Cellular Jail


I was born after independence and hence did not see what the freedom struggle was all about. I had only read and heard about it from elders. But when I went to the Cellular Jail in Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, my eyes refused to blink.

On 11 February 1979, this Cellular Jail, a pilgrimage destination for freedom fighters, was dedicated to the nation and declared a “National Memorial”.

This prison was built by the British to imprison the fighters of the Indian freedom struggle in an island thousands of kilometers away from mainland India. It was infamously also known as Kala Pani (Black Water), as the sea water here is very deep and black.

The foundation of this Jail was laid in 1897 as a silent witness to the atrocities committed by the British government on the freedom fighters of India. It was completed in 1906. The building had 7 wings (now only three remain) with 3 floors in each wing which converged on the observation tower in the center like the spokes of a bicycle wheel.

The prison had 696 cells in each wing which were designed in such a way that no prisoner could see or speak to each other and lived in solitary confinement. That’s why it was named Cellular Jail. The names of brave martyrs are now written on the walls of the prison.

Hundreds of freedom fighters were transported to the islands to imprison and punish them. The cruelest of punishments were inflicted upon the prisoners, and some of them were hanged to death.

A sound and light show in the Jail is run in the evening showcasing the trials and tribulations of the inmates. There is also a museum where one can see the weapons with which the freedom fighters were tortured

I’m not going to delve into the details of torture committed on freedom fighters, as these are all available on Google, but in March 1942, the Japanese captured the Cellular Jail, when it became home to British prisoners of war.

During this period, the control of islands was passed to Subhash Chandra Bose, who hoisted the Indian National Flag on the island for the first time. After the surrender of Japan in WW II, the British resumed the control of the prison and islands in October, 1945.

Apart from Port Blair and Cellular Jail, the Andaman is a very beautiful place worth seeing. Must-visit islands are Havelock Island, Neil Island and North Bay, Jolly Buoy and Ross Island and many beaches to explore the beauty and serenity of this place.


–Kaushal Kishore

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35 Comments

  1. Just as your eyes refused to blink, my tongue refuses to form the words necessary to expresses what is in my heart for a great sadness reside there. This is an incredible share, KK, on the anniversary of the dedication of the Cellular Jail.
    Tell me, KK – what happened to the other 4 wings?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Nancy, for reading it with interest and your kind feelings. Much, much appreciated! As regards 4 out of original 7 wings of the Jail, the same had to be demolished after the damage during the earthquake in 1941.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you, Kaushal, for the fascinating facts about The Andaman and Nicobar islands and the Cellular jail. I didn’t know anything about it and I have to thank you for extending my knowledge. It is good to know that now it is a place to visit and reflect on the difficult past.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Joanna, for your kind comment! It’s always my pleasure to share such important facts. It’s really a very beautiful place. I had gone there with my family.
      What happened to today’s post? Did I miss it?

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  3. I went with my family to Port Blair many years ago. My father being in the media field and my mom being a history buff and a journalist, gave us a good history lesson on that day. I also like history subject and looking at the cellular Jail and knowing about what happened there, still haunts me. Those jail walls scream of atrocities and sufferings of Indian freedom fighters. But other than that, Port Blair is a beautiful island.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m happy that you visited Port Blair with your family. I had also gone there with my family. In fact I went to Cellular Jail twice. It gave an entirely different feeling, as you have rightly used words, screaming walls. I had never seen a hanging cell in my life. But this memorial gives an insight how much our forefathers had to suffer for independence. Thank you for sharing your wonderful reflections!

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    1. Thank you for reading and appreciating. A visit to Cellular Jail gives a glimpse of those sufferings. My heart goes out to those freedom fighters who sacrificed everything to secure freedom from the foreign rule.

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      1. It was used as a prisoner of war camp during our Civil War. Dr. Mudd, who was convicted as one of the Lincoln assassination conspirators because he set the broken ankle of Booth, the man who shot Lincoln, was sent there. He helped treat the prisoners during a Yellow Fever epidemic and was pardoned.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. We visited Cellular Jail a couple of years ago and were horrified by the conditions that the freedom fighters had to live in and treatment they received. I thought the museum though was done very well, with enough information to help you to understand this time. Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, Maggie, the museum gives a lot of information. Light and sound show is also worth seeing. I’m happy that you visited the Cellular Jail. Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for the visit and insight into some place I’d never heard of, KK. May we never stop learning and remembering history so we can avoid letting the worst of it repeat. 💞

    Liked by 1 person

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