Port Blair, capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands (an Indian Union Territory) is a popular tourist destination since quite sometime. I just had an amazing week long tropical holiday in the island group when north of India was shivering from cold!
Cellular Jail demands a must visit, especially for the Indian tourists as it is a national memorial of great historical importance.
Built at a cost of 5 Lakh Rupees more than hundred years ago by the British (who then were ruling India), it was infamous as “Kalla-Paani”. Once someone was sent there to serve the sentence, there as no escape. The Jail has witnessed brutalities against Indian Freedom Fighters over decades.
The British spent much time and money to construct this jail so as to create the most harsh environment for the prisoners.
It had seven wings connected to a central tower and front of one wing faced back of another so that prisoners couldn’t each other.
Only three of these remain now. Each of the 693 cells (hence the name cellular!) measures 13 x 7 and the latch was thoughtfully designed so it cudn’t be opened from inside.
Between every two wings, there were work sheds where freedom fighters were given tasks like rope making and oil extraction. The targets were impossible for anyone to complete. When they failed to do so (which happened everyday), punishments were even worse. They were given just enough food and were not even to allowed to attend the nature’s call except for specific times! People who rebelled and went to hunger strike were fed liquids forcefully and some even died while protesting.
From the terrace of the Jail wings, you can view Ross island which was the British Capital for Andaman at that time. Also you can see another island with a lighthouse, this lighthouse is the same as on the 20 rupees note!
Jail remains closed on Monday. There is a guided tour of about 45 minutes from 9.00 till 4.00 PM rest of the days followed by a Light and Sound show in evening. See the show and listen to the heart wrenching stories as narrated by the 100 year old Banyan tree in the Jail.
One thing that disturbed me was that our tour coordinator was trying to make us view the show without buying the tickets for us. BTW, we had already paid for the same along with the package cost but the co-ordinators there sometimes don’t buy the tickets and pocket away the money, which is a mere 50 rupees. Its such a disgusting thing to do at a place where people sacrificed their lives for their country.
It’s a truly enlightening experience to listen to freedom struggle stories at such a relevant place. I am glad I was able to see this place for real!