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Thursday, 29 January 2015

In pictures: The infamous Cellular Jail

This should have been posted a couple of weeks back - because it follows in the same vein of the previous one - viz my Andaman trip.

In the last post I had written about the beautiful Ross island. In this post, I shall deal with the infamous Cellular Jail.

Owing to their remote nature and considerable distance from the mainland of the Indian subcontinent, the Andaman islands had long been a preferred deportation point for political prisoners, for the British Raj. In fact, ever since the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, the British had been using the archipelago as a political prison. The Cellular Jail that we know today however, was constructed in 1906 - after ten long years of labour and a then staggering expenditure of more than ₹500,000.

Today, the jail is maintained as a national monument, and its two surviving wings still echo with grim stories of British brutalities and colonial suppression. The cells and the balconies carry an undercurrent of dread, and the gallows, despite being out of action for decades, still look sinister and manage to send a silent shudder down one's spine. Solitary confinement, painful day-long labour, horrific tortures were all the order of the day at the Cellular Jail. The most notable decade in the history of the Jail was the 1930s, when the inmates went on hunger strike - and this brought their pitiful plight to the attention of people living in mainland India. Many of the prisoners were force-fed - and several of them died as a result. It wasn't till 1937 that the Government decided to repatriate the prisoners and by 1938 the Jail was closed down.

The best known prisoner to have been fettered in the Cellular Jail was the Hindu nationalist freedom fighter - Veer Savarkar. During his decade of imprisonment, and in spite of the inhuman labour and torture that he was subjected to, he produced an inspirational work on Hindutva. He was denied pen and paper - so most of his writing was on walls using thorns and pebbles. He wrote and memorised thousands of lines of poetry, till other prisoners who were returning home brought them to the mainland.

The highlight for tourists is undoubtedly the Sounds and Lights display - where they are treated to an hour long audio-visual narration of the jail's murky past. The stories are poignant, and speak of brave young men who went through insane levels of torture and punishment - for the sake of their country - our country's - independence.

The entrance to the Cellular Jail

The brilliant sounds and lights show

Behind one of the cell wings.

The wing corridors.


View from the first floor balcony

Inside a cell room.


The gallows.

Under the gallows. These fall through to allow the sentenced person to hang till his death

Life size clay models depicting the prisoners

Life size clay models depicting the tortures unleashed on the inmates

Life size clay models depicting the labour that the inmates had to do

Implements used by the inmates
Speaks for itself.

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