Dagshai, Solan Overview

Dagshai or Daag-e-shahi is the oldest cantonment town in the hilly terrains of the Solan district of Himachal Pradesh in India. Perched on the top of a hill 5,689 feet above the sea level, this tiny town is worth visiting at least once in a lifetime, to get a taste of what a real offbeat attraction feels like. The foundation of the township was laid down by the East India Company in the year 1847. This incident occurred after the East India Company took over the five villages of Badhtiala, Chunawad, Dabbi, Jawag and Dagshai from the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh.

The town consists of a prison as well where the mutiny of the Irish soldiers in 1920 was imprisoned. The hill station is a cantonment area for the army and has numerous buildings from the British Era. The town consists of an army unit stationed, a residential Army Public School and also a private school named Dagshai Public School. The town is so small that the two schools occupy most of the hilltop. Nevertheless, one can find some exciting attractions such as the church and the Dagshai cellular jail in the town, which make the visit fun-filled as well as informative.

Dagshai does not have hotels available, but one can find a lot of spots for spending a fun picnic with family and loved ones. From some of these places, one can view the entire Panchkula and Chandigarh lights at night. The tourists can also find a large field for playing in the area.

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History of Dagshai

The town of Dagshai is one of the oldest military settlements of British troops in India. After the East India Company took over the villages of Badhtiala, Chunawad, Dabbi, Jawag and Dagshai from Bhupinder Singh, who was the Maharaja of Patiala; the company laid the foundation of a new town. The new cantonment was to be named after the name of the last village since the last village was the largest of all and was the most strategically located.

According to famous legends, the name Dagshai has been derived from the word Daag-e-Shahi. During the reign of the Mughal Empire, a permanent royal mark known as Daag-e-Shahi was put with a hot iron on the forehead of criminals and they were then sent to the Dagshai Village.

Dagshai Central Jail and Dagshai Jail Museum

The central jail of Dagshai was converted into a jail museum and is now one of the most visited tourist spots in the entire town. This place was earlier used as a storage yard, and a well-designed structure only appeared when the army took efforts to clean up the area. Today, the Dagshai Jail Museum is the only jail museum in India, other than the Cellular Jail in the Andamans.

The construction of the jail began in the year 1849 and included 54 cellular cells. All of these jail cells have two doors that are located three feet apart from each other. There is one VIP cell in the entire prison which has the luxuries of a washroom and a fireplace. One can also find a single specialized cell in the jail that was built primarily for the criminals who had to be given harsh punishments. There is no source of light or ventilation in the cells of the Dagshai Central Jail. No criminal was ever able to escape from this dreaded jail.

The Gorkha rebels of the Nasiri Regiment, who had defied the authorities during the First War of Independence in the 1857 Revolt, were also brought to this prison. Following the Irish Mutiny, the jail received much attention. Even Mahatma Gandhi had to stay in this jail for a year to provide moral support to the Irish people. The leader of the Irish Mutiny, James Daly, who was just 21 years old, was shot by a firing squad in the courtyard of this prison on 2 November in the year 1920. He was later on buried at the Dagshai Cemetery until 1970 when his remains were repatriated to Ireland and given a funeral with full military honours.

As time passed, the famous Dagshai Cellular Jail began to erase itself from the memory of people. Later on, the museum was established with the help of Brigade Commander of the area and Himachal Tourism Department, with the aim to exhibit the 160-year-old history of the jail and to preserve this jail as an important token of our history. Even today, a walk through the museum gives chills to the visitors.

Other Attractions at Dagshai

Despite its small size, the town manages to offer its visitors with some significant and beautiful attractions such as the Old European Cemetery. Contrary to the geographical features of the hilly terrain, one can still find a large play field in the area. This field was used to host Durand Cup Matches not long ago. The church of Dagshai is also well known for its colonial architecture and is among one of the major tourist attractions that can be found here. The church never fails to astonish tourists with its spectacular features and astounding beauty.

Best Time To Visit Dagshai

The best time to visit the town of Dagshai is in the months from March to May, or October and November.

Tips For Visiting Dagshai

1. One should carry warm clothes while visiting the place. Also, beware of monkeys on the way.
2. Carry water bottles and food on the way up to the town.
3. Note that there are no accommodation facilities at Dagshai.

How To Reach Dagshai

Dagshai lies at a distance of just 19 kilometres from Kasauli and stands on the highway of Kalkaji and Shimla at a distance of about 11 kilometres from Solan. The place is also 28 kilometres away from Parwanoo and can be accessed via National Highway 22. One can easily take a cab or a bus ride down to the place.

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