Some 50 km from Jodhpur on the Pali-Jodhpur Highway in Rajasthan is an unusual temple. In the altar of the temple is a 350cc Royal Enfield motorbike, which people worship. Strictly speaking, the temple is dedicated to one Om Banna. The gentleman in question was one Om Singh Rathore, a young Rajput bloke to whom the bike belonged. Banna is an honorific for a Rajput man.
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The legend goes that on a dark winter night in 1988, Om Singh Rathore was travelling from a town near Pali along the Pali Jodhour Highway when he lost control of his bike and hit a tree. The impact of the collision was so severe that Rathore died almost instantly and the bike on which he was riding – a 350 cc Royal Enfield, a popular one in the region at the time – fell into a nearby ditch.
After Rathore’s body was processed the next morning, the local police impounded the bike and took to the station where it was parked as evidence to be processed. The bike remained untouched the whole day in the parking lot while the police went about their day. When the inspector-in-charge returned the next morning, he was surprised (and also perhaps slightly annoyed) to see that the bike had gone missing. Following investigation – it wasn’t a very large town so it wasn’t very likely they managed to find the location of the bike in just a few hours – the police discovered that the bike was in the same spot at the site of the accident.
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Fairly certain that some local kid was playing a prank, the cops towed the bike back to the station and this time, to ensure no one could ride it back emptied its petrol tank. And, for good measure, put the bike under lock and key.
The next morning, however, the bike was again spotted at the site of the accident. This kept happening repeatedly: the police would take the bike back to the station and day it would be discovered at the site of the accident the next morning. As the news spread, locals began to believe that it was some kind of a supernatural phenomenon and flocked to the spot to see for themselves.
By this time, the police had given up and decided to let the bike stay at the site of the accident. As the legend grew, so did the devotees. The bike was encased in a transparent glass case and the tree where the accident is said to have taken place, began to be worshipped too.
Eventually, the accident spot became something of a shrine that came to be known after the deceased gentleman, Om Banna. The bike continued to be the centrepiece of this shrine and travellers began stopping by to pay their respects to Om Banna, or as he came to be known over time, Bullet Baba after the Royal Enfield Bullet bike.
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If you’re passing through, it is considered to be inauspicious to not halt at the Bullet Baba shrine. And so everyone who drives past invariably stops by, bows their head and prays for a safe passage. Some offer bottles of alcohol as a sign of respect. People also offer bangles and scarves to the tree, which Om Banna rode into and sing legends of the deceased rider.
The mystery of how the bike kept going back to the site of the accident remains a mystery. Could it indeed have been a supernatural phenomenon or did the local police inspector think it may not be a bad idea to let the bike serve as a grim reminder of what could happen if you overshot the speed limit or, well drank and drove?
In any case, the Om Banna temple remains a creepy one, by all accounts.