As I stood at the entrance of cellular jail, memories of history chapters referring to ‘Kalapani’ flashed back in front of my eyes. I had read about the atrocities on freedom fighters by the British rulers of that era and it felt bad to know about that. But honestly speaking it was just a story like any other story about freedom fighters. Little did I know that once I enter the gate, I would be taken back into the time and would be able to see what our freedom fighters went through to give us the freedom we have. I am not posting an independence speech but rephrasing what I saw inside the jail.
I took a guided tour of Jail and also witnessed the light and sound show in the evening. It’s up to an individual how they want to tour the jail but in my opinion one must take the guided tour as you will be explained each and every activity that happened in jail along with the architectural design. The light and sound show is the best I have ever seen in my life and I will tell you why soon. So if you ask me, go for both.
Cellular Jail was built to keep freedom fighters as prisoners far away from homeland so that they can be broken physically and mentally, in turn weaken their love for country. It’s actual name is Kaal-Pani not Kala-Pani as it is commonly known (There is no black water anywhere near by). Kaal is a Sanskrit word in Sanskrit meaning death and the Jail was given this name because going to this jail was like meeting death. Its construction took around 13 years and it had total 7 wings as visible in the model below. There was no labor cost as it was built by prisoners itself who were brought here initially.Today only 3 wings are remaining and the complex has been converted into heritage place.
Although jail is a reminder of the brutal history, one can not ignore the architectural acumen used while building it. There is a central watch tower from where each wing is visible. Each wing had three floors and since wings terminate at the other end, one security guard at each floor was sufficient. So 7*3 = 21 guards could keep a watch on all the wings at a particular moment. The watch tower and the wings are connected by a wooden platform so that if there is an earthquake entire building doesn’t collapse and broken wooden platform can be repaired easily. On the back side of the jail was ocean so no one could escape from that side.
The prisoners had to live a miserable life in the prison where they had to work very hard whole day and given unhealthy food in their meals. If they don’t achieve their daily target, they would be given severe punishments. The models kept in the Jail explained how brutal it was. The punishment included getting beaten by stick so hard that skin would come off from the butt so that prisoner can not sit properly for many days. They were chained for many days with different types of chains. To add to mental torture, they were not allowed to talk each other. Also the timings for nature’s call were fixed and in the night they were given a small pot where they had to urinate in the cell itself and stay in that environment whole night. All this was done to break the spirit of the person. When any prisoner was to be hanged to death, he was asked to utter his last wish. He had only one choice to say last wish which was to tell his religion and convey whether his body should be put to fire or buried in ground. In reality there bodies were thrown in the sea. This was just a brief description of what happened in the jail for many years.
The light and sound show adds further information to the guided tour. You are seated with many other people on an open ground where you can see two wings of Jail in front of you forming a triangle. The story is told by a Peepal tree (recorded in voice of Mr. Om Puri) which has been there from the beginning. The tree says it has seen so many freedom fighters brought in the jail and saw what happened with them. The show is in Hindi and very engaging. Moreover the lights put beautifully on the two wings of Jail bring life to the show. A clear sky where you can witness hundred of stars is an icing on the cake.
We have been fortunate that there were people who didn’t care for themselves and suffered for us so that we can breathe in open air. By the way if you are wondering why I didn’t mention name – ‘Veer Savarkar Ji’ till now, there is a separate post dedicated to him.
Points to Remember :
- The entry to jail closes around 4 O’ clock, so you have to be inside before that. The guided tour takes around 1 hours, so plan your time accordingly. By 5 O’ clock, the entry to the jail will be closed. Light and Sound shows start after dark for obvious reasons.
- It would be better to book Light and Sound show tickets in advance as it gets full most of the times. If you are going on a group tour then your operator would have booked it. If you are on your own then tickets are available at both Jail and Tourist Information Center. The ticket rate is Rs.50 and worth every rupee spent.
- There is one show in English and rest of the shows are in Hindi. So book your show accordingly.
- As recommended earlier, take the guided tour as you will get lot more information and they are nicely conducted in small groups.