Dagshai Jail Museum: Unveiling History Since 1849

by Vishal Sharma. 12 April 2024

Dagshai Jail Museum

History of Dagshai Jail Museum

Step into the past at Dagshai Jail Museum. Dive deep into exhibits shedding light on its colonial-era significance and its role in India’s fight for freedom. Embark on a captivating journey through time amidst the scenic hills of Dagshai, Himachal Pradesh.

Dagshai Jail was constructed in 1849 for Rs 72,875 under the engineering guidance of Lord Napier who subsequently went on to become the Viceroy of India in 1872.

The orientation of the jail commences with a gate that houses a ‘Bell of Execution’ which is hung right on top of the Gate. ‘The Door’ that encloses the Jail is made of solid wood reinforced with iron metal. The jail has a T-shaped structure with a high ceiling and wooden flooring. The flooring is made of teak wood and was specially seasoned for anti-termite. The purpose behind such a construction was that the person on guard duty could easily hear any movement of the prisoners.

There are a total number of 54 cells in the jail of which 11 were converted into accommodation for the staff. Out of the remaining 43 cells, 27 cells were called common cells and 16 were solitary confinement cells and a Torture & Punishment Cell. Each of these measures eight feet by 12 feet with the ceilings placed at a height of nearly 20 feet. The iron gates of each cell are made of specially cast iron alloy which made it virtually impossible for any prisoners to cut these gates with any implement.

The ventilation is provided by a single 1X2 feet, heavily barricaded window and underground vents that draw air from a pipeline with an opening into the outer wall.

Dagshai Jail Museum, Prisoner Cells
27 Common Cells and in Top Centre Ventilation Window
Dagshai Jail Museum
16 Solitary Confinement Cells and a Torture & Punishment Cell

Dagshai Jail Prisoners

Amongst those incarcerated, there were some Gorkha soldiers of the Nasiri Regiment (in 1857), a few of the revolutionaries from the ship Komagata Maru (in 1914), 12 Indian soldiers from 23rd Risala sympathizing with the ‘Ghadar’ Movement (in 1915). Several Irish Catholic soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the ‘Connaught Rangers’ mutinied against their English officers (in 1920). Several, including the most famous of them all, James Daly of the Connaught Rangers were executed here. Mahatma Gandhi had also come to Dagshai jail to visit the Irish prisoners and some unconfirmed reports have it that Nathuram Godse was also incarcerated here before being taken for trial at the high court in Simla (Shimla).

Dagshai Jail
Dagshai Jail Backside

The Museum

The Dagshai Jail Museum is unique and it is only the second jail museum in India, the other being a cellular jail in the Andaman Islands. In the museum, one can see the actual heavily barricaded 54 maximum security prison cells used during British Colonial days. It also has very interesting exhibits including archival photographs relating to the fascinating history of the jail, Dagshai and the surrounding areas. More exhibits and militaria are being sourced from Ireland, the UK and Nepal.

The establishment of the Museum in 2011 has been due to the vision and foresight of the Brigade Commander Brig. Ananth Narayanan, the curating efforts and exhibit contributions by Dr. Anand Sethi, a local resident and the tireless efforts of Col. Anoop Kutty, commanding officer of the resident 2/8, Gorkha Rifles and his brother officers. The tourism department and Govt. of Himachal Pradesh have been extremely generous with their guidance and financial assistance in developing the museum.

Dagshai Jail Museum Entry Fees and Timing

Entry Fee – Free

Timing – Morning 9:30 am to 12:30 pm, Evening 03:00 pm to 05:00 pm

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