Each one of us who have studied in the schools of India would have definitely studied about Cellular Jail or Saza-e-Kalapani at one time or the other. The jail, which had the toughest punishment for all the prisoners (mostly freedom fighters), used to be the ultimate “tool” for the Britishers to scare all those who opposed their rule in India. That is because the prisoners of this jail were made to undergo such inhumane tortures that no one would dare to oppose the British!! However, the freedom fighters from India were so committed to gain the independence that they were even okay to undergo such horrendous punishment! Visiting Cellular Jail at Port Blair definitely reminds us of all those stories that we had read at one time, or the movies which are based on this theme.
Entrance to Cellular Jail
Cellular Jail, which took ten long years to build, was opened in 1906 by the British to house all those who opposed British rule in India. This location was chosen for the jail as it is surrounded by water on all the sides, and the prisoners could not easily escape and get back to the mainland India. Moreover, the island is far away from the mainland that the freedom fighters cannot even communicate with their supporters.
Model of Cellular Jail
The architecture of cellular jail had a central pillar to which 7 wings are connected, just like 7 spokes of a bicycle tire. Each wing is a three storied building which had several cells. Each cell was 15 ft X 9 ft, and used to house only one inmate. A small ventilator was present on the rear side of the cell which was at at height of 9.8 ft. The height of the ventilator was chosen such that it is difficult for the inmate to get to such a height, peep outside and look for help. The wings were designed such that the front side of one wing would be facing the rear side of another wing. It was designed that way so that the inmates could not communicate with each other. Lack of communication among inmates avoided the probable unity among the inmates against the British and plan an attack to escape from the jail. The central tower had a guard who used to keep a watch on the corridors outside the cells. This design of the jail required minimal movement for the guard to keep a check on all the cells of all the wings. The central tower also had an alarm that could be used to alert someone in case someone tries to escape, or some other emergency!
As you walk through the interiors of the permises, and the central tower, you can see various models that gives the visitors some idea about the life of prisoners in this jail.
You will also come across where the prisoners were hanged till their death.
Some of the wings also have several paintings that tell stories from those bygone days.
After India gained independence from the British rule in 1947, two of the wings were demolished. However, several former prisoners and rulers protested the demolition, as it was an historical evidence. The remaining portion of the jail was then declared as a National Memorial.
Inside the Cellular Jail premises
Today, the premises of the cellular jail also has a running hospital. The hospital was setup in the 1960s and serves the locals.
You can also get to the top of the wings and get a beautiful view of the surroundings.
The building with blue roof is the hospital inside the cellular jail premises
After sunset, Cellular Jail also organizes a ‘Light and Sound Show’ that introduces the visitor to the history of the place. The hour long show describes many instances in great detail and at the end of it, you will get to know about the tough life inmates had during those years.
Seats for the ‘Light and Sound Show’ in the evening
Cells during ‘Light and Sound Show’
If you are in Port Blair, and are interested in history, then you should visit Cellular Jail. Perhaps this is the first time, I am recommending someone to visit a jail 🙂 Please do, and I am sure you will not be disappointed 🙂
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