coming back to what was shown in the short film Plus-Minus, every year on 11th September Harbhajan Singh was granted leave of 2 months so that he could visit his hometown. On this day, the army carried his belongings to the New Jalpaiguri Station in Siliguri, and further to his hometown by train. Every year a berth was reserved in his name and his seat was left empty for the entire journey. During the 2 months’ leave of Harbhajan Singh, the army used to be on high alert.

Due to his great service and dedication to the Indian army, Baba Harbhajan Singh received India’s second-highest bravery honor – the Mahavir Chakra after his death.

Today, even after so many years, Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple in Sikkim continues to attract the army and the pilgrims who pay homage to Babaji. His presence still remains an unsolved mystery, but it is the faith of the army that continues to attract several pilgrims to this unique temple in India, which is not dedicated to any god.

Hope you all are just as curious as me and are already planning their trip to Sikkim to visit the Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple.

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Who was Harbhajan Singh, and what is the story behind the Harbhajan Baba Mandir?

Harbhajan Singh was a sepoy in the Punjab Regiment of Sikkim who died in 1968 by drowning in a fast-flowing stream. After death, he appeared in a dream where his colleague told him the location of his body and asked to build a memorial for himself. He continued serving the Indian Army even after death in various ways which led him to become an honorary captain and he was called “the hero of Nathu La”.

What is the significance of the Harbhajan Baba Mandir?

The significance of Harbhajan Baba Mandir is that it is not dedicated to any god, but a soldier who continued to protect the Indian Army even after his death. This temple has his belongings including the army uniform, boots, etc. It is a place of pilgrimage for the army, Sikhs, and Hindus as well.

Are there any rituals or traditions associated with the shrine?

Yes, there are several rituals followed in the Baba Harbhajan Singh temple where people believe that if they leave a water bottle here it turns holy in a week and can cure every ailment. Many also leave slippers here and believe that it would solve their foot problems. Every year in October on the occasion of Infantry Day, a wreath-laying ceremony is held here in honor of all those soldiers who sacrificed their lives defending the country.

How does the shrine attract tourists and visitors?

Baba Harbhajan Singh temple purely attracts tourists and visitors out of respect and faith. The temple is a necessary pitstop for all the tourists visiting the Nathu La pass on the Indo-China border in East Sikkim.

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