Saturday, March 22, 2003
S I T E S  A N D   S C E N E S

Dada Siba seeped in legends
Raaja Bhasin

The ruins of the Dada Siba palace
The ruins of the Dada Siba palace

ON the western extremity of Himachal Pradesh, the village of Dada Siba lies close to the state border with Punjab. Sometime towards the middle of the 15th century, the erstwhile princely state of Dada Siba came into being as an offshoot of the kingdom of Guler. And while its rulers had surprisingly short periods of reign — rarely exceeding a decade — the state managed to preserve its identity and independence even during Mughal rule and even past the rise of Ranjit Singh’s powerful kingdom in the Punjab.

Surrounded by lush fields and bordered by the waters of Maharana Pratap Sagar, today’s village of Dada Siba may be unimpressive at first glance, yet it holds a rare architectural marvel in the shape of the stunningly striking temple of Radha Krishna. The temple is said to have been commissioned in 1830 and completed in 1835. This was during the reign of Raja Gobind Singh and the work is inferred to have been executed by his son Raja Ram Singh — who later succeeded him. Legend has it that an image of Lakshmi Narayan was found at Chaplah, 4 km from Dada Siba. Ram Singh sought to bring the image to the town, but the palanquin on which the image had been placed could not be moved — and this is the image which was then installed in the temple at Chanaur, where it still rests.


Meanwhile, disappointed at not being able to bring the image to Dada Siba, Ram Singh decided to build a temple of his own. Specialised craftsmen were employed for the structure and the finest bricks (Nanak Shahi) were placed at their disposal. A portion of the stone came from Jodhpur and this was transported by bullock carts and labourers from Hoshiarpur. Special stone for door posts was quarried near the fort of Mangarh on the opposite banks of the Beas and ferried over to Dada Siba. From Jaipur came the image of Radha Krishna which was ceremoniously installed in the temple. While these elements created the building, the true worth of the temple’s structure lies in its paintings. The panels by the images are in marble relief and have been delicately coloured. The sanctum itself has barely an inch of space that has been not been adorned with frescoes. Mughal, Sikh and, of course, Pahari paintings are found in the assorted sections. The ceiling is also covered with paintings, portraying deities from the Hindu pantheon. At present, both the structure of the temple and the paintings require exhaustive restoration.

On the hill above the village and a couple of kilometres from the bazaar, lie the remains of the old palace of Dada Siba. A rather sanguinary tale is told of the place. When the walls of the palace were being raised, they repeatedly collapsed. A learned Brahmin attached to the court declared that they would stand only if the Raja sacrificed someone dear to him. The infuriated Raja declared that the Brahmin who spoke these words was dear to him and promptly had him buried alive near the foundation. The Brahmin cursed the Raja and declared that the palace would never have a roof. Even today, the structure remains open to the skies and, interestingly, the scions of the erstwhile ruling house who still live in area, do so in kutcha structures as they say that they are forbidden to live in concrete houses!

Located in Kangra district, Dada Siba is approachable by a number of routes. It is 22 km from Talwara, 33 km from Sansarpur Terrace and 27 km from Dehra.