Baba Mandir has the distinction of being a temple run by soldiers of the Indian Army. It is near Kupup Village in Sikkim. Army jawans and officers from Nathu La, Kupup and surrounding areas near the Sino-Indian border visit the place. So do a lot of Indian tourists who make the journey from Gangtok. During winter, the area is snow-bound.
Baba Mandir is at a high altitude of over 13,000 feet. There is a cafe here and it is called Cafe 13 Thousand. There are clean washrooms too which are well maintained by the army.
Old Baba Mandir or Adi Baba Mandir is a must-visit destination for visitors to Sikkim. The mandir is dedicated to Baba Harbhajan Singh, a serviceman in the 23 Sikh Regiment. He died near the Nathu La in 1968. The temple was built and is maintained by Indian Army.
The mandir is 56 km from Gangtok. The journey can be completed in about two hours if there is no traffic. The route climbs steeply from Gangtok at 5,410 feet to the mandir at 13,000 feet. The roads are bad in stretches since work is in progress for road widening and repairs.
Enroute you will see Elephant Lake which is one of the holiest lakes in Sikkim. It has Himalayan mountains and valleys bordering it. Its shape looks like that of an elephant. It is also known as Kupup Lake. It is at an elevation of 13,000 feet and freezes in winter.
In Kupup village nearby, there is an 18-hole golf course. Known as Yak Golf Course, it has been recognised as the world’s highest golf course by the Guinness Book of World Records
Harbhajan Singh was a soldier who was posted here as part of the security forces. The border with China is nearby. In October 1968, he disappeared. It is believed 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 army colleagues and demanded that a memorial be built for him.
The soldiers then made a samadhi and later the temple was erected. They believe that the spirit of Harbhajan Singh is still alive. He is therefore treated as a living being. They all maintain that he will guard and protect them in this tough territory.
Inside the temple you will find a big photo of Harbhanaj Singh. On one side of the temple is Harbhajan Singh’s office where he is considered to be carrying out his day to day work. Next to it is his dining place. A room has his bed, shoes and uniform.
Daily prasad of dry fruits mix is distributed by army jawans to the visitors. The location is quite scenic with mountains all around.
On our return trip to Gangtok in the evening, the road was suddenly covered in thick fog. Visibility was just a few feet. On one side of the road was a cliiff while the other side had steep mountains. But our luck held and the driver managed to get us safely to our destination.