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Business News/ Mint-lounge / Mint-on-sunday/  Bullet Baba: The patron saint of NH65

Bullet Baba: The patron saint of NH65

A fatal bike accident and its mysterious aftermath spawned a unique shrine that continues to attract devotees and curious tourists

Photo: Priyanka Parashar/MintPremium
Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

Photographs by Priyanka Parashar.

Some 50km from Jodhpur, along National Highway 65, is a temple. Nothing unusual about that. After all, this is India and temples dot the landscape here. But this temple is different. The main deity is a 350cc Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle. And, while the temple is named Om Banna, it is better known as the Bullet Baba temple.

All this calls for an explanation. Over two decades ago, 21-year-old Om Singh Rathore, the son of a local village leader, was on his way home when he met with a fatal accident on the highway. The police hauled away the motorcycle and that’s when the legend began.

“The bike was not in the police station the next day. It was found at the accident spot," says Naresh Bhatti, a local cab driver. The police took the bike back, this time securing it with chains and deflating its tyres. The story goes that the next morning the motorcycle was again found at the accident spot.

Thus began the legend of Om Banna, or Bullet Baba, the patron saint of all those who use the highway.

Local taxi drivers, young men on motorcycles and tourist bus drivers—almost everyone travelling on this highway stops at the temple. For some, it is curiosity; for others, it is devotion and faith that is the draw. “We believe he protects all those who drive on this road," says Lucky, a motorcycle rider.

Most come bearing bottles of whisky, for that is the offering of choice at this shrine. Some sprinkle the contents on Rathore’s bust while others hand the bottle over to the priest. “If Om Banna fulfils your wish, you come here with a bottle of whisky," says Lucky. Turns out, this particular spirit was Rathore’s favourite tipple.

“Women also come here to ask Om Banna to protect their husbands when they are on the road," he says, pointing out red threads, bangles and colourful pieces of cloth tied around the shrine.

The temple itself is an elevated concrete platform on which is a bust of Rathore. Behind it stands the Bullet, enclosed in a glass case.

Across the road from the shrine is a small complex that houses stores that sell trinkets such as Om Banna key rings and photographs.

But how do people worship a mere mortal? “For us, Om Banna is beyond such doubts. Faith has immense power and I believe that he protects all those who drive on this road," says Bhatti.

And has he ever made a wish that Om Banna has fulfilled? Bhatti smiles. “Since when has affection become transactional?" he asks. “Once in a while, I do get a bottle of whisky for him. I am sure he enjoys it."

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Published: 01 Aug 2015, 11:29 PM IST
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