A page from the colonial history of India with a bit for fanciful legends makes Digboi an interesting place. The history part first. A group of Italian engineers commissioned by the then Assam Railways & Trading Co. were trying to built a railway line between Dibrugarh to Margherita (place named after the Italian princes) , where the headquarters of the company was located. Nothing could help better in this thick tropical forests of Assam than the trained elephants to move their machinery and materials. They noticed the legs of elephants smeared with mud that smelled like petroleum. They followed the trail. The oil well No.1 in India was discovered. It was in 1889, twenty-five years before the World War 1.
Now the fanciful part of the history. Some excited engineers shouted at the workers " Dig boy, Dig!" . And that eventually metamorphed into Digboi .
Right from the way it was discovered, Digboi has a few specials added to its name. Like mentioned earlier Digboi is the first commercial oil well of India. So is the refinery built at Digboi in 1901. This was the first in Asia and third in the world. With more that 100 years of history, the refinery and the oil wells still hold some remarkable records. Digboi is one of the oldest oil producing fields of the world. And the refinery is the oldest oil functioning refinery, which has survived two world wars and a torrent of historical turmoil in the region.
The tag of an oil refinery town may appears as a turn off form a tourist's perspective. You would be proved wrong if you happened to visit Digboi. It sits in the middle of an area proud of its agriculture production and wildlife reserves - an unusual setting for an oil refinery town.
The oil museum (National Oil Park) is a special attraction with all its by gone era industrial artifacts. On the other end of the town is the fringe of the wildlife area. It's not unusual to spot a herd of elephants or other interesting wild animals while you are inside the sanctuary.
Digboi belongs to one of the few towns in India still nurses its colonial nostalgia. The War Cemetery with European, American and Chinese names engraved on the tombs, an array of six-dozen plus golf courses and the remainders of the old English stye villas stand testimony to this.
Digboi is connected by road to other cities and towns of Assam. The National Highway ( NH 38 ) connecting Makum to Lekhapani passes through Digboi.