A Tale Stranger than Fiction

We were on a family holiday in Rajasthan, the land of maharajas, legends, and folklore. Everyone in my family pitches up for our annual pilgrimage to the Salasar temple which celebrates Hanumana, and to the nearby temple town of Khatu where Shyam Baba, popularly known as Khatu Shyam is its presiding deity.

On our journey traveling towards Pali, around 50 kms away from Jodhpur, we passed a shrine beside the Rajasthan highway, thronging with devotees.

We were intrigued. Why were hordes of travellers and devotees making a pit stop in the middle of nowhere?

The answer gave us goosebumps.

The roadside shrine was dedicated to a young man that local folk call Bullet Baba and his Royal Enfield motorbike. Bullet Baba had died in a fatal motorcycle accident at that very spot in 1998.

A photograph of Om Banna (image: Umang Sharma)

What made this story stranger than fiction was that his motorbike, which the police confiscated and locked up at the local station, returned several times, apparently on its own, to the site of an accident that took its owners’ life.

The Tale of Bullet Baba

In 1998, Om Singh Rathore, the young son of a local village leader was travelling on his Royal Enfield Bullet (registration number RNJ 7773), from the town of Bangdi near Sanderao of Pali, when he lost control of his motorcycle. Rathore hit a tree and was instantly killed. His motorcycle skidded and fell into a nearby ditch.

Local police took the motorbike back to the station and locked it up.

“You will not believe it bhaiya,” said our driver, a genial gentleman from Jaipur. “The next day, the bike disappeared from the station and made its way back to the site of the incident!”

Thinking it was a prank, the police ferried it back to the station, emptied its fuel tank and locked it up. Once again the motorcycle disappeared, and was discovered by the accident site!

Later, a bellboy at our hotel told me that the police had chained up the bike and kept vigil on the second night. To their shock, at midnight, the motorcycle self-started and made its way back to the location where it was first found.

A Holy Motorbike

As word spread, locals began making a pilgrimage to the accident site to worship the Bullet bike. Villagers built a shrine for worshippers drawn by the belief that the spirit of Bullet Baba, now known as Om Banna, helps travelers in distress.

Today, hundreds of devotees from across the state show up every day to appeal for the blessing of a safe journey from Om Banna and his motorcycle.

The faith Royal Bullet motorbike, Om Banna temple, Rajasthan, (image: Umang Sharma)

This was a Rajasthan I did not know existed.

I owe our visit to this mysterious folk deity to my adventurous aunt who creates interesting itineraries in our elaborate annual pilgrimage to Rajasthan.

The Shrine of Bullet Baba

On our way back to Jodhpur two days later, we made a beeline to the holy bike at Bullet Baba’s shrine.

The atmosphere was electric. Hundreds of devotees paid respects to a Royal Enfield for a safe journey, with eclectic offerings that included to our surprise, alcohol and cigarettes. Travelers in a hurry honked twice in reverence to their ‘Living God’ as they drove past.

Inside the Om Banna Shrine (image: Umang Sharma)

We eased our way through the milling crowd to get a closer look at the divine Royal Enfield. It was just an ordinary bike, decorated with garlands and draped in colorful cloth. Next to it stood an image of Om Rathore, the young man turned local deity whom travelers trust to fulfill their wishes and prayers.

It got me thinking about the power of belief.

As we made our way back to our car, I could not help but turn around and bow in reverence to Om Banna and his trusty Bullet.

After all, faith is a powerful thing.

Umang Sharma is a media professional, avid reader and film buff. He has worked as a journalist for over 12 years and is addicted to breaking news! He enjoys researching and writing about socio-political,...