The Cellular Jail is one of the murkiest chapters in the history of the colonial rule in India. Although the prison complex itself was constructed between 1896 and 1906, the British had been using the Andaman islands as a prison since the days in the immediate aftermath of the first war of independence.
Shortly after the rebellion was crushed, the British sent thousands to the gallows, hung them up from trees, or tied them to cannons and blew them up. Those who survived were exiled for life to the Andamans to sever their connections with their families and their country. 200 mutineers were transported to the islands under the custody of the jailer David Barry and Major James Pattison Walker , a military doctor who had been warden of the prison at Agra. Another 733 from Karachi arrived in April, 1868. More prisoners arrived from India and Burma as the settlement grew.Anyone who belonged to the Mughal royal family, or who had sent a petition to Bahadur Shah Zafar during the Rebellion was liable to be deported to the islands.
The construction of the prison started in 1896 and was completed in 1906. The original building was a puce-colored brick building. The bricks used to build the building were brought from Burma, known today as Myanmar.
A wing of the Cellular Jail. Also shown is the central tower with conical roof. The building had seven wings, at the centre of which a tower served as the intersection and was used by guards to keep watch on the inmates. The wings radiated from the tower in straight lines, much like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. A large bell was kept in the tower to raise the alarm in any eventuality.
Each of the seven wings had three stories upon completion. There were no dormitories and a total of 698 cells. Each cell was 4.5 metres x 2.7 metres or 15x8 feet in size with a ventilator located at a height of three metres. The name, "cellular jail", derived from the solitary cells which prevented any prisoner from communicating with any other. They were all in solitary confinement.
The Empire of Japan invaded the Andaman islands in 1942 and drove the British out. The Cellular Jail then became home to British prisoners. During this period, Subhash Chandra Bose also visited the islands. Two out of the seven wings of the Jail were demolished during the Japanese regime. In 1945, the British resumed control with the end of World War II.
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