The Nathula Pass on the Indo-China border in the state of Sikkim is a strategically important location for the Indian Army. Blocked by snow in the winters, it is one of the four Border Personnel Meeting points for the Indian and Chinese armies.
What you may not know, is that the pass is guarded by the ghost of one Baba Harbhajan Singh. Late Sepoy Harbhajan Singh (23 Punjab) was born in a village in Kapurthala District and enrolled into the Punjab Regiment. 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.
It is believed that even today Baba is absolutely sure of duty and he gets out on patrol every day. There is a continuous increase in his post and salary. The Army even promoted him to an Honorary Captain and a paycheck was sent to his family. There is a sailor who polishes his boots, irons his uniform and every time Baba’s bed is changed, it would look like someone slept in that bed and even his shoes are found to be dirty with mud.
According to the stories of the army, Harbhajan visited some fellow soldiers in their dreams and asked them of building a memorial. Later it was made by his regiment only. Then gradually the Memorial turned into a pilgrimage due to the faith and belief of the people.
It is also widely believed that water kept at the Baba Harbhajan shrine became capable of curing ailing persons. Devotees therefore leave bottles of water in the name of ailing people and then give this blessed water to the sick.
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. They also believe that Baba will warn them of an impending attack days in advance. 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. This was done annually till he was retired a few years ago.
So revered is he, that even the Chinese on the other side of the border leave a seat is left vacant for Baba as a sign of respect at flag meetings. People and soldiers passing through make it a point to pay their respects at the shrine.
Clearly faith is stronger than anything else here.
Cover image credit – https://www.thehumornation.com