About an hour’s drive out of Jodhpur, near the village of Chotila, stands a shrine. This is Om Banna Bullet Shrine, a shrine devoted to Bullet Baba – the bullet motorcycle god.
Like all shrines found all over India, Om Banna Bullet Shrine summons many to stop and show devotion through prayer and offerings. But not every shrine in India holds such an incredible story.
In 1991, Om Banaji was riding his motorcycle, drunk, along Pali-Jodhpur Highway. He lost control of his motorcycle which slammed into a tree. He died instantly at the scene.
After their routine investigations, the local police took the young man’s motorcycle back to the police station for further testing. It was alleged that the motorcycle miraculously started itself and drove itself back to the crash site. Police located the motorcycle, returned it to their station and secured it with chains. Yet, the motorcycle somehow kept returning to the crash site. Upon hearing this story, Om Banaji’s father, a local village leader, requested for a shrine to be erected at the site. People from nearby villages helped to build the shrine.
Now, travellers along this stretch of dusty highway stop to make offerings, mostly alcohol such as whiskey, pray at the shrine and receive blessings from the shrine’s own priest. Many travellers stop here in fear that something bad may happen to them during their journey. Locals believe that Om Banna helps distressed travellers during their journeys.
When we travelled here, we were obliged to stop and honour Om Banaji by removing our shoes and walk a circle around the shrine. As we walked a lap of honour, we were able to view the motorcycle behind hazy glass. The motorcycle stood confidently near a photo of its strapping owner and the shrine was blanketed in strands of marigolds. Flags flew above while local musicians sung Hindu devotional songs.
There must be some truth in travellers’ fears. Not long after we left the shrine, we witnessed the all-too-common reality of driving behaviour here in India. We saw two buses driving head-to-head along the highway in front of us during an attempted overtake. The overtaking bus pulled back at the very last second. After recovering from the shock of what we saw, we were reminded of an accident earlier in the day. A car had collided with a cow; the windscreen was left shattered, bonnet crumpled and a poor cow lying lifeless on the highway. Tracks of black tyre marks were the only telling evidence of those last crucial seconds before the collision. I’m grateful we had time to stop and pay our respects at Om Banna Bullet Shrine.
J. De Jonge.