Digboi (1889)- A landmark event

You would get a colonial hangover in Digboi, the oldest ‘Oil City’ of India in Assam, located in the far eastern corner of our country’s Northeast. The huge British bungalows scattered on hillocks, the small pretty church, war cemetery dating from the World War II, the historical Stillwell road at Ledo, oldest oil refinery in the country and an expansive golf course would transport you back in the days of the ‘Raj’. Even if the time machine is a figment of imagination, those who have history fixation and wish to get a glimpse of the British era would love the Digboi experience, albeit with all modern comforts.

Digboi is most famous for its oil refinery that is considered to be one of the oldest oil refineries in the world that is still operational. The history of oil, Digboi and the town’s nomenclature dates back to 1869 and has an interesting story. As some of the men from Assam Railway and Trading Company found traces of oil on elephant’s feet and followed the pachyderms and discovered oil seeping from the earth’s surface. People love to say that a Canadian Engineer (W L Lake) was so excited to see elephants coming from dense forest with oil stains on their feet that he shouted to his workers, “Dig boy, dig” — hence the name Digboi. The British established a small oil installation in 1889, formed Assam Oil Company in 1889 and a refinery in 1901. India’s first oil refinery at Digboi is now a part of Indian Oil Corporation and is known as Assam Oil Division.

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