The True Story of Baba Bhalku: An Unsung Hero of India

India is a land of great stories and mysteries, and the mountains of Himachal Pradesh are no exception. Some stories are easily understood while others remain blurry. One such story is that of Baba Bhalku, a man who made an indelible contribution to the construction of India-Tibet road and Kalka-Shimla railway line. Despite being illiterate, Baba Bhalku was a talented person who is still remembered for his incredible engineering skills, his unwavering dedication, and his unmatched enthusiasm.

From Humble Beginnings to Engineering Genius

Baba Bhalku was born in the house of Mathu, a small farmer of Jhajha village located near Chail. From childhood, Bhalku was a little different. After running away from home, he kept wandering from place to place, sometimes with saints and sometimes with shepherds. A few years later, he started working as a laborer in the Public Works Department of the state of Patiala.

The British Were Impressed

Despite being generally illiterate, Bhalku was very adept at road construction work. The British were so impressed by his skills that he was called upon to help in the construction of the India-Tibet road. Under his guidance, survey work was done, and many bridges were constructed on the Sutlej River. For his contributions, he was awarded the title of Overseer by the Public Works Department of the British Government.

According to legend, Bhalku was a skilled road builder who used to measure distances using his stick and place coins at various locations. The British followed him and used his measurements to conduct surveys. In fact, the inspection book of Tapri Forest Rest House states that Bhalku is responsible for the creation of the India-Tibet road.

Bhalku began his career as a "mate" or "chuprassee" on Lord Dalhousie's road to the Tibetan border. He was highly regarded by his colleagues and was described as a "faithful and trustworthy native" by Colonel C.C. Johnson, Deputy Quarter-Master-General, in a testimonial dated 15 October 1875. Another testimonial issued by Major R.M. Lang in 1875 stated that Bhalku had been working on the road for 25 years and without his help, the road would not have been possible. Bhalku had an innate ability to select the best route for a road across difficult terrain.

Bhalku's skills were so highly valued that he was taken to wherever a bridge or road was to be built. He was often referred to as Jemadar Bhalkoo, Bhalku Baba or Bhalku Maharaj. In recognition of his service, enthusiasm, intelligence, and special powers, Bhalku should be given the title of first-class overseer of the department as well as a hill-road-builder.

Have you ever wondered how the Kalka-Shimla railway came into existence? Well, let me tell you an interesting fact - without Bhalku, the construction of this iconic railway wouldn't have been possible!

Baba Bhalku's services were also taken in the Railways, and he helped the British engineer in the construction of Kalka-Shimla railway route. This railway line has been given the status of World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Numerous prominent engineers of the British colonial era are recognized for their contribution to the construction of the Kalka-Shimla railway line. Nevertheless, amidst the challenges confronted during its development, Baba Bhalku emerged as a guiding light for his peers. This railway line, which passes through beautiful valleys, remains a testament to the unparalleled ingenuity of its creators.

At the core of this engineering marvel lies the Barog Tunnel, which is also known as Tunnel No. 33, and is over a kilometer long. The English engineer, Colonel Barog, who supervised its creation, gave this tunnel its name. However, this tunnel symbolizes both triumph and tragedy.

During the arduous excavation process, a significant discovery awaited the surveyors as they toiled tirelessly. Unfortunately, with only 200 meters left to reach the tunnel's end, anticipation turned to disappointment for Colonel Barog. His mistake in tunnel alignment resulted in a nominal fine imposed by the British authorities, a punishment that weighed heavily on his conscience. In a tragic turn of events, Colonel Barog took his own life within the confines of the tunnel he had worked so hard to construct.

Following his unfortunate demise, Chief Engineer H.S. Harrington took over. Even with his expertise, it was widely acknowledged that the completion of this ambitious project would not have been possible without the invaluable assistance of Baba Bhalku.

Today, the legacy of Baba Bhalku is commemorated through the Baba Bhalku Railway Museum in Shimla, alongside the historic Barog Station. Although some accounts attribute the construction of Barog Tunnel to Baba Bhalku, discrepancies exist in official records from the British era. Despite the ambiguity surrounding his contributions, the opening of the Baba Bhalku Rail Museum in 2011 serves as a poignant tribute to his enduring service and legacy.

An Unsung Hero

Baba Bhalku's story is a testament to the fact that many people who made significant contributions to India's development remain unsung heroes. Despite his incredible contributions to the construction of India-Tibet road and Kalka-Shimla railway line, Baba Bhalku's story remains largely unknown.

Legend says that the British loved Bhalku and wanted to take him abroad, but he wished to go on a pilgrimage before leaving. After camping under a tree near his ancestral home, he left for the pilgrimage and disappeared. The stories of Baba Bhalku remain a mystery, and even Northern Railway doesn't know the real story.

An Inspiration to Many

However, Baba Bhalku's story is also an inspiration to those who believe that anything is possible if one has the willpower and determination to achieve it. Despite being illiterate, he used his skills and experience to make a significant contribution to the development of India.

In conclusion, Baba Bhalku's story is a reminder of the importance of recognizing the contributions of unsung heroes who made significant contributions to India's development. It is also a reminder of the power of human potential and the importance of determination and dedication in achieving one's goals. Baba Bhalku's unwavering dedication and unmatched enthusiasm have left an indelible mark on the history of India and serve as an inspiration to many.

Baba Bhalku,Himachal Pradesh,India-Tibet road,Kalka-Shimla railway,Engineering marvels,Colonial era,British India,Unsung heroes,Indian history,Railway heritage,Legacy

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