Culture

Here are some of the Dark Secrets of the Cellular Jail ( Kala Pani Ki Saja) in Andaman… The Monument which captivated our Indian freedom fighters!!

With their elaborate superfluities and wonderful architecture, Indian monuments represent one of the most outstanding facets of the multi-faceted Indian culture. An architectural feat in itself, each Indian monument is a remarkably splendid sample of unbelievable artistry, covering a sense of mystery and deception.

There lie a number of examples of those Indian monuments and epic historical structures need to be witnessed by every Indian and non-Indian to experience the unknown and the unheard facts of India.

Each of those masterpieces built and lay in our country, is an evident of master craftsmanship and elegance, which brings to the forefront the splendor of the bygone era. Monuments are witnesses of India’s past; the monuments of India are also the guardian pillars of India’s cultural heritage. The monuments of India have become an inspiration for the future generations.

Today, I talk about one such structure that sends chills down the spine even today and that’s “Kala Paani Jail” or The Cellular Jail- one of the most visited places in Port Blair. The jail still has the fear element in the air and anyone visiting the place can sense the pain the inmates went through back during the time this jail was functional.

Located in Andaman Island, the Cellular Jail reveals and screams out all the dark tales of what went behind those bars. It will take some guts to read it and visit this place but lesser than what these patriots had to withstand what they faced each day of their lives.

The Cellular jail widely known as “Kala Paani Jail”. Kal means “time or death” while Paani means “water”.
This dreaded name came about as prisoners who were once shipped across the waters of Andaman were never seen to return. It could the worsest of the punishments any criminal or jail inmate could face.

Birth of Cellular Jail…

Not many of us know that Andaman essentially became a place for the British to send the Indian prisoners and freedom fighters. Initially, the British settled on Ross Land and it was here that the prisoners were sent.

After the Great War of 1857, the British had captured a numerous Indian Freedom fighters who could not be accommodated on Ross Land. Thus, a Prison was decided to be constructed in the Land, which started in the year 1896 and was completed in 1906.

This prison was used by the British to imprison Indian freedom fighters and punish them in the worst form possible. Batukeshwar Dutt,Diwan Singh Kalepani, Fazl-e-Haq Khairabadi and the Savarkar brothers – Babarao Savarkar and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar are among the well-known names who were captured in this prison. Subash Chandra Bose had visited the prison but was lucky enough not to be a inmate of it. 

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Notified Architecture of the Prison…

The building of the Cellular Jail originally had seven straight wings each connected to a tower in the middle giving the whole construction a look of something like a bicycle wheel with each wing attached with the centre tower like a spoke of the wheel.

This design was based on English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham’s concept of the Panopticon. Puce coloured bricks were brought from Burma to construct the building. The tower in the centre that formed the point of intersection of all the seven wings served as a watch point for the guards of the jail to keep vigil on prisoners. It had a large bell for raising alarm.

The wings, each of which had three storeys, were constructed in such manner that the front of one wing faces the back of another so that one inmate in a wing cannot see or communicate with another inmate in any of the adjacent wings. Even the cells in a wing were in a row so that inmates in the same wing also cannot communicate or see each other.

Each cell housed only one prisoner ensuring minimal chance of communication among inmates thus isolating them from each other. This feature of solitary confinement in individual cells earned the jail its name, “Cellular”. There were a total of 693 cells, each measuring 4.5 m by 2.7 m with a ventilator located at a height of 3 m.

Freedom Fighters and their Life in the Cellular Prison..

Among all these facts of the Cellular Jail, Misery is that both the Savarkar brothers were totally unaware of each other’s presence in the same jail for two long years. And that’s not all, many of our freedom fighters had to go through inhuman and unimaginable atrocities, none kept an account of it.

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The jail drew attention when its inmates observed hunger strikes in the early 1930’s. Bhagat Singh’s associate in the freedom movement, Mahavir Singh went on a hunger strike in protest of such cruel treatment but died when authorities tried to feed him milk forcibly which went to his lungs. And his body was thrown into the sea without any mercy.

The “Kala Paani” Jail today.. 

The prison has been damaged over the passage of time and only three wings and the tower remains now, though not loosing its credibility. In 1969, Indian Government declared it as a “National Memorial” and since then it is preserved for tourists to view. Tourists from all over India and around the world visit the island which is predominantly famous for this Cellular Prison.

It is now widely known as a National Memorial and consists of several galleries including pictures of Freedom Fighters and Exhibition Gallery in the ground floor and an Art gallery and “Netaji Gallery” on the first floor of the monument. Several other interesting facts are displayed in the prison for the visitors to have a look upon and learn of its tale.

The monument is open on all days of the week except for National holidays. The visit is charged per individual person and photography & other charges are applied by the authority looking after the premises. Another interesting fact about this monument is, it regularly holds Light & Sound shows on India’s freedom struggle in both Hindi and English languages. Which of course is a treat to eyes of every Indian deep rooted to India’s soil.

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Credits: Ami Bhat

Source: Cultural India

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