Cellular Jail

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G B Pant Road, Atlanta Point, Port Blair View on Map
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Cellular Jail, the most prolific memory of Andaman for many, is the sole thing that comes to mind when most Indians hear the word ‘Andaman’.

Visitors Information

Cost of Admission

Adults – INR 10

Extra Cost

Photo Camera: Rs 25, Video Camera: Rs 100

Timings

8.45 AM to 12.30 PM and 1.30 PM to 5 PM

Tickets issued only by

4.15 PM latest

Closed on

Monday and Government holidays

Address

GB Pant Road, Port Blair, South Andaman

About Cellular Jail

Cellular Jail, the most prolific memory of Andaman for many, is the sole thing that comes to mind when most Indians hear the word ‘Andaman’. Before the boom of tourism on the Andaman islands, most Indians had only knew 2 things about the Andamans – the torturous Cellular Jail where our freedom fighters were imprisoned and the native tribes who lived in prehistoric conditions.

So, a visit to the cellular jail often happens to be the first and foremost agenda of people who visit these Islands. The untamed and cruel history of this jail is etched in the memory of everyone who has visited this opulent structure that took 10 years to build.

History of Cellular Jail

Contrary to what most people think, Cellular Jail wasn’t the first prison on Andaman. Convicts were deported to these islands soon after the British started building their headquarters at Ross Island, a tiny 600 square kilometers of land opposite Port Blair. From 1896 to 1906, many political prisoners were deported to these islands, which the British established as a penal settlement based on similar ideas used in Australia.

The convicts of the Ross Island Jail and the Viper Jail went through hard labor to build the Cellular Jail at the Atlanta Point Hillock in Port Blair. The iconic jail whose sole idea was captivity in a single cell prison room was made ready for the first set of prisoners in 1906. It began to infamously be called ‘Kalapani’, which meant one would be stripped of their caste and religion if they crossed the sea.

The Cellular Jail is a 3-storey wheel structured building with 7 radiating wings each having a capacity to store 100 prisoners. The structure could house 600-700 prisoners at one time although it was never always full. Many notable political figures like Veer Savarkar, Ullashkar Dutt, Yogeshwar Shukla and others served their terms here.

Andaman’s story has always been marred with cellular jail’s brutal history. The prison was specifically known for its cruel Irish jailor David Barry who inflicted inhuman physical labor and torture that lead many to sit on a hunger strike.

Many of these poignant tales can be witnessed first hand when you visit the Cellular Jail and watch the gripping light and sound show. It’s significance is represented in the National Award Winning Malayalam Film ‘Kalapani’, which some would say is as iconic as the jail itself.

 

How to Reach Cellular Jail?

The Cellular Jail, about 2 km from the city center is situated in the North-East corner of Port Blair city. It is close to the Aberdeen Jetty (Go to Ross island from here), Marina Park, Water Sports Complex, and the Bazaar.

Auto-rickshaws (Tuktuks) are easily available for hire to/from here. Private chauffeured vehicles or rented two-wheelers are other convenient options of travel, especially if you look to visit many attractions within the city.

Visitors Information

  • Cost of Admission: Rs 30, Photo Camera: Rs 25, Video Camera: Rs 100
  • Timings: 8.45 AM to 12.30 PM and 1.30 PM to 5 PM
  • Last tickets issued by 4.15 PM. No entry after this.
  • Closed on Monday and Government holidays
  • Address: GB Pant Road, Port Blair, South Andaman

G2A Tips

The Cellular jail like all other government monuments is closed on Mondays and remains open all through the rest of the week from 9 am to 5 pm except for the one-hour lunch break at 12:30 pm. We recommend that you visit in the afternoon as you have better chances of getting a guide during that time. It also leaves enough time for you to travel through the place at an easy pace and then watch the light and sound show in the evening. An afternoon visit also gives you time to explore the park opposite to cellular Jail, as you wait for the light and sound show to start. Also, the view from the cellular jail watchtower is lovely in the afternoons.

Directions to Cellular Jail

Cellular Jail is located at what is called the Atlanta Point in Port Blair. It’s a popular monument in Port Blair which stands at GB Pant Road. It’s easily accessible from all the major hotels in Port Blair town. You can take a private car, a taxi or an auto-rickshaw to reach this place. You can get taxis and auto-rickshaws from popular spots like Golghar, Aberdeen Jetty, the water sports complex and Aberdeen bazaar. It remains packed with tourists all over the year, especially from November to April when the weather is pleasant on the island.

Things Not To Miss at Cellular Jail

Cellular Jail visit isn’t complete without a thorough immersive reading of its history and architecture. However, if you aren’t a history buff and don’t have much time in hand, here are some things that you shouldn’t miss out on:

  1. Visit the Cellular Jail Museum which chronicles the history of the place and the story of the inmates. The museum lies just after the entrance, this was used as the administrative block of David Barry and the other Jailors who came after him.
  2. Visit the work shed where the prisoners were put to hard labour. It’s in the middle of the open courtyard and it showcases the oil milling and the other strenuous work done by the prisoners.
  3. Visit the chilling gallows. It’s opposite to the work shed and in the right hand side corner of the courtyard. Here, 3 prisoners were hanged at a time.
  4. Visit Veer Savarkar’s cell which is just above the gallows in the corner on the 3rd floor.
  5. You could also climb up the central watch tower to get a glimpse of the entire structure and a view  of Ross Island which lies directly opposite to Port Blair. The Britishers lived on Ross Island and whenever prisoners were hanged at Cellular Jail, they were notified by a signal from the watchtower.
  6. There’s an evocative Light and Sound Show narrated by Om Puri in the evening that takes you through the entire history of the jail in a super-engaging way.

What To Experience in Cellular Jail?

A visit to the Cellular Jail helps us empathize with the hardships and the struggles of political prisoners who were imprisoned by the English.

The cells were structured in a manner that the wall of one wing faced the other. The prisoners were trapped in a dungeon-like environment in a solitary way with nobody to talk to. Not even the sky was visible from the cells. The Savarkar brothers who were both imprisoned at Cellular Jail were unaware of each other’s existence for many years. The younger of the two, Veer Savarkar, a popular political activist, was given a double sentence which meant he was serving a total of 50 years.

The prisoners were stripped of essential services like clean drinking water and toilet facilities. 2 earthen pots were provided  – one for drinking water and the other for urinating.  In addition to these humiliations, they had to go through 12 or more hours of oil milling and other hard labor everyday. The jailor David Barry set unachievable targets for prisoners which they couldn’t possibly fulfill. For this, they were often tortured with lashings and made to starve. Many died of this torture and over the years, many were also hanged. Many tried to escape from this inescapable fortress, surrounded by high walls and the sea. Most of those who escaped couldn’t survive for long and were captured to be hanged or thrown into the sea at night.

As you walk along the cells, you’ll see that the locks of the cells were buried in deep caveats in the wall, making it impossible to break out. Any act of rebellion, like hunger strikes, resulted in terrible force-feeding incidents that often resulted in unwarranted deaths.

The entire idea of the prison was to kill the spirit of the political prisoners through solitude, torture and hard labor. As you finish your tour of the prison, you will carry away with you a sense of respect for these prisoners and get an understanding of the hardships that activists went through to attain national freedom.

FAQs About Cellular jail

  • How was the Cellular Jail Built?
    • The jail was built with puce coloured bricks shipped from Burma
    • 20,000 cubic feet of local stone and 30,00,000 bricks made by prisoners were further used for building it
    • The Cellular Jail was based on Panopticon Theory of Architecture where there’s a central axis and 7 radiating compartments.
    • Each cell measures 13 1/2 ‘x 7’ and was secured by iron grills making way for solitary prison confinement and giving it the cellular composition.
  • How the Idea of ‘Penal Settlement’ and ‘Kalapani’ Originate?
    • As early as 1856 the British Medical System was authorized to devise a plan to send the enemies of the British empire to exile in a faraway land.
    • British Army Doctors came up with the idea of the penal settlement after reading about the ‘Kalapani’ myth in Hindu Sanskrit texts. Sir Robert Napier described it as  “transportation beyond the sea is to the Hindoos… a separation forever from every tie and relation and possession which men hold to in life”
    • Impressed by the French penal settlement built in 1849 in a rocky islet off Guyana, they thought of a similar settlement in India
    • It finally started when Dr. James Pattison Walker landed with 200 rebels (belonging to the Sepoy Mutiny time) in Andaman on March 10, 1858. There was a penal settlement in Australia but transportation of prisoners to Australia was banned at that time and hence the necessity of Andaman
    • Many of these prisoners died at sea and Walker ordered a further consignment of prisoners from Burma and the adjoining areas. That’s how the first jail in Ross Island and Viper Island started to carve out an island settlement for the Britishers
  • What led to its close down?
    • The cruel torture inflicted in cellular Jail lead to mass hunger strikes by the inmates between 1932 to 1937
    • The last hunger strike in 1937 went on for 45 days.
    • During this time many incidents of force-feeding and experiments of force-feeding by the British doctors surfaced. These resulted in some deaths
    • The situation was so dense that even stalwarts like Gandhi, Nehru, and Subhas Chandra Bose had to intervene and put pressure on the British government
    • After this, the penal settlement was closed down and the inmates were extracted to the mainland in 1938.
  • What happened when the Japanese captured the islands?
    • In 1942 the Japanese captured the island and handed over power to Subhas Chandra Bose’s who visited the cellular jail in 1943 and called it the Indian Bastille
    • The Japanese released the prisoners held in the jail, one of whom, Pushkar Bakshi, became their principal collaborator.
    • There were brutal killings and massacres of the remaining convicts and locals during the Japanese time.
    • 4 days after the Japanese occupation of the islands, a young man Zulfiqar Ali was shot for firing an air gun in front of Browning Club where a memorial stands in his name
    • The INA formed a peace committee headed by Dr. Diwan Singh in order to mitigate the risk of these atrocities but it didn’t help much and they themselves were targeted by the Japanese
  • What happened to Cellular Jail after 1947?
    • 4 wings of the jail were damaged in the 1941 earthquake and another one was demolished after independence to make way for a hospital. The survivors of the cellular jail revolted against this and demanded to conserve this piece of history as a memorial.
    •  The cellular jail now stands as a National Monument with 2 wings and the administrative block. It was declared a National Memorial on 11th February, 1979
    • In 1996, the national award winning Malayalam film ‘Kalapani’ depicted the poignant tale of the Cellular Jail set during the cruel reign of David Barry in 1915
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