This is the story of Baba Harbhajan Singh – the hero of the Nathu-La pass (India-China border).
Late Sepoy Harbhajan Singh (23 Punjab) was born in a village in Kapurthala District and enrolled into the Punjab Regiment. The official version of his death is that he was a victim of battle at the 14,500 feet (4,400 m) Nathu La, a mountain pass between Tibet and Sikkim where many battles took place between the Indian Army and the PLA during the 1965 Sino-Indian war. He was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra medal for his bravery and martyrdom on 26 January 1969. Serving with his unit in Sikkim in 1968, he passed away on October 4 that year while escorting a mule column from Tuku La to Dongchui La. He slipped and fell in a nullah and the water current carried his body two kilometers downstream. His body is said to have been found three days later and cremated with full military honours. He is said to have appeared in the dreams of his fellow soldiers and asked them to build a ‘samadhi’ for him. His unit did so 9 km from where the present shrine stands.He was 27 when he died. Baba Mandir today has three rooms, Baba’s office, store room and living room. In the living room every item of his need has been neatly kept. His bed, shoes, slippers, water bottle, ironed uniform, an umbrella – everything. e is revered as the “Hero of Nathula” by soldiers of the Indian army, who built a Shrine in his honour.
Some interesting facts;
- Devotees therefore leave bottles of water in the name of ailing people and then give this blessed water to the sick. It is widely believed that water kept at the Baba Harbhajan shrine became capable of curing ailing persons.
- Units of the Indian Army that are posted in the region, seek Baba’s blessing with various plates dedicated to him lining the shrine’s walls. Baba warns the soldiers of any impending attacks atleast 3 days in advance. He is still guarding the international boundaries of the two countries.
- The Army even promoted him to an Honorary Captain and a paycheck was sent to his family. He was also granted an annual leave on 14 September every year. His belongings were packed and accompanied by soldiers, were sent to Kapurthala by train and brought back the same way. A berth is reserved in his name and is left empty for the entire journey. This was done annually till he was retired a few years ago.
- The Army is on high alert when Baba is on leave
- During the customary flag meetings between the India and China, the Chinese army still sets a chair aside for Baba.
- His room is cleaned every morning.On some mornings, soldiers have found crumpled bedsheet and his muddy shoes in the room. On many occasions, soldiers have discovered that Baba still visits the camps and his post.
- As per common belief, any army official not maintaining a clean and disciplined attire is punished with a slap by baba himself. His own attire which hangs in display need not be cleaned by anyone as it gets cleaned magically.
Long Live Captain “Baba” Harbhajan Singh