Baba Mandir (Harbajan Singh Memorial)
At an altitude of about 13000 feet, Baba Mandir is a famous tourist spot about 20kms from Tsomgo Lake and close to Jelep-la pass. It was built in memory of a soldier of the 23rd Punjab Regiment, who was drowned in a stream near the spot. According to legend he later appeared in a dream to one of his colleagues where he requested that a temple be built in his memory.
The original temple of Baba Harbhajan Singh was built in 1983 near Tukla where his bunker was. This is known as the Old Baba Mandir or the original Baba Mandir. The Bunker is maintained like a temple with dresses, pictures and stationeries used by Baba being stored here. There is a small wishing poodle nearby where army personnel throw coin and pray. Tourists travelling to Dzuluk, Nathang valley (Gnathang valley) can visit old Baba Mandir easily. But for tourists going for excursion from Gangtok towards Tsomgo lake, Nathula are normally not allowed to come here. This temple was renovated in 2012 and a dining hall has been built.
The New and the more popular Baba Mandir Temple is much closer to Tsomgo lake and is more popular. People believe that by placing their slippers and a bottle of water here, they are cured of backaches. Thousands of tourists visit the temple every day during peak season. There is a cafeteria named café 13 thousand and also a shop selling Indian and Chinese souvenir.
The Mandir is built in memory of No 2456687 Late Sepoy Harbhajan Singh who Belonged to 23rd Punjab Regiment. Sepoy Harbhajan Sing belonged to village Browndal in Kapurthala district of Punjab and enrolled in the army on 9th February 1966. On October 4th 1968 when he was going with a mule caravan towards Tukula (Tukla), at Dengchukla (A mountain pass in the area) he slipped and fell in a stream and drifted in the fast current and died.
It is believed that he appeared in the dream of his colleague Pritam Sing on the 5th day after he went missing and informed him about the sad incidence and asked for his Samadhi to be built in the Chookya Chho area. The body was later found under heap of snow as instructed in the dream. People believe that the solider still stands guard over them. It is said that his crisply ironed uniforms are mysteriously wrinkled at the end of the day.
It is believed that he comes in the dreams of Army men and inform them about imminent dangers. Even the Chinese army have said to have seen him doing patrolling in the night across the border. Baba Harbhajan Singh is now honoured with the rank of Honorary Captain.
Baba Mandir can be visited as part of a day trip as there is no tourist accommodation available here and night stay is strictly prohibited by Indian army which controls the area. Most tourists visit this area from Gangtok. You can either book a Tsomgo Lake, Baba Mandir trip or you may book a Nathula trip. Nathula trip normally covers Tsomgo Lake and Baba Mandir as well but costs more. Nathula cannot be visited on Monday and Tuesday and the number of vehicles allowed is also limited. It is less expensive and easier to book Tsomgo, Baba Mandir trip from Gangtok. Arguably, this is also the most popular sight seeing option taken by leisure tourists visiting Gangtok.
From Gangtok just a 40 kms drive will take you to Tsomgo lake, the road is prone to landslide and during heavy snow or rainfall, it is not unusual to remain closed. Since the road is maintained by the Indian Army, each landslide is followed by BRO people immediately jumping into action and the road opens within a day or two. From Tsomgo lake, a further drive of about 18 kms will take you to Baba Mandir. Even if you are not much into the legend, the natural beauty of high altitude Himalaya is sure to mesmerise you once you reach here. The Indo-Chinese boarder is just within stone throw distance although surrounding mountains will not allow a peak into the Chinese territory from here.
If you are visiting the offbeat tour circuit of Dzuluk, Memenchu, Nathang valley (Gnathan Valley), you may visit both the old and new temple easily as they are in the same circuit. The Dzuluk area permit normally includes visit to these places. Please carry your passport photograph and identity proof such as voter id or passport in order to visit this area. You will not get permit unless you can show these documents to the authority. At naturebeyond, our tours of Dzuluk and Gnathan valley area includes trip to Baba Mandir when the duration of tour permits a visit.