Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir or Baba Mandir in short, is located in East Sikkim en-route to Tsomgo Lake and the Nathula Pass at a distance of about 60 kilometers from the capital Gangtok. The story of Captain ‘Baba’ Harbhajan Singh is profound on a spiritual and patriotic level. Baba Harbhajan Singh, who hailed from Punjab, joined the Indian army and enlisted in Amritsar in the Punjab regiment at the prime age of 22. He was posted in Sikkim in the Indo-China border at a time when tensions from the Sino-Indian War two years ago was still lingering. Just three years into the army, the young man fell prey to the harsh circumstances that prevail at altitudes soaring ten thousand feet and more. In 1968 he was guiding a mule column carrying supplies to an army post from Tukla to Deng Chukla, when he fell into a glacier and drowned. His body was found three days after the incident. It is said that ‘Baba’ himself led the search party to his frozen body. He appeared in a soldier’s dream and informed about the whereabouts of his dead body and requested that a shrine be built in his memory. This is how the Baba Mandir came into being.
The new Baba Mandir or Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial was constructed on 1982 while the old Baba mandir is located 12 kms away. The old Baba Mandir or ‘Babaji ka Bunker’ is where the ‘samadhi’ of the late army captain lies. This is the bunker where he was originally posted. If you want to visit the original Baba Mandir, you are required to carry a permit from the nearest check point or you can use the Tsomgo Lake pass which is inclusive of Baba mandir.
The new Baba mandir is a reconstruction of the ‘samadhi’ of the old one and is located at Kupup Gnathang road junction and is in proximity to Memencho Lake. This is a hotspot for both devotees and tourists as it is situated just beside the road and is easily accessible. In the case of the old Baba mandir, one needs to climb up about 50 steps to reach the ‘samadhi’. The newly constructed shrine has three rooms. The central room is filled with images of gods and ‘gurus’ from Hindu and Sikh religions alongside Baba’s photo. One of the remaining rooms is for Baba’s personal use filled with all the basic amenities like bed, utensils and his service outfits, which are well maintained on a daily basis. The remaining room is allotted as his office. No prior permission is required to visit the new Baba mandir.
Though this a devotional place and there is nothing much to do around, the scenery surrounding the temple is sensational. Given that it is located at an altitude of approximately 4000 m, the weather plays a dramatic role here. It can be bone-chilling at times, even on a bright sunny day. Therefore, it is advisable that you carry warm clothing and an umbrella when you visit that part of Sikkim. If you are tired after travelling those winding pathways to get there, you can relax and have refreshments at the café run by the Army or at Café 13th Thousand. And if you want to explore the areas in and around, there are many places to do so. There is a Bholenath temple within walking distance, the Menmencho Lake, Sarathang Lake, Nathula Pass, Nathang Valley, Zuluk Wildlife Area are some other major attractions situated within 3 to 15 km from Baba Mandir.
The best time to visit the Shrine is subjective. If you are someone who enjoys cold and snow, then January to March is the best time, as you will be treated to a blanket of snow. But it is extremely cold during this time of the year and it is advisable that the travelers undergo a health check-up and pack warm clothing before embarking on the journey to Baba Mandir. And if you want to grace your eyes to spectacular views of Rhododendrons and Orchids along the way, April to May is the best time. However, most people suggest visiting during September to October when the temperature is pleasant and the weather is clear enough to give a clear view of the breathtaking hills in and around.
It is to be noted that Foreign Nationals incuding NRIs are restricted from visiting Baba Mandir. Native tourists need to carry along proper Identity Proof and at least two passport size photos in order to get their permit ready and it is advisable to apply for the permit a day in advance.
So plan your trip to this Northeastern Indian state and visit the very place where Baba Harbhajan’s legend has its origin. So contact WeCare Holidays to make this trip to Baba Mandir a success and know, upclose, the legend of the Saint Soldier, Captain ‘Baba’ Harbhajan Singh.