The Resonating History of Cellular Jail of Andaman Islands!

In the heart of the pristine Andaman and Nicobar Islands lies a powerful testament to human resilience and the unbreakable spirit of freedom—the Cellular Jail. This iconic structure stands as a silent witness to the struggles and sacrifices of countless individuals who were subjected to its confines during one of the darkest periods of colonial history. Beyond its grim exterior, the Cellular Jail carries a poignant history that resonates with the quest for freedom. Let’s get all the information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands, and embark on a journey through time and rediscover the significance of this historic landmark.

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands
Aerial view of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India

 

Everyone knows that India’s coastline is 7,516 km long, but how much do you think of Andaman-Nicobar in that figure? At least 2,000 km long! Gujarat’s coastline is 1,600 km long. These archipelagos are said to be part of India, but they are surprisingly much closer to Indonesia, Myanmar, and Thailand than mainland India. The distance from Chennai to Andaman is about 1,190 km and the distance from Kolkata is 1,255 km. But the distance from Myanmar is only 193 km. The distance is barely 150 kilometers from Indonesia.

Rediscovering Freedom: The Resonating History of Cellular Jail of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

If you add all the islands of Andaman and Nicobar, which have an area of ​​about 6,408 square kilometers, the score comes to 3,000. But all 572 main islands are so small in size that the term scattered rock sticking out of the water is more appropriate than island. Of the six hundred main islands, 24 of the Andamans and 12 of the Nicobars have human habitation on a total of three dozen islands. All the rest are deserted.

There is so much more to know about Andaman and Nicobar that it would be interesting to travel to the archipelago after getting the information. Apart from history and geography, Andaman’s natural features are also interesting. For example, there are rain forests, thick forests of deciduous trees, mud-spewing volcanoes, limestone caves, and endless coral and fish life. If you want to see all this comfortably, you should spend at least eight days in Andaman. While going to Andaman thousands of kilometers away from that city in India by spending exorbitant air ticket fares, the trip should be planned in such a way that the expenditure should be worthy.

Quick Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands:

Category Information
Location Andaman & Nicobar Islands, India
Google Location Andaman & Nicobar Islands on Google Maps
Best Time to Visit Plan your visit between October and May for optimal weather
Climate Tropical climate with monsoons from June to September
Attractions Explore Radhanagar Beach, Cellular Jail, and the stunning Havelock Island
Accommodation Choose from beach resorts, cozy guesthouses, and luxurious hotels
Local Cuisine Savor delicious seafood, coconut-based dishes, and local specialties
Transportation Nearest airport: Veer Savarkar International Airport (Port Blair)
Inter-island ferries and boats for island hopping
Language English, Hindi, and Bengali are widely spoken
Currency Indian Rupee (INR)
Safety Tips Follow water safety guidelines, respect marine life, and stay informed about weather conditions
Local Etiquette Respect local customs, traditions, and the natural environment
Emergency Numbers Police: 100, Medical Emergency: 102, 108

 

Geographical History of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands:

The land of Andaman is also special in another way, about which many Indians are not aware. The surface of this island is at least 15 million years old. Therefore, if you have set foot on its land and are going to visit that island in the future, then remember that you have done time travel or are going to do it in the era of fifteen million years ago.

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands

15 million years ago, none of the 572 Andaman-Nicobar islands existed. Scattered here and there like scattered pearls in a broken necklace, today there was a continuous mountain range thousands of kilometers long, and each present-day island was the peak of that mountain. At that time, fifteen million years ago, the outer crust of the earth had not yet completely melted and solidified. The inner lava, which was constantly eroding beneath the crust, rocked the upper surface with its arrows. This type of tectonic upheaval also occurred in the Bay of Bengal, as a result of which the Andaman-Nicobar mountain range gradually began to sink into the sea. The lower-level peaks of the mountain range became waterlogged. The towering peaks peeking out of the sea are today’s Andaman-Nicobar Islands.

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands

Another billion years passed, during which vegetation flourished on the islands. Creatures like lizards, snakes, crabs, and turtles drifted in ocean currents, reached the shores of certain islands, and became permanent residents there. It was millions of years before an animal called man set foot here. As told by anthropologists, 50–75 thousand years ago, Negrito primitives like the New Guinea Negroes plowed the sea, and they set up permanent camps on many islands along the way. Given that Andaman-Nicobar is a part of India, it can be said that the Negrito tribal people who reached Andaman were the first natives of India! Aryans from the north had not yet arrived in India. There were no Dravidian people in South India. The whole of India was deserted then. Thus, the land where the first human settlement was established in the whole of India was also in the Andamans.

The Dark Chapter of Colonial Era

Tourists who are well versed in the history of India’s freedom struggle feel blessed to even set foot on Andaman Nicobar soil. Because the blood of our revolutionaries is mixed in its soil. Thousands of freedom fighters like Vinayak (Veer) Savarkar, Batukeshwar Dutt, Bhai Premanand, Sohan Singh, Subodh Roy suffered the oppression of the British under the inhuman punishment known as ‘Kalapani’, from the end of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century. Considering that these revolutionaries sacrificed their lives for the country, Andaman’s identity as a land of martyrs, about which the average Indian has even less knowledge,

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands
Miniature Model of Original view of Cellular Jail

The Governor-General of the British East India Company, Charles Cornwallis, sent Lieutenant Archibald Blair, a naval officer, to survey the Andamans in 1788. (Today’s Port Blair is named after this naval officer.). After visiting the island, Lt. Blair told Governor-General Cornwallis that Indian revolutionaries agitating against the British crown should be exiled to the Andamans so as to demoralize them in an isolated, landlocked world. Cornwallis liked the suggestion, but did not immediately act on it.

The Unconquerable Human Spirit

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands
Cellular Jail

The turn of implementation came during the freedom struggle of 1856. The Cellular Jail, often referred to as “Kala Pani” (meaning black waters), was constructed by the British colonial rulers in the late 19th century. Its purpose was to incarcerate political prisoners, activists, and freedom fighters who dared to challenge the oppressive colonial regime. The very design of the jail was an embodiment of cruelty, with its seven wings radiating from a central watchtower, resembling the spokes of a bicycle wheel. This architectural monstrosity was intended to isolate prisoners from one another, thwarting any possibility of communication or collaboration.

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands

In order not to spread the infection of his ideology of freedom among the country’s top revolutionaries, they were sent thousands of kilometers away to Port Blair in Andaman, where the British government had started building 696 prison cells to keep everyone captive. Each cell was 13.5 feet by 7 feet. A very cramped cell of imprisonment is called a cell in English; hence, the building came to be known as a cellular prison. In these cells, our revolutionaries were to undergo life imprisonment.

Rediscovering Freedom

The cellular jail, built at a cost of around Rs. 5,25,000, had a total of seven wings, and each wing had three floors. Two of the seven wings were demolished by the Japanese forces, who occupied Andaman-Nicobar from March 23, 1942, to October 9, 1945. After India gained independence, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s government was keen to eradicate the remaining prisons. For the government of that time, nothing was even significant that was not associated with Gandhiji‘s non-violent revolution. The government demolished two more wings, but then had to stop because of the nationwide outcry against the movement. The remaining three wings of this cellular jail have National Monument status, visited by thousands of tourists every year.

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands

There was not the slightest chance of making it back alive to the Indian mainland. On the contrary, they had to live daily in the inhumane conditions created by the British in the cellular jail. For example, the perverted superintendent of the jail used to throw inedible things like pebbles, repellents, and insects in the food cooked for the ‘inmates’. As a result, the prisoners, who were tired from the very hard work of breaking rocks from sunrise to sunset, had to sleep hungry. Groups of three to four prisoners were kept in iron leg shackles around the clock. This discomfort proved to be very painful for them.

However, the spirit of the incarcerated could not be stifled by the harsh conditions of the Cellular Jail. Within its grim walls, prisoners found ways to communicate through secret codes, tapping on the walls, and even using contraband materials to create art and literature. These acts of defiance were a testament to the unbreakable human spirit that refused to be subdued, even in the face of extreme adversity.

Names etched in History of Cellular Jail

The Andaman Archipelago, a geographical part of India, has also become a part of India’s unforgettable history due to the Port Blair Cellular Jail. The Cellular Jail holds within its confines stories of numerous valiant individuals who became symbols of resistance. One such name is Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, a revolutionary and prolific writer who endured the torment of the jail. His indomitable spirit and courage continue to inspire generations. Another remarkable figure is Batukeshwar Dutt, who, along with Bhagat Singh, carried out the iconic protest by throwing non-lethal bombs in the Central Legislative Assembly, advocating for India’s freedom.

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands
Cellular jail, Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar islands, India.

As we stand before the formidable walls of the cellular jail, we are reminded of the immense price that was paid for the freedom we enjoy today. The stories of resilience, courage, and sacrifice that echo through its corridors compel us to reflect on our own roles in upholding and cherishing the hard-fought liberties we often take for granted. The Cellular Jail is not just a physical structure; it is a living testament to the enduring spirit of humanity’s quest for freedom.

Experience the pain of revolutionaries in Cellular Jail

A museum explaining this history to the new generation has been set up in the cellular prison. Statues giving an idea of ​​the various tortures inflicted on our revolutionaries by the British, the dress of the revolutionaries, the menial labor they had to do on a daily basis, etc. are all displayed in the museum. Tourists can enter the cell where Veer Savarkar was kept during his imprisonment. After spending two to five minutes in this cell, many tourists exclaimed “Today, I got an idea of ​​how freedom fighters like Savarkar must have lived in such a terrible cell”.

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands
A tribute to Veer Savarkar

Do people who say this know that Savarkar had to stay here for 10 years, during which every day was full of mental and physical torture and every night was like black night. What do we know (without experiencing) the days the sons of freedom saw in cellular prisons? Hence, their sacrifices deserve to be alive in our memory at least. But it is regrettable that most of the tourists leave their nationalism and their feelings for the revolutionaries somewhere in the jail after they get out of the main cell of the cellular jail. In fact, after visiting the symbol of freedom struggle, Cellular Jail, eating, drinking, and even sleeping at night become difficult.

Today, the Cellular Jail stands not only as a memorial to the sacrifices made by freedom fighters but also as a repository of their memory. The government has taken initiatives to preserve and restore this historical site, ensuring that the stories etched within its walls are not forgotten. Visitors from around the world come to pay their respects and learn about the harrowing experiences of those who were once imprisoned here. Every evening at 6 PM in Hindi and then at 7:30 PM in English, there is a sound and light show at the Cellular Jail, which every Indian has to watch without fail.

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands
The room of Cellular jail in which Veer Sawarkar was kept

The Cellular Jail of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands stands as a solemn reminder of the struggles endured by those who fought for India’s independence. Its history is a narrative of strength, determination, and the relentless pursuit of freedom. As we tread in the footsteps of these brave individuals, let us not only honor their memory but also reaffirm our commitment to preserving and cherishing the precious gift of freedom.

As the sun sets on the horizon of the Andaman Sea, the silhouette of the Cellular Jail stands tall, casting a shadow that transcends time. Its walls, once witnesses to suffering, now bear testimony to the triumph of the human spirit. Let us carry forward the legacy of the Cellular Jail, embracing the lessons it imparts, and continue our journey towards a world where freedom reigns supreme.

What are the other places to Visit in Andaman:

(1) A Pre-Cellular Hell: a memory of the slave era

This is what many tourists who have visited Andaman have written about Viper Island on the internet.

There is nothing at all here other than Ruins, for which other places should be visited rather than wasting time.

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands

Supposedly, there are nothing but ruins on Viper Island, but those ruins are not common. A forgotten chapter in the long history of the freedom struggle is linked to the fact that the first batch of Indian fighters sentenced to Kalapani were brought to Viper Island, where they were kept in handcuffs while the cellular jail was constructed. They were forced to work beyond their physical capacity, resulting in many revolutionaries falling ill. A warrior named Brijkishore Dev was martyred in Viper’s prison.

One of the freedom fighters who was executed was Sher Ali, who stabbed to death a British Viceroy named Richard Bock (Earl of Menyo) who had come to inspect the Viper Island prison. During the trial of Sher Ali, the judge asked him, “What was the reason for killing the Viceroy Earl of Menyo?” Burning with the flame of revolution, Sher Ali told the court that, being a prisoner, knowing that my life was going to end in jail, I felt it was better to die by doing some good work for the country than to live in prison.

Today, Viper Island’s dilapidated Jail is a holly shrine of memories of revolutionaries like Brij kishore, Dev, Sher Ali and hundreds of martyr like them, which every Indian should also visit and pay tribute to.

(2) Ross Island (Netaji SubhashChandra Bose Island): Reminiscent of Japanese executioners

During the Second World War, when Hitler’s Nazi army was crushing one country after another on the European front, the Japanese army went out to conquer the Asian countries.

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman IslandsAfter hoisting the victory flag over Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, etc., the Japanese attacked Andaman-Nicobar. On March 23, 1942, the Japanese Navy rained hundreds of mortar shells on the main islands of Andaman and Nicobar for two consecutive hours. After the first round of attacks was over, Japanese troops landed ashore and occupied some of the islands. One of these islands is Ross, on which Japan later built the Temporary Prisons to hold prisoners of war. A cement-convict bunker was also constructed. Several bunkers can be seen on the ramparts today. The Japanese also built a network of underground tunnels on the island.

Before the arrival of the Japanese army, Andaman-Nicobar had a population of 35,000. At the end of the Second World War in 1945, when they had to relinquish control of the archipelago, only 18,000 people remained; needless to say, thousands of innocent people were brutally massacred by Japanese soldiers.

Carry-boats to Ross Island depart from the Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex in Port Blair. The round-trip fare is around Rs. 100. From the same place, Viper Island, Ross Island and North Bay are visited in turn, leaving at 9:00 AM and returning at 5:00 PM. The approximate fare per person is Rs. 3,400.

(3) Havelock Island (Swaraj Dweep) bustling with tourists

Havelock Island tops the list of all the must-sees for a visit to Andaman and Nicobar. Not just one or two, but a number of reasons are responsible for it.

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands

Havelock Island has ample accommodation and food and drink facilities. The sea around the island is clear, blue, and navigable. The coastal areas are rich in coral and fish life, with a number of snorkeling and scuba diving spots to explore. The beach known as Radhanagar is so beautiful that Time magazine called it the most charming beach in Asia. For nature lovers, the experience of trekking in the rain-forests of Havelock remains unforgettable

(4) North-Bay: World of Marine corals

From the Andaman Water Sports Complex in Port Blair to the Junglighat Jetty, visit the famous North-Bay beach, where colorful corals and fish life can be seen in the clear sea.

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands

North-Bay is an ideal place for water-sports like scuba diving, snorkeling, sea-walking (walking on the sea floor wearing an airtight helmet), jet skiing, etc. The food and beverage facilities here are negligible, so it is suggested to carry drinking water and food during the visit. A visit to North Bay can be avoided if islands like Havelock (Swaraj Dweep) and Neil Island (Shaheed Dweep) are included in the travel list. Because those islands are also known for everything from scuba diving to jet skiing.

(5) Mount Harriet (Mount Manipur) National Park:

If you are not interested in water sports and want to explore the jungle, you should visit Mount Harriet National Park near the North-South. Spread over about 46 square kilometers, the park is known for its rain forests, 90 species of birds, 27 species of reptiles, several species of mammals, and 120 species of butterflies. Bamboo Flats can be reached in twenty minutes by boats departing from Chatham and Phoenix Bay in Port Blair.

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands

From here, one can trek to Mount Harriet National Park (with an entrance fee of Rs. 25). There are three trekking routes, the longest of which is 15 km. It is also possible to travel by motorcycle instead of on foot. By the way, the Reserve Bank of India has featured Mount Harriet National Park on the Rs. 20 currency note. Compare that diagram with the image presented above.

(5) Howrah Bridge No.2 of Nile Island

Howrah Bridge, made of steel tracks, has been standing on the Hooghly River in Kolkata for the last 75 years. But did you know that the Howrah Bridge was created by the hands of nature on the shores of Niel Island in the Andaman-Nicobar archipelago, somewhere far from Kolkata? Sandstones have been eroded by seawater in such a way that the bridge-like arches have been formed.

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands

Bengali residents of Niel Island named the arch Howrah Bridge. Some of these natural bridges are located in the American state of Utah, where millions of tourists from all over the world flock every year. On the other hand, while traveling to Andaman, our tourists are not particularly interested in Navada Bridge. The rock arch looks dry to them. In fact, thousands of years of nature’s artistry are hidden in that arch. The Niel island is also known for its blue sea and the beaches of Ramnagar, Laxmanpur, and Sitapur.

There are daily ferries from Port Blair to Niel Island. Overnight accommodation is available on this island, and there are a number of hotel resources available for this purpose. Niel Island, with a population of 2,000 people, has an area of ​​about 13.6 square kilometers. So it would be fun to rent a two-wheeler and go all over the island. Attractions like scuba diving and snorkeling are also here. Note: No mobile service is available on Neil Island other than Airtel and BSNL. There are ATM machines here, still, keeping enough cash with you is suggested.

Some Deserted Islands:

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands

Andaman-Nicobar is an archipelago consisting of more than five hundred islands. There is human life on 36 of these islands. The rest are uninhabited. With a little adventure and a little money, a visit to an uninhabited island gives the feeling of seeing the real Andaman. Because of the lack of human presence, the environment of such an island has been 100 percent clean and pure. Fortunately, there are some islands in the Andaman Islands that can be visited after obtaining the permission of the Coast Guard. One is Cinque Island, south of Port Blair. There are actually two islands, North and South, connected by a narrow stretch of sand. When the sea recedes a little at low tide, the entire stretch becomes exposed. If you walk on it at such a time, you will see a beautiful sea on the left-right side of the bay. There is no boat service available to go to Cinque Island. You have to go by private boat. If ten people rent a boat together, it will cost four thousand rupees per person.

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands

Another option is to go to a deserted island. North of Port Blair is the twin island called Ross-Smith, whose surface is like a Cinque island. It means that they are also connected by the sand belt. A ferry from Port Blair takes ten hours to the northern island of Diglipur, but a bus or taxi trip to Diglipur is more fun. The approximately 300-kilometer route called the Great Andaman Trunk Road passes through dense rainforests. When the sea bay is reached on this route, the entire bus, including the passengers board the carry-boat and the bus journey returns after reaching across the bay! After staying overnight in Diglipur, one can return from Ariel Bay on the next day with a one-day visit to Ross-Smith Island. No overnight accommodation is allowed on this uninhabited island.

The First Residents of Indian subcontinent:

On the way to Port Blare from Diglipur, there is a place called Baratang. The tribe known as ‘Jarawa’, people of a premitive tribe, having a coal-black color lives here.

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands

As noted at the beginning of the article, the ancestors of those tribes of the Negrito clan reached Andaman 50-75 thousand years ago. Therefore, if you see scattered groups of Jarawa people in the forest area of ​​the Great Andaman Trunk Road while visiting Baratang, you will realize that the descendants of India’s earliest settlers have come to the fore. The tourists are charged a hefty fee and taken to the Jarawa people in the forests, then the naive tribes are lured with food or gifts to collect them, and bring the tourists back making them feel like they have been shown something amazing! This type of safari is not only illegal, but also inhumane.

Limestone quarries are located in Baratang. Another natural wonder is the mud volcano. It is not surprising that the lava bubbling under the earth breaks through the surface, but it is definitely a feeling of surprise when you see the whole mud pile coming out of the ground. A few kilometers below the Earth’s surface, where hot water springs and condensed gases (eg Methane) meet, the chemical reaction between them generates enough heat to melt the surrounding crust and small rocks. The pile of molten rock begins to move and the pressure gradually rises to the surface. Other addresses of mud volcanoes on earth are Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Iran, Philippines, China, North America, South America etc. One address is India, too—and the only address in India is Andaman.

Information about Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands
Seascape of Ross Island. Port Blair. Andaman and Nicobar Islands. India.

Another natural wonder of Baratang is the dense forests of mangroves/ cher trees. Mangroves is very strange tree that survives even in brackish sea water all year round. They look a bit odd, as their roots stick out rather than being completely buried in the soil. The plant itself stands out on its own support as the many root spikes spread out as if used as the base of the stand. Often the root spread is more than the top. Baratang has sparse forests of mangroves and waterways within the forest. While sitting in a boat and passing through the dense forests of Mangroves on the waterways, it is an amazing experience.

The list of places to visit in Andaman does not end here. Honestly, the list is so long that if you sit down to write it in detail, you need at least 300 pages, and if you go to Andaman according to that long, flexible list, you need a minimum of one month. No one naturally has that much time. As a result, the pilgrimage of many tourists is limited to places like Port Blair’s Cellular Jail, Samudrika and Forest Museums, Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex, Niel and Havelock Islands.

Good to know Before you plan your Trip:

  • Permit Requirements: Check and obtain the necessary permits before traveling to restricted areas. Certain islands may have specific entry requirements, so ensure you have the required permissions.
  • Weather Conditions: Stay updated on the weather forecast as the islands can experience sudden changes. Be prepared for tropical conditions, including heavy rainfall and high humidity.
  • Health Precautions: Carry essential medications, insect repellent, and sunblock. Stay hydrated, avoid consuming untreated water, and follow hygiene practices to prevent health issues.
  • Respect Local Culture: The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are home to various indigenous communities. Respect their customs, traditions, and local beliefs. Seek permission before taking photographs of people or their belongings.
  • Ecological Conservation: Protect the delicate ecosystem by not littering and avoiding any harm to marine life and coral reefs while snorkeling or diving.
  • Limited Connectivity: Cellular network coverage might be limited in some areas. Inform your family and friends about your travel plans and share emergency contacts.
  • Transportation: Book transportation and accommodation in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons. Ferries and flights can be busy, so plan accordingly.
  • Emergency Contacts: Keep a list of emergency contacts, including local authorities, your country’s embassy, medical facilities, and local tour operators.
  • Cash and ATMs: Carry enough cash, as ATMs might be scarce in remote areas. Major towns usually have banking facilities, but it’s wise to have cash on hand for small transactions.
  • Environmental Awareness: Help preserve the islands’ natural beauty by avoiding activities that harm the environment, such as collecting shells, disturbing wildlife, or damaging corals. Leave no trace and promote responsible tourism.
  • Ideal Time to Visit: Andamans can be visited year-round, but water sports like scuba diving cannot be enjoyed during monsoons as the sea is rough. October to May is ideal for that.
  • Basic information: about places/hotels in Andaman Available at www.andamantourism.gov.in
  • Information on Ferry Service: Available at

          www.trip.experienceandamans.com/all-ferry.html.

# Tourism Department Phone Number: (03192) 232694, (03192) 232747/230933,

    Email: tourisminformatioLipogmail.com


 

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