Dark Secrets Of The Andaman Cellular Jail, A Melancholic Beauty!
The breathtakingly beautiful archipelago of the Andaman Islands shines like an emerald in the vast Bay of Bengal. The Andaman Islands are known for serene beaches, undisturbed coastlines, and pristine lagoons. Let’s know more about these mesmerising islands.
These islands are also the abode of the Andamanese that includes major tribes like the Sentinelese and Jarawa. No Andaman trip is complete without visiting the fantastic beaches like Radhanagar on Havelock or those on Neil Island. You’ll also want to sample some of the delectable Andaman cuisine; a real seafood fiesta. And amidst thorough relaxation, explore the islands’ rich heritage to complete your holiday. You can also indulge in activities such as scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking and sea walking. However, the Andaman Islands are also home to one of India’s dark colonial chapters – the Andaman Cellular Jail.
Also known as the Kala Pani Jail, it has been a topic of intrigue for many travellers. The sprawling grounds of Cellular Jail, built in 1906, are a prominent fixture on Andaman tours. The Cellular Jail complex is also a National Memorial monument that attracts tourists from across the globe. The brave political dissidents of British India were imprisoned here in the harshest of conditions. Today it is a shrine to their life. Interestingly, it is shaped like a star-fish. Visiting this place will fill your heart with gratitude for those who stood up to tyranny. The Andaman Cellular Jail is, thus, a popular locale to explore when visiting the islands.
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The Tragic History Of The Andaman Cellular Jail
Popularly known as ‘Kaala Pani’ in Hindi, which means black waters, the Cellular Jail of the Andamans functioned as a colonial prison. The construction of the prison started in the year 1896 and was completed in 1906. The British rulers, at the time, used the islands since 1857 for isolating and punishing activists in the movement for the country’s independence. The prisoners were brought to the island and cut off from the mainland.
These “convicts” were used by the British to colonise the islands by constructing buildings, prisons and facilities for a harbour. The Indian independence movement gained momentum in the latter half of the 19th century, but the British had captured and sent many activists as prisoners to the Andamans. The colonial rulers realised that the population of captives could not be kept free from harsh treatment and a proper system of prisons was necessary. As a result, the construction of the prison started in 1896 and was completed in 1906.
The Imposing Structure Of The Prison
Burmese bricks were brought in to build the Cellular Jail in 1896. The jail was completed in 1906 and designed as a place for isolation and exclusion in a large and remote penal space. The British used this facility to torture and punish the exiled political prisoners. Many well-known Indian freedom fighters were kept here in the infamous Kala Pani Jail.
Located in the capital city of Port Blair, the Andaman Cellular Jail has seven wings and three stories. There are around 696 cells which were used for solitary confinement of the prisoners. Each cell is about 14.8 ft high and 8.9 ft wide. The prison gets its name “Cellular Jail” because of these specially designed cells designed for solitary imprisonment. The inmates who were locked up within these walls were prohibited from communicating with each other, and the peculiar design of prison and its cells only made this more difficult.
From Kala Pani Jail To A National Memorial: An Inspirational Journey
On 11th February 1979, the government of India declared the Andaman Jail a National Memorial to honour the sacrifice and struggle of the freedom fighters who were imprisoned here. The three wings and the central tower of the Kala Pani Jail were converted into a National Memorial. In 1963, the Govind Ballabh Pant Hospital was also set up on the premises of the Andaman Jail. This hospital is fully functional and serves the local population. Tourists can visit the Andaman Cellular Jail between 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM and between 1:30 PM and 4:45 PM. A taxi, auto-rickshaw or a bus are convenient transport options to reach the Andaman Jail for a look into the past.
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Things To Do At The Cellular Jail
The Andaman Cellular Jail is a testament to the freedom movement and the struggle of the freedom fighters of India.
1. Get Mesmerised By The Sound And Light Show
The jail authorities and Andaman tourism department have created a rather spectacular sound and light show for visitors to the Kala Pani Jail. The event showcases the history of the infamous locale with a display of voiced dialogues and narration coupled with vibrant lighting that highlights the jail in a spectacle of multi-coloured and dramatic hues.
The show is presented in both Hindi and English. Visitors have to pay an entry fee and additional fees for a camera. Prior permission can be sought for shooting video which is available for a fee of Rs 10,000. The Hindi show features on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 6:00 PM to 7:15 PM. The English show is arranged on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7:15 PM.
2. Learn About The Travails Of The Legendary Freedom Fighters
The Swatantrya Jyoti (Freedom Flame) is constructed at the centre of the prison to honour the memory of the freedom fighters. On the ground floor of the memorial, visitors are taken through the history of Kala Pani Jail via photographs and models in the exhibition gallery. The first floor houses the Netaji Gallery, an art gallery and library providing information about the freedom movement.
Cellular Jail offers a lot of information and evidence about the dark chapter in the history of India’s freedom movement. Students of architecture, anthropology, sociology, and history often visit Cellular Jail during their Andaman trip.
The best time to visit Cellular Jail is between October and March. It is advisable to inquire about the entry, fees and show timings as these are likely to vary depending on the season.
Nearby Places To Visit
The Andaman jail is located at Atlanta Point on the main island of Port Blair. Port Blair is also the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The region is abuzz with fantastic tourist attractions. If you are travelling an Andaman tour with your partner, friends/family, you can enjoy fun-filled activities like exploring gorgeous marine life in a glass-bottom boat, visit the Andaman Water Sports Complex and dine on scrumptious local seafood at nearby restaurants.
Andaman holidays should include a quick trip to the Andaman Cellular Jail as it offers a memorable glimpse into one the most momentous relics of India’s freedom movement. Families, friends and couples can also plan plenty of exciting activities at nearby attractions for adventure, romance and quality family bonding while on an Andaman tour. Make sure to include this fascinating National Monument to your itinerary for an exciting Andaman trip.
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