Baba Mandir, 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. One usually covers this temple along with a visit to Tsongmo Lake
or Nathula Pass.
There is a touching story associated with this temple. Harbhajan Singh was a Sentry of Punjab Regiment and was posted here as part of border patrol force. The border with China is nearby. In October 1968 he disappeared. It is said that while escorting mules carrying provisions, he fell into a stream and drowned. After a few days he reappeared in the dreams of one of his sentry colleagues and asked him to make a memorial here on his name.
The sentries then made a samadhi and later this temple was built. Although Harbhajan Sing is no more, the sentries and guards here believe that his spirit is still alive and he is therefore treated as a living being. They all believe that Harbhajan will guard and protect them in this very difficult terrain.
In fact there has 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. 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.
Baba Mandir, Near Gangtok
Over the years the temple has become a place of pilgrimage. Inside th etemple yu will find large photo of turbaned Harbhanaj Sing which is worshipped. Many who come here leave a bottle of drinking water which they arrange to collect a few days later. It is believed that one can fulfill one's wishes by drinking that water. You will often find that army trucks passing by stop here and soldiers come and offer quick prayers before proceeding.
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. Although this temple is on a roadside, it is surrounded by mountains in all sides and the views all around is magnificent. If you are lucky, you will get lots of snows here, particularly after October.
How to visit
Baba Mandir is usually included during a day trip to Tsomgo lake or Nathula Pass. If the driver or the tour operator does not mention about Baba Mandir, ask him to include it. Cost is the same. A round trip from Gangtok including Tsomgo Lake and Baba Mandir takes about Rs 3,500 by a reserved large vehicle like Scorpio.
Due to the high altitude, there is lack of oxygen in the air. You should take adequate precautions and consult a doctor before visiting the Temple if you have any health or breathing problems. Like in Tsomgo Lake, you will require a permit 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.
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