History of DagshaiDagshai is a small serene hill town in Kasauli district loved for its panoramic vistas enriched with intriguing history. The town is an ancient cantonment area, perhaps one of the oldest ones in country, settled by the British for their forces to reside with protection. Situated atop a hillock on shivalik ranges, this town is located some 11 km from Solan in Himachal Pradesh. At the whooping height of 1734 mtrs above the sea level, this tranquil place also offers great historical reminiscences in the form of colonial structures and establishments dotting its landscapes.
There are some interesting legends belonging to the nomenclature of Dagshai village before it was taken over by the British Empire. It is said that during Mughal Era, criminals offending against them were sent to this village after a royal mark called as Daag-e-shahi was put on their forehead. Hence the place was later named as Dagshai.
The British founded this city in 1847 after they acquired five villages free of cost from Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala. Dagshai was one of those villages. They named this cantonment after Dagshai because it was the most strategically located and important amongst them. The history of Dagshai from then revolves around its two significant structures, Cellular Jail Museum and Dagshai Graveyard.
History of Dagshai Jail dates back to 1849 when this jail was built by the British to incarcerate people revolting against their regime. This jail was constructed with the cost of Rs. 72, 873 with 54 cells out of which 16 cells were meant for severe punishment. Some of the prominent inmates of this jail were some brave Gorkha soldiers, Sikh ex- army men, Sikh soldiers from Ghadar Party, and mutiny of some Irish soldiers.
Irish mutiny at Dagshai Jail is the most significant incident in its history. There were Irish soldiers who revolted against British rule in their homeland, Ireland.
As a result, dozens of Irish soldiers were imprisoned in this jail. Indian freedom struggle was also getting harder by that time. In order to set an example, British forces decided to execute their leader, 21 years old James Daly.
He was shot in the prison yard on November 2 1920. Mahatma Gandhi also visited this jail after this mutiny to extend his support to these soldiers and he spent one night over there.
Daly was the last soldier in British Army who was executed for leading a mutiny. He was cremated in Dagshai Cemetery from where his remains were taken off to Ireland in 1970 to be buried with military honor.
Though the records of Indian authorities are not that clear, it is still a popular belief that assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, Nathuram Godse was also kept in this prison for some time while he was being taken to Shimla for his High Court trial in 1949. Later on, this historic jail was made a museum with the joint efforts of Army and Himachal Tourism. It is now maintained by MES.
Apart from this jail, Dagshai has two churches built by British Empire for their armed force personnel posted in this area. There is also an ancient graveyard that has beautiful graves, the oldest one dating back to 1850. This old Roman Catholic graveyard has graves of British soldiers who died during wars or out of some diseases.