DIGBOI.....a tiny town..... an ultimate vivid picture where past is romancing with the present. Digboi is famous for the first oil refinery in Asia and one of the oldest in the whole world. Around 103 years ago an industrial evolution had changed the fortune of the remote place in Tinisukia district of upper Assam in North - Eastern India. Then, there were British people all over Assam and some "British Sahib" noticed the patch of oil in the legs of Elephants they used for pulling trees from the deep forests. That was the beginning of a golden history......!
In the year 1866 Mr. Goodenough of Mcbillop, Stewart and Co. started the first systematic mechanical drilling at Naharpung, about 30 miles east of proper Digboi town, but found dry. Mr. Goodenough found oil in Makum, near Margherita 15kms (apprx) from Digboi at a depth of 118 feet- this was the first successful mechanically drilled oil well in entire Asia. Digboi is the birthplace of the giant organization INDIAN OIL CORPORATION. This tiny oil town has got every flavor in itself to be promoted as a tourist destination.
There was a very interesting story behind the name of the place.....DIGBOI. The story goes like this.....the then British officers were shouting repeatedly to encourage labors to dig land to get oil as, " dig boy dig, dig boy..." and the place has been named as DIGBOI. In the East side of this town there is the Pengeri forest range, The Pawai, Dehing tea estate, Margherita town is in the North side of Digboi. The Charaipung forest range, Duliajan town is in the West side of the place. The Bogapani Tea Estate, Makum town etc falls in the Southern side of Digboi.
When we approach towards Digboi via NH 38 from Makum town, one of the longest straight roads awaits to welcome us with the picturesque beauty along side. After crossing Makum till the Shreekrishna Tea Estate the drive is to just chill out and breathe in the peaceful serene view. Another attraction of this stress of the journey is the big paddy fields. This is one of the biggest paddy fields of Assam. Golden ripe rice cultivation when mingles with blue sky in the horizon, one will feel as if the heaven is being recreated on earth....!
And the town Digboi is one of the cleanest places in Assam. Pollution free environment of this town has got a rain-dominated weather. But due to its hilly geographic location and dense forests around, it gives one the flavor of hill station with harsh cold winter.
The panoramic view of Digboi always gives you an experience of British aura everywhere in the town. The magnificent " Chang bungalows" built by British oil company a century ago makes you feel the richness of that culture even today. Every single curve of the hilly streets will unfold the scenery of majestic " Chang bungalows" on each hillock with the glorious lawns with well-maintained colorful blooming flowers. This tiny oil town of Assam has got several places of interest in and around the proper town to attract the tour savvy people. Digboi can be promoted as Eco touris destination because of its rare sight seeing spots. So the places of interest may be as follows:
Digboi centenary museum: One of its kinds, in the whole country. Indian Oil Corporation (Assam Oil Division) has promoted this rare piece of art on the occasion of 100 years celebration of Digboi Refinery. Unique fiber made statues with original leaves and trees retreated with medicines and colors have being designed to recreate the origin of Digboi oil industry. This uncommon museum has housed lots of British used equipment. Some of those are..... steam driven vertical piston engine; motor generator set; type writing machine- 1939-switzerland-admn. Dept; Public address sound equipment with radio and record players-GEC- England Circa-1940 (60wts); manually operated gramophone and battery operated radios during II world war; Movie film reel 1960; street light fittings-1960; hospital equipment of 1940-1960; golf clubs-1939; brick-1930; fireman's uniform of world war II; models of Kerosene outlet drilling rig etc, etc. It has housed lots and lots of unique collection of photographs also. Letter written by then PM of India Lt. Indira Gandhi to the GM of AOC requesting for donation for " Kamala Nehru Hospital funds" is another rare collection of the museum. Other attractions are Ford Prefect Car, BOC Petrol Pump, and Discovery well and the list goes on. This is a must visit spot for the tourists in Digboi.
Digboi centenary park: One time "Durga Pukhuri", which Digboians used to give farewell to the puja idols during Durga Puja, Kali Puja etc has been now converted to a beautiful park on the occasion of centenary celebration. This is a park brilliantly designed to capture the scenery of the natural hillocks and the water bodies with seasonal flower gardens and gazebos. This park will naturally be visitors' delight.
Digboi war cemetery: 10 minute's away from main town- this cemetery is in the Bapapung area. "Treasured memory of a moving son"---HS Charney-The South Stafforshire Regiment-25th June 1944 Age 21---------and all total 189 burials of brave soldiers with remembrance messages from their families are there in the "1939 Digboi war cemetery, 1945". The silence of well-maintained rose garden with the serene beauty around the place will try to take you to the history. All the tourists must visit this cemetery at least to show respect to the dead soldiers who gave life for our present.
IOC, Coal India, Dinjan cant always observes 2nd Nov as the "British Remembrance day" in this cemetery, In the Cemetery Register we saw the written messages from the people of many places like Bhopal, Rajasthan, Israel, Egypt, UK, USA and from every parts of Assam, Shillong etc.
Shillong road and the Golf Course: The panoramic Shillong road which heads to famous and very well maintained 18 hole golf course is itself a must see spot for the tourists in Digboi. There is a beautiful Church in the particular road where one can stop to inhale the natural beauty and to freshen up their mind. The luxuriant Chung bungalows in every curve make the journey to the golf course a lifetime experience.
And there is the CTA-Central Transit Accommodation of IOC (AOD)--the stay in the CTA with the natural beauty around makes your holiday unforgettable.
For anybody who wants to try their hands on golf clubs there is the 18-hole golf course but for the same, prior intimation is required for necessary formalities with the concerned authority.
Tea safari: Tourists can go for a nice tea safari in the tea gardens nearby the oil town. Even the organic tea production can be a new feather in the cap.
Coal safari: With the permission of the concerned authority tourists can experience the extra ordinary coal safari in the Tipang or Tirap colliery in the foothills of the Patkai hills.
Tribal village safari: In the bank of the Dehing River and the Patkai hills there are the villages of colorful ethnic tribal people. Thus the tribal village safari with the ethnic food varieties and handloom and handicraft items will be a lifetime experience for the tourists.
There are many other places of exclusivity in and around Digboi like Digboi oil field, Budhist Lama- Bhantai Temple, Dibru-saikhowa reserve forest etc which can be developed to be a comprehensive and uncommon sight seeing spots for the Eco tourism industry .
A mixed community crowd including Assamese, Bengali, Nepali, South Indian, Punjubi, Marwari etc inhibits this industrial town. Another attraction of this place is the Club culture and mainly the Digboi Club-a British time club for the IOC (AOD) executives and the India Club for the commoners. Being an all community hub, this small town exhibits the obvious phenomenon of a boiling pot of rich colorful cultural synergy. The many festivals of all communities always being celebrated with much verve here, for example Bihu, Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Diwali, Holi, Idd, Mahaveer jayanti, X-mas, Shankar Jayanti, Madhab Jayanti and the list goes on and on.
A visit to Digboi during the month of January, one can participate in the Dehing-Patkai Festival in the Lekhapani area which is a celebration for the promotion of the colorful rich tribal heritage of the hilly terrain. Just one and half an hour panoramic drive from Digboi - this festival is indeed a wise effort to showcase and develop the indigenous cultural fiesta by the local district administration. There is also a discussion going on for opening the historic Stillwell road, which can in future play a vital role mainly in tourism and overall economic scenario of this particular region.
A jungle safari through the famous Charaipung forest range in the returning journey from Digboi via Duliajan to Tinisukia will be an added flavor for the tourists. One can directly go to Tinisukia also. But just an extra tips-----if you go via Duliajan, you will get just after 10 minutes drive from that place a newly developed spot-Tilinga (Ghanta Or Bell Temple) Mandir. A very huge tree, has been worshiped by local people with the ritual of wishing for something in the first visit and if your prayer become true then you have to go and tie a bell in that tree. The huge tree all covered with thousands and a thousand of bells on the branches are really a very unique scene to enjoy.
Wish something------ and visit again on fulfillment of your prayers and tie a bell on the tree. And you will again explore mesmerizing Digboi - the call of historic industrial celebration in the cuddle of nature with rich British touch everywhere.....!!!!!
About Author / Additional Info:
I think most of us like to travel. Digboi is my birth place. Its an ode to my beloved Digboi. But its an effort to view my native place as a tourist. Thank you "Digboi" for the time I experienced in your embrace amongst wonderful friends/family and the first Air i breathed in with my birth.