The historic Cellular Jail, earlier known as Kaala paani, was built in an inhospitable environment by the Britishers in the late 18th Century.The structure was built with seven wing prison. Each wing was three storied. The building had a total of 663 cells with one prisoner in each cell. A central tower with seven wings spread across to keep watch on each wing. The idea was to make solitary confinement for prisoners. The prisoners were either the culprits who committed crimes in mainland or some political prisoners who were mainly freedom fighters. One guard could monitor the activities on all the seven wings. The other peculiar feature of the jail was the fact that each wing was confined into its own. Each wing was designed in such a way that the front of one wing faced the back of the other, hence, stopping any communications between the convicts. Sadly, utter solitary confinement was not the only thing that the prisoners were faced with. The brutal beatings, labor and lack of food was enough to break the health and spirit of these prisoners.
Each cell was 13' by 7' in size. The back wall had a 3″ x 2″ high ventilator with a sill height of 10″. A wide (7″ or 8″, perhaps) passage ran in front of the cells. On watching the light and sound shows of the jail and reading the historical documents, we come to know that the prisoners had daily quotas of labor - to produce 30 pounds of coconut oil and 10 pounds of mustard oil, a target that was impossible to achieve even if they all worked together. If the targets were not achieves they faced very brutal punishments. The prisoners were made to wear sack cloth uniforms with handcuffs, neck ring shackles and bar fetters. In the crowded, filthy, damp environment of the Cellular Jail, facing the brutalities of the Jail officials, and the soul shattering labour, political prisoners continued to struggle for their survival. The bleak desolation of prison life, the stifling atmosphere of cells, resounding with the clank of chains, curses and abusive epithets of the warders was enough to unnerve even the hardiest of them. This is the cell where Vir Savarkar (Vinayak Damodar Savarkar) was locked up. Following a trial, Savarkar was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment and transported on July 4, 1911 to the infamous Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Today, the jail has just three wings. Others were damaged and destroyed at various times. The jail today stands as mute testimony of the barbarous treatment Indians underwent when they were fighting for their rights. Today, besides feeling the poignant spirit of the premises, you can enjoy a Light and Sound show as well. Timing : Hindi show starts from 6:00 pm to 7:15 pm on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. English show starts from 7:15 pm. Jail Museum opens from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon, and from 1:30 pm to 4:45 pm. Close on Mondays.