Cellular Jail, Port Blair
The Cellular Jail or Kala Pani is a historic Jail that was used to incarcerate political prisoners during the British Rule in India. The construction of the prison complex dates back to the late 19th century as a response to the revolt of 1857. The jail was also designed keeping in mind that the prisoners weren’t allowed to communicate amongst themselves.
The Cellular Jail, also known as Kala Pani situated in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (India). The prison was known to house many notable Indian activists during the struggle for India’s independence. The Cellular Jail is one of the murkiest chapters in the history of the colonial rule in India. The construction of the prison started in 1896 and was completed in 1906. But the history of using the Andaman island as a prison dates back to the Indian rebellion of 1857. The bricks used to build the building were brought from Burma, known today as Myanmar. The penal settlement established in Andaman by the British after the First War of Independence in 1857 was the beginning of the agonizing story of freedom fighters in the massive and awful jails at Viper Island followed by the Cellular Jail. The patriots who raised their voice against the British Raj were sent to this Jail, where many perished.
The Cellular Jail is located at Port Blair in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Built in 1906 by the British Government, it silently stood witness to the tortures and ruthless atrocities meted out to the convicts, who were imprisoned in this jail. The prison acquired the name ‘cellular’, as it was entirely made up of individual cells which were meant for the solitary confinement of the prisoners, cutting them from contact with each other. Several eminent revolutionaries of India have been imprisoned in this jail, and they include Babarao Savarkar, Vinayal Damodar Savarkar, Barindra Kumar Ghosh and Batukeshwar Dutt amongst others.
The building originally comprised seven wings, intersected from a central watchtower. A guard used to keep a check on the prisoners from this tower. In addition, the Cellular Jail also has a large bell, which served as an alarm during emergencies. Each wing in this jail was three storied, which consisted of altogether 698 cells, each cell measuring 4.5 metre x 2.7 metre. The cells had built-in ventilators at a height of 3 metre. The building was subsequently damaged due to earthquake and tsunami, and today only three of the wings remain intact.
The Cellular Jail is today acknowledged as a National Memorial monument. In addition, visitors can also enjoy a Sound and Light show in Hindi as well as in English conducted during evening within the premises of the Cellular Jail. This program depicts the heroic Freedom Struggle and the sacrifices made by our freedom fighters and truly touches the soul of every Indian. The show gives us a brief idea about the brutal happenings in the jail prior to India’s independence and other historical events regarding this place. The place also has a Martyr’s memorial, a museum, and a photo gallery and art gallery as well, reminiscing India’s struggle for independence.
Best time to visit
Keeping in mind the moderate and tropical monsoon climate of Port Blair, ideally the best time to visit the Cellular Jail and Port Blair is between the months of October and April. Rest of the year the weather remains unbearable as the summers are hot and humid and winters experience strong winds.
The Cellular Jail was used by the British Government to deport political prisoners to a secluded archipelago and hence earned the name ‘kala pani’ meaning ‘black waters’.
The wings of the building were branched out from the central tower like the spokes of a wheel, which were so designed such that the frontal side of a cell in a spoke saw the back of cells in another spoke. This idea was meant to make communication between prisoners impossible.
The Cellular Jail remains open Tuesday to Sunday and is closed on Mondays and during public holidays.
The visiting hours for the Cellular Jail are between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm. The timings for the Light and Sound show is: 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm (Hindi) and 6:45 pm – 7:45 pm (English).