Cellular Jail is situated in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands stand as the dark testimony of atrocities under the British rule. It reflects the reminiscence of the most grueling colonial pressure upon Indian freedom strugglers.
The remote archipelago was used by East India Company to exile Indian political prisoners. Isolated from the mainstream population, this jail was also referred to as Kala Pani(where Kala means death and Pani means water in Sanskrit).
This place has witnessed the brutal punishments imposed on the prisoners. India's struggle for independence comprised of freedom fighters like such as Batukeshwar Dutt, Veer Savarkar.
Veer Savarkar was incarcerated in this jail. The jail is now open for public viewing and recognized as a National Memorial. The museum inside the jail gives a glimpse of years of India's struggle for freedom.
Historical features of Cellular Jail
The Andaman Islands were used by the Britishers as a prison after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. The result of which was considered as the first war of independence went in favour of the British. The Britishers suppressed the rebels by transferring them to the Andaman for lifetime exile.
The rebels in the number of hundreds were sent to the Cellular Jail and remained under the custody of jailer David Barry along with military doctor Major James Pattison.
About 238 doctors, prisoners who tried to escape the jail in 1868 were caught in April, out of whom 87 were hanged. The prisoners were put isolated from the mainland and there were no ways for them to escape.
The freedom fighters were chained and made to work in constructing buildings. In 1942 the Japanese overpowered the Britishers in the Andaman Islands and drove the prisoners out of the islands.
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose visited Andaman during that time. Following the end of the Second World War' in 1945, the British regained control of the islands.
Design of the Cellular Jail
Originally the structure of the Cellular Jail consists of seven straight wings each connected to a tower in the middle giving the whole construction a view of a bicycle wheel.
The design was based on social theorist and English Philosopher Jeremy Bentham's concept of the Panopticon. The tower situated at the centre formed the intersection point of all the seven wings and served as watchpoint for the guards to keep a vigil on the prisoners.
Even the cells in a wing were in a row so that the inmates cannot communicate with each other. Each cell consists of only one prisoner ensuring minimal chance of communication.
This principle of solitary confinement earned the jail its name "Cellular". The jail consists of a total of 693 cells, measuring 4.5m by 2.7m with a ventilator located at a height of 3m. There exist no dormitories within the jail.
How to reach Cellular Jail?
The Cellular Jail is situated at the Atlanta Point in the capital city of Port Blair. You can reach Port Blair by air and by sea.
By Air - Several flights operate regularly between Port Blair and Chennai and Port Blair and Kolkata. Veer Savarkar International Airport at Port Blair also operates international flights.
By Sea- Weekly ship services ply between the city of Port Blair and Visakhapatnam, Chennai, and Kolkata and may take up to 4 to 5 days. Most of these passenger ships are expensive and limited.
Visit Timing and Entrance Fee
The Cellular Jail remains open for public viewing on all days except National holidays. The entry fee per person is 30 INR. Other charges include 200 INR for a still camera, 1000 INR for a video camera and 10,000 INR for film shooting per day.
Light and Sound Show
The Cellular Jail regularly holds Light and Sound shows depicting India's freedom struggle both in English and Hindi. The price of the ticket for the show is 50 INR per adult and 10 INR for children.
The Hindi shows are for all days except Monday, Wednesday, and Friday whereas the English shows are scheduled on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7.15 PM.
The atrocities meted out on the Indian prisoners is bought alive inside the jail and it lasts for about 45 minutes. The entire story is being narrated by the voice of an ancient Pipal tree. The show brings up the dark history of the islands and reminds you of the history of Kalapani.
Life in the Cellular Jail
Notable freedom fighters were confined in the jail-like Batukeshwar Dutt, Diwan Singh Kalepani, Fazl-e-Haq Khairabadi, and the Savarkar brothers(Babarao Savarkar and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar).
Owing to solitary confinement the Savarkar brothers were unaware of each other's situations. Most of the freedom fighters in the jail went through various inhuman tortures.
The jail was in the limelight when its inmates observed hunger strikes in the early 1930s. Mahavir Singh, a close associate of Bhagat Singh went on a hunger strike in protest of such cruel treatment but died when jailer tried to feed him milk forcibly.
Later, his body was thrown into the sea. In 1937-38, Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore intervene and Government decided on repatriating the freedom fighters.
Over the years, the building was completely damaged and only three wings along with the tower remain. In 1969 it was converted into a National Memorial. Travelers from India and around the world visit the island which is famous for its scenic beauty.
The National Memorial house has galleries of Freedom Fighters photo with a Netaji gallery and an Art gallery on the first floor, among others.
Post India Independence two wings of the jail were demolished. However, this activity led to massive protests from several prisoners and political leaders who saw history getting erased of shreds of evidence.
Govind Ballabh Pant hospital established in the premises of the jail in 1963 is now a 500-bed hospital with about 40 doctors serving the local population.
The torture upon the prisoners was unbearable. No matter how fatigued the inmates are, resting was never an option. Sinister punishments awaited those who showed any signs of fatigue.
Cellular Jail is the best place for you to let your children explain what could have happened in the past during the rule of the British. It is the only place that reflects the pain and anger of hundreds of prisoners living in hell.