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A Glimpse into India's Freedom Struggle at the Cellular Jail in Port Blair.

The Cellular Jail, commonly known as 'Kala Pani,' is a historic colonial prison in Port Blair, Andaman, and Nicobar Islands. Cellular Jail, built by the British during their colonial reign in India, was used mostly to exile political prisoners, who were subjected to numerous horrors at the hands of the British. The jail's construction began in 1896 and was completed in 1906, after which it housed many important freedom fighters including Batukeshwar Dutt, Yogendra Shukla, and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. The jail complex is presently held by the Government of India and serves as a national memorial monument depicting the lives of convicts during the British period.

The jail recounts the most heinous and horrible chapter in Indian history. Soon after the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857, Britishers began to use the islands of Andaman and Nicobar as prisons for the independence leaders. The lonely islands were chosen because of their remote location from the main portions of the country, where the inmates would be kept in the dark, oblivious to the situation in the country, and excluded from society. Thousands of Indians were imprisoned in cellular jails during India's independence movement; many died as a result of cruel conditions, many were hanged, and many simply died. Today, the Cellular Jail stands as a melancholy reminder of all the sacrifices that our freedom warriors endured in order to secure the country's independence, and it is an important part of our history that must be preserved.

History of Cellular Jail

Although the Cellular Jail complex was built in 1906, the British had been using the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as a prison since the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857. Soon after the revolt, the rebels were widely executed, and those who survived were exiled to the islands. As punishment for their offenses against the state, 933 inmates were banished to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. With the ever-increasing number of detainees in mind, a 'Andamanese Home,' a repressive institution masquerading as philanthropic, was built there. Many captives from Burma and those associated with the Mughal dynasty were also exiled here.

In the late nineteenth century, there was a spike in the independence movement, and some inmates were deported to the Andamans. As a result, the need for a high-security prison became apparent, as most offenders chose to be banished to the islands rather than remain in Indian jails. This need was met when the Cellular Jail, which was designed to be "a location of exclusion and isolation within a more broadly defined isolated penal environment," was built here.

The Architecture of Cellular Jail

The cells jail complex accurately depicts the historical history of Indian Independence leaders throughout their period in exile in the jail. The original structure was a puce-colored structure termed "Cellular Jail" because of its architecture. The prison is organized into seven wings that radiate in seven distinct directions from the main tower. Instead of rooms or dormitories, each wing had 693 single cells. The cells were just 4.5 by 2.7 meters in size, with a small ventilator that allowed one cell to see the back of the other, making communication impossible. The creation of the jail's small cells is indicative of the torture that Indian leaders had to endure in order to free their country from British rule.

Cellular Jail Memorial

Following the country's independence in 1947, many members of the 'Ex-Andaman Political Prisoner's Fraternity Circle' paid visits to the prison. Following arguments and talks with the government, it was decided that the jail should be conserved, and the Cellular Jail was designated as a National Memorial with no significant change to its edifice. On February 11, 1979, the Prime Minister dedicated the memorial to the people of India.

The entry block expands into an exhibition gallery with photographs of our independent soldiers as you enter the building. On the museum grounds, there is also a First War of Independence display and an Old Photography gallery. The first floor of the building houses an art gallery, a Netaji Gallery, and a Freedom Movement Library. A Freedom-Swatantrya Jyot light burns here in perpetuity in honor of all freedom warriors and martyrs who gave their lives for the glory of the country.

Light and Sound Show

Every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, the Cellular Jail officials put on a light and sound performance in honor of the valiant martyrs. The Hindi shows begin at 6:00 PM and end at 7:15 PM, while the English show begins at 7:15 PM and costs INR 50 per person. The light and sound spectacle not only converts the cellular jail into a stunning stage for a live performance, but it also tells the heartbreaking story of the independence movement as well as the life of the prisoners in the jail during the British era.


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