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.

How to Reach Cellular Jail

Location: Near to G.B. Pant Hospital, Port Blbox-content.

  • Timings:
  • 09:00 AM to 12:00 AM
  • 01:00 PM to 04:15 PM
  • [Note:Closed on Mondays and Public Holidays.]
  • Ticket Details:
  • Adult: Rs. 10/- per person.
  • Child: Below 5 years no ticket.
  • Video Camera: Rs. 100/-
  • Still Camera : Rs. 25/-
Way of Transportation: By road.

Construction of Cellular Jail

The Cellular jail stands, tough in truncated from, as a mute witness to the indescribable sufferings of the patriots who were incarcerated in the cells of this Jail even had to lay down their lives as victims of tyranny and brutalities of the foreign Government. The jail is the first sight that greets a visitor on his arrival at port Blbox-content. Simultaneously, the huge building instills terrorism, the minds of the onlookers and a sense of reverence. Every brick of the Cellular jail has got a heart rendering story of resistance, sufferings and sacrifices. The jail was constructed as a 3 storeyed edifice with 7 wings, Each wing stretching from Central tower like the ray of a star fish or the spokes of a wheel. There was also an entrance block to the jail. It has 696 cell one for each person the name Cellular Jail is derived from its unique feature as it has only cell and no dormitories and each cell measured 13.5 feet by 7 feet and had door with iron grating in the front. A 3 feet by 1 feet ventilator, nearly 10 feet high from the door was provided to each cell. In order to minimize the chances of dialogue among the convict and to isolate them from each other, the construction of the Jail was so made that the front portion of each wing was to face the back side of the other wing. The room in the jail were in a row. The verandas about 4' wide ran all along the front surrounded by iron railings fixed into the arched pillars that support the roof of the verandas. All these corridors meet at the Central Tower, which alone has the gate entrance and exit. The rooms were shut by means of iron bolts and locks from outside and cannot be reached from within. The three corridors consisted of upper corridor, middle corridor and the lower corridor. Wardens were appointed in each corridor in the night to keep watch. There used to be 21 warder simultaneously for watch duty Besides, sentries in the Central Tower also kept vigil throughout day and night even through chances of escaping from the jail was very remote.

Prisoner Life in Cellular Jail

During twelve hours of the night, the warder insisted that the prisoner shall have no occasion to ease himself. The pot was so diminutive and that one could not discharge into it even once during the night. As for nature's call one had to go down on his knees to the Jamadar to let him out. The Warder may not take the call seriously. He may be reluctant himself or he may fear the Officer. The prisoner had, therefore, to check it till the morning. If the Warder realised and carried the matter to the Jamadar, the Jamadar would severely create the convict for the call at such an odd hour. He would or would not report to the doctor as his fancy or memory may guide him. The doctor's report on the ailment was never made or made only in one case out of a hundred. That report had to go to Mr. Barrie and Mr. Barrie would take action upon it at his own sweet will. Imagine the prisoner's condition during the night and during this process of red-tape. Particularly when the call was not normal but an abnormal and sudden ailment. In the morning Mr. Barrie, would sit in judgement upon it, rebuke sternly the warder and the Jamadar for their lapses of duty. When he prayed in this fashion there was no answering him. The prisoner was also cross examined by Mr. Barrie and if the former said that he could not help the call of nature Mr. Barrie would tum round upon him fiercely with the ejaculation why the devil did you have it? And if the wretched creature had the courage to say, I got it because I get it, the Jamadar would give a slap in the face and scold him for giving such an insolent answer. Usually the prisoner was let off only with this cannonade of word. But Mr. Barrie's particular kindness to the prisoner always ended in an order to put him immediately on the grinding mill.

Freedom Fighter's in Cellular Jail

Some of the better known political prisoners incarcerated in the Cellular Jail were Barindra Kumar Ghosh, Upendra Nath Banerjee, Hem Chandra Das, Ullaskar Dutta, Indubushan Roy, Bibhuti Bushan Sarkar, Hrishikesh Kanjilal, Sudhin Kumar Sarkar, Abinash Chandra Bhattacharji & Birendra Chandra Sen. All these prisoners were sent to the Cellular Jail after 1910 on their conviction for participation in the Manictollah Conspiracy case. Vir Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was sent to Andamans on 4th July 1911 with sentence of two transportations for life. When he came to the Cellular Jail his elder brother, Ganesh Savarkar was already there. But the Savarkar brothers came to know about this fact only after having been in Jail over a year.

Savarkar in Cellular Jail

Savarkar in his celebrated book 'The story of my transportation for life' refers to a certain utterances of Barrie the Jailor to the prisoners "Listen, you prisoners, in the universe there is one God, and he lives in the heavan above but in Port Blbox-content there are two one, the God of Heavan and another, the God of Each! Indeed the God of earth in Port Blbox-content that is myself. The God of Heavan will reward you when you go above. But this God of Port Blbox-content will reward you here and now. So you, prisoners behave well. You may complain to any superior against me but my work shall prevail; hold my own, Mind you well". Savarkar while describing the Jail conditions says " who can describe the suffering the agonies of mind & body ? I may give you an instance, however, to point the moral of all the hardship of prison life in the Cellular Jail of the Andamans grueling work , scanty food and clothing, occasional thrashing and other none was so annoying and disgusting as its provision for urinals and lavatories. The prisoners had to control the demands of nature, for hours together, for want of these arrangements in the cell itself. Morning, noon and evening these were the only hours when prisoners were let off this convenience at any other moment than the stipulated hours. The prisoners were locked in their cell at four or five o'clock in the evening and the lock was opened only after six in the next morning. A sort of clay-pot was given to them to use for urination during the night. Barindra Kumar Ghosh, younger brother of Maharshi Arabinda Ghosh, while describing about the inadequate and insufficient quantity of food says that "the next morning we came out and washed our face and then had for the first the darshan of ganji,otherwise called 'kanji'. It means boiled rice churned in water one may say, a sort of rice porridge. We were given each a 'dabbu' full of this dainty. Dabbu is a kind of primitive spoon, made of a broken half coconut shell with a canehandle fixed to it. The Ganji was saltless Therefore, tasteless. Each prisoner was allowed only one pinch of salt per day and,this was requied for the dal and the vegetable, the Ganji had necessarily to go without salt. However, we had to swallow the thing with utmost preservance, in spite of its tastelessness. The same thing was called Lapsi in the Alipur Jail but there it had some taste, as it was prepared sometime with molasses and sometime with 'dal'.
Other famous freedom fighters who were incarcerated in the Jail were Vaman Joshi, Shambunath Azad, Jay Dev Kapoor, Bathukeshwar Dutta, Sachindra Nath Sanyal, Pandit Paramanand, Lok Nath Bal, Ganesh Chandra Ghosh and Trailokya Nath Charaborthy Trailoky Maharaj. The Cellular Jail Was often considered by the freedom fighters all over the country as a place of pilgrimage. It was here the British Government used to send 'Dangerous prisoners'. Against the tyranny of the Jail management, several times in the history of Jail, political prisoners had to resort to hunger strike, after having failed all other methods of ventilating their grievances. The food otherwise supplied was not only inadequate but was unfit for human consumption. Neither any writing nor reading materials were provided to the prisoners. The prisoners were not allowed to communicate with their friends and relatives on the mainland except once in a year so. Even the letters coming form mainland and newspapers subscribed by the prisoners were often censored before being given to them. While fighting against this tyranny Political prisoners like Bhai Mahavir and others had to lay down their lives. Many prisoners had gone insane in the Jail and some had to find solace in putting an end to their lives by committing suicide rather than subjecting themselves to the indignities heaped on them.

Life as a Convict in Cellular jail

According to Andaman and Nicobar Gazetteer 1908, the life convicts were received into the Jail for six months, where the discipline was of severest, but the work was not hard. They were then transferred to the associated Jail for 18 months, where the work was hard but discipline less irksome. For the next three year the life convicts live in barracks, up at night and go out to labour under supervision. For that labour he received the reward, but his capabilities were studied. During the next five year he remained a laboring convict but was eligible for the petty posts of supervision and the easier forms of labour, he also got a very small allowance for little luxuries, or to save in the special Saving Bank. After completing 10 year in transportation he received a ticket to leave(self supporter). In that condition he earned his own living in a village he could farm, keep cattle, and marry or send for his family. But he was not free, had no civil right, and could not leave the settlement or be idle. After 20 to 25 years spent in the settlement with approved conduct he might be absolutely released. While a self-supporter, he was at first assisted with house, food, and tool, and paid no taxes or cesses, but after three to four year, according to certain conditions, he received no assistance and was charged with every public payment, which could be demanded of him, he be a free man.

Cellular Jail (Pre-Independence Era)

Prisoners below twenty years of age could not be assigned arduous manual labour; literates were employed in the press and the work was assigned according to the physical fitness of the prisoners. Political prisoners were treated differently.

The tasks for which convicts confined in the Cellular Jail could be employed were:

  • 1. Cane and bamboo work
  • 2. Coconut and mustard oil mills
  • 3. Husking and opening coconuts
  • 4. Drying copra
  • 5. Making hooka shells
  • 6. Coir pounding
  • 7. Sisal pounding
  • 8. Rope making
  • 9. Net making
  • 10. Carpet making
  • 11. Weaving towels
  • 12. Coir and sisal hemp mat making
  • 13. Cleaning mustard seeds
  • 14. Blanket mulling
  • 15. Gardening
  • 16. Hill cutting and swamp filling in (when necessary)
  • 17. Miscellaneous, such as conservancy, cleaning drains etc. around the jail
  • 18. Miscellaneous lowly duties in connection with the jail like hospital ward coolies, sweeping etc.
  • 19. Clerical work in the jail office.