In 1789 the government of Bengal established a penal colony on Chatham Island in the southeast bay of Great Andaman, named Port Blair to honour Lieutenant Archibald Blair of the British Indian Company. After two years, the colony moved to the northeast part of Great Andaman and was named Port Cornwallis after Admiral William Corwallis. However, there was much disease and death in the penal colony, and the government ceased operating it in May 1796.
In 1824 Port Cornwallis was the rendezvous of the fleet carrying the army to the First Anglo- Burmese War. In the 1830s and 1840s, shipwrecked crews who landed on the Andamans were often attacked and killed by the natives, alarming the British government. In 1855, the government proposed another settlement on the islands, including a convict establishment, but the Indian Rebellion of 1857 forced a delay in its construction.
However, since the rebellion provided the British with a lot of new prisoners, it made the new Andaman settlement and prison an urgent necessity. Construction began in November 1857 at the renovated Port Blair, avoiding the vicinity of a salt swamp which seemed to have been the source of many of the old colony’s problems. The penal colony was originally on Viper Island, named after Lieutenant Blair’s vessel, The Viper. The convicts, mostly political prisoners, suffered life imprisionment at hard labor under cruel and degrading conditions. Many were hanged, while others died of disease and starvation. Between 1864 and 1867 a penal establishment was also built with convict labor on the northern side of Ross Island.These structures are now in ruins.
As the Indian freedom movement continued to grow in the late 19th Century, an enormous Cellular Jail was constructed between 1896 and 1906 to house Indian convicts, mostly political prisoners, in solitary confimenet. The Cellular Jail is also known as Kala Pani (translated as “Black Waters”), a name given to it due to the torture and general ill-treatment towards its Indian convicts.
The airport at Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar’s capital, has been named Veer Savarkar International Airport. The commemorative blue plaque on India House fixed by the Historic Building and Monuments Commission for England reads “Vinayak Damodar Savarkar 1883–1966 Indian patriot and philosopher lived here.”
DAY 01: PORT BLAIR SIGHTSEEING
DAY 02: PORT BLAIR SIGHTSEEING
DAY 03: PORT BLAIR SIGHTSEEING
DAY 04: PORT BLAIR DEPARTURE