Tag Archives: cellular jail

#ATOZCHALLENGE DAY 11: K for KAALAPANI (Story of Prison Life)

Kaalapani (derived from Sanskrit words ‘Kal’ which means Time or Death and ‘Pani’ which means Water), was a colonial prison in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India. The prison was used by the British especially to exile political prisoners to the remote archipelago. This was the Cellular Jail about which i had spoken in my previous blog. 

Why was it called Kaalapani? – Apart from the tortures the prisoners went through in the Cellular Jail there were many other factors that added to the name of Kaalapani. There was no escape from these islands back then. Even if one managed to escape from the Jail, it was difficult to survive the harsh climate of the islands. Most of the prisoners who tried escaping , died due to diseases like Malaria and ones who survived the nature were killed by the native Tribes of the island. There was no way one could swim and reach anywhere but be deadlocked in these chain of islands.

I would like to share the STORY OF PRISON LIFE from the autobiographies of some of the famous freedom fighters who spent their youth in getting India its freedom.

Extract from the autobiography of Barindra Kumar Ghosh
“The next morning we came out and washed our faces and then had for the first time the darshan of GANJI, otherwise called KANJI. It means boiled rice churned in water – one may say a sort of rice-porridge. We were given each a dabbu full of this dainty…………“The daily ration per meal is as follows—Rice 6 oz, flour for roti 5 oz, dal 2 oz, salt 1 dram, oil ¾ dram and vegetable 8 oz…………….“Each of us was given an iron plate and an iron dish, red with rust and smeared with oil. These could not be cleansed at all. “A half pant, a Kurta and a white cap were provided for each prisoner. But he was not provided with any change for taking bath except a langoti which hardly covered the nudity.“……….The langoti we were given to put on while bathing could not in the least defend any modesty. Thus when we had to change our clothes we were in as helpless a condition as Draupadi in the assembly of the Kauravas. There was no help. We hung our heads low and somehow finished the bathing affair. Then I understood that here there was no such thing as gentleman, not even perhaps such a thing as man. Here were only convicts,”
“After finishing the ‘breakfast’ with the ganji or kanji every prisoner had to commence the work allotted to him which kept him engaged practically the whole of the day with a short break at midday for lunch. The principal work which was also the hardest was connected with coconut.
“To pound the coir and extract fibers out of it, to prepare again ropes out of those fibers to grind dry coconut and also mustard in the machine and bring out oil, to make bulbs for hooks from the shells-these formed the principal items of work for the prisoners,………
“The most difficult work was coir-pounding and oil-grinding………… Each one was given the dry husk of twenty coconuts. The husk had first to be placed on a piece of wood and then to be beaten with a wooden hammer till it became soft. Then the outer skin had to be removed. Then it was dipped in water and moistened and then again one had to pound it. By sheer pounding the entire husk inside dropped off, only the fibers remaining. These fibers had then to be dried in the sun and cleaned. Each one was expected to prepare daily a roll of such fibers weighing one seer” 

Based on autobiographies of Savarkar & Ullaskar Dutt
Oil- grinding was the most difficult work allotted to prisoners in the Cellular Jail. This was the hardest work and caused the death of some, insanity of one and a general strike of the prisoners. It furnishes the most pathetic evidence of callousness bordering on inhumanity on the part of the authorities.
Savarkar, describes it ………. “We were to be yoked like animals to the handle that turned the wheel .Hardly out of bed, we were ordered to wear a strip of cloth, were shut up in our cell and made to turn the wheel of the oil mill. ……….. . The door was opened only when meal was announced. The man came in and served the meal in the pan and went away and the door was shut. If after washing his hands one were to wipe away the perspiration of his body,the jamadar who was the worst of gangsters in the whole lot would go at him with loud abuse. There was no water for washing hands. Drinking water was to be had only by propitiating the jamadar, while you were at kolu; you felt very thirsty. The waterman gave no water except for a consideration which was to palm off to him some tobacco in exchange. If one spoke to jamadar his retort was,” A prisoner is given only two cups of water and you have already consumed three. Whence can I bring you more water? From your father?” we have put down the retort of the jamadar in the most decent language possible. If water could not be had for wash and drink what can be said of water for bathing?

While describing the prison life Ullaskar Dutt narrates-“In our village only oxen are harnessed to the oil presses and even they can not extract more than 16 pounds of mustard –oil in one day. Here, in the Cellular Jail, I was harnessed to the oil mill with two other prisoners and were required to produce eighty pounds of coconut oil by evening. The Jamadars would make us gallop and if our pace slackened, we were beaten mercilessly. We would stumble and fall, and be beaten senseless everyday.”

Such were the hardships that the freedom fighters faced every single minute of their lives spend in the Kaalapani. If you ever get a chance to visit the islands, if not the beaches make sure you visit the Cellular Jail. Feel the unbelievable sacrifices thousands of young men made, in the prime of their lives, for the cause of India’s Independence.

P.S : missed the post for yesterday J ,gonna publish it tomorrow (facepalm 😦 ) and am sure you would love it when published. It’s going to be about the famous Tribes of the islands – JARAWAS

Happy Blogging!!! Live.Love.Laugh ❤ ❤ ❤

#ATOZCHALLENGE DAY03: C FOR CELLULAR JAIL

We yield to none in our love, admiration and respect for the Buddha-the Dharma-the Sangha. They are all ours. Their glories are ours and ours their failures.”  – Vinayak Damodar Savarkar 

Cellular Jail in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India, stands as a dark reminiscence of the British rule in the Indian subcontinent. This most dreaded and grueling colonial prison situated in the remote archipelago was used by the British particularly to exile Indian political prisoners. Isolated from the mainland, this jail, also referred as Kala Pani (where Kala means death or time and Pani means water in Sanskrit) witnessed the most atrocious punishments imposed on prisoners. India’s struggle for independence saw imminent freedom fighters like Batukeshwar Dutt and Veer Savarkar being incarcerated in this jail. 

The jail is now open to public viewing as a National Memorial, and its museum gives one a glimpse of years of India’s struggle for freedom.

Foundation & History of the Jail

Although the Andaman Islands were used by the British as a prison soon after the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (the Sepoy Mutiny), the foundation of this jail was laid in 1896. The result of what was considered India’s First War of Independence however went in favor of the British who suppressed the revolt executing many rebels and transferring the rest to Andaman for lifetime exile.

The rebels in hundreds were sent to the island where they remained under the custody of jailer David Barry and military doctor Major James Pattison Walker. 238 prisoners who tried to escape the jail in March 1868 were caught in April of whom 87 were hanged. More and more patriots who raised voice against the colonial rule were convicted and deported here from British-controlled India and Burma. 

The prisoners dreaded the waters of Andamans and being isolated from the mainland there were no way out for them to escape. The island became an apt place for the British to punish the freedom fighters. The prisoners were chained and made to work in constructing buildings, prisons and harbour facilities in pursuit of colonising Andaman for the British. With the upsurge of Indian independence movement in the late 19th century, several prisoners were sent to Andaman that necessitated for a higher security prison.

Sir Charles James Lyall, home secretary in the governance of the British Raj and A. S. Lethbridge, a surgeon in the British administration suggested introduction of a “penal stage” in the transportation sentence given to a prisoner so that the prisoner face harsh treatment for a certain period after deportation to the Andamans. This led to construction of the Cellular Jail, work of which commenced in 1896 and finished in 1906.

The current day view , clicked on 11th Feb 2017 PC : Saketh

In 1942 the Japanese overpowered the British in the Andaman Islands driving them out of the islands. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose visited Andaman during this time. Following the end of the ‘Second World War’, in 1945 the British regained control of the islands. 

Design of the Cellular Jail

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. There were no dormitories in the jail.

Life in the Jail

Notable freedom fighters confined in the jail included Batukeshwar Dutt, Diwan Singh Kalepani, Fazl-e-Haq Khairabadi, and the Savarkar brothers – Babarao Savarkar and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar among others. Being in solitary confinement the Savarkar brothers were unaware of each other’s presence in the same jail for two years.

Many freedom fighters in the jail went through inhuman and unimaginable tortures, the very thought of which brings chills down the spines. The jail drew attention when its inmates observed hunger strikes in the early 1930s. 

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. His body was thrown into the sea. In 1937-38 following intervention by Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore the government decided on repatriating the freedom fighters. 

Additional information: 

Visit Timing & Entrance Fee

It remains open on all days excepting national holidays. Entry fee per person is Rs. 30/-. Other charges include Rs. 200/- for still camera, Rs. 1000/- for video camera and Rs. 10,000/- for film shooting per day with prior permission. 

Light & Sound Show

It regularly holds Light & Sound (Son-et-Lumiere) shows on India’s freedom struggle in Hindi and English excepting on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The price of ticket for the light and sound show is Rs. 50/- per adult. 


Wana know more?  – There is a movie called Kalapani which shows the struggle of the prisoners of these Jail who fought for the freedom we have today. 

Also you can watch this documentary on the Cellular Jail (it is in English ) to have a real feel of this place that would send shivers down the spine. 

Happy Blogging 🙂 I hope everyone is having a good time !!!