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Nickname(s): The Oil Town
Digboi is located in Assam
Location in Assam, India
Coordinates: 27°23′N 95°38′E / 27.38°N 95.63°E / 27.38; 95.63Coordinates: 27°23′N 95°38′E / 27.38°N 95.63°E / 27.38; 95.63
Country  India
State Assam
District Tinsukia
 • Body Digboi Municipality
Elevation 165 m (541 ft)
Population (2001)
 • Total 20,405
 • Official Assamese
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
PIN 786171

Digboi (IPA: ˈdɪgˌbɔɪ) (Assamese: ডিগবৈ) is a town and a town area committee in Tinsukia district in the north-eastern part of the state of Assam, India

Crude oil was discovered here in late 19th century. Digboi is known as the Oil City of Assam where the first oil well in Asia was drilled. The first refinery was started here as early as 1901. Digboi has the oldest oil well in operation.[1] With a significant number of British professionals working for Assam Oil Company until the decade following independence of India, Digboi had a well-developed infrastructure and a number of bungalows unique to the town. It has eighteen holes golf course as part of the Digboi Club. It has guest houses and tourist residential apartments laid on Italian architectural plan to promote tourism in upper Assam.


"‘Dig boy, dig’, shouted the English engineer, Mr W L Lake, at his men as they watched elephants emerging out of the dense forest with oil stains on their feet".[2] This is possibly the most distilled – though fanciful – version of the legend explaining the siting and naming of Digboi. Two events separated by seven years have become fused, but although neither is likely to be provable, such evidence that does exist appears sufficiently detailed to be credible.
Various web sites offer variations on the elephant’s foot story, a consensus of which would be that engineers extending the Dibru-Sadiya railway line to Ledo for the Assam Railways and Trading Company (AR&TC) in 1882 were using elephants for haulage and noticed that the mud on one pachyderm’s feet smelled of oil. Retracing the trail of footprints, they found oil seeping to the surface. One of the engineers, the Englishman William Lake (aka "Willie Leova" Lake), was an ‘oil enthusiast’ and persuaded the company to drill a well.
Oil India Ltd makes no reference to elephants’ feet in its company history,[3] although on its previous web site the company noted that Lake had noticed "the oil seepages around Borbhil". Once the project had been approved, Lake assembled equipment, boilers, and local labour, and engaged elephants to haul the machinery to the site. The first well was started in September 1889, but an encouraging first strike at 178 feet (54 m) turned out to be a small pocket, and drilling recommenced. This continued until November 1890 when the well was completed at a total depth of 662 feet (202 m), and it was during this extended period of drilling that Oil India's old web site placed the legend of Lake exhorting one or more of his labourers to "Dig, boy!"

Digboi as an oil town[edit]

It is said that the town gets its name from the phrase "dig-boy-dig," which is what the English told the labourers as they dug for crude oil. The town's history begins in 1867 when a small group of men from the Assam Railway and Trading Co. found their elephants' legs soaked in black mud, that smelt somewhat like oil. The men began exploring more, and in 1889, the English started a small oil installation. India (and Asia) obtained its first refinery in Digboi in the year 1901. Assam Oil Company was formed in 1899 to look after the running of the oil business in this area. The Digboi oil field produced close to 7,000 barrels per day (1,100 m3/d) of crude oil at its peak, which was during World War II. The field was pushed to produce the maximum amount of oil with little regard to reservoir management; as a result, production started to drop almost immediately after the war. The current production from the Digboi fields is about 240 barrels per day (38 m3/d). Over 1,000 wells have been drilled at Digboi – the first well in 1889 had stuck oil at 178 feet (54 m). In 1989, the Department of Posts, India came out with a stamp commemorating 100 years of the Digboi fields.

Today, though the crude production is not high, Digboi has the distinction of being India's oldest continuously producing oilfield. Digboi refinery, now a division of Indian Oil Corporation, had a capacity of about 0.65 MMTPA as of 2003. The Digboi refinery is the world's oldest oil refinery still in operation.

Digboi is now Headquarter of Assam Oil Division of Indian Oil Corporation Limited. The Earliest recorded to the existence of oil in India is found in the memories and dispatches of the Army Officers who penetrated the jungles of Upper Assam since 1825. Lt. R. Wilcox, Major A. White, Capt. Francis Jenkins, Capt. P.S. Hanney—they all saw at different times petroleum exuding from banks of the Dihing River. Mr. C.A. Bruce (1828) and Mr. H.B. Medicott (1865) of the Geological Survey of India also saw oil while prospecting for coal in Upper Assam.

Mr. Goodenough of McKillop, Stewart & Co. Calcutta was the first in India to start a systematic programme of drilling for oil in November 1886, at Nahorpung about 30 miles (48 km) south east of Dibgoi, just seven years after the world's first commercial oil well was drilled in 1859, by Col Willam Drake in Pennsylvania, USA. This hand dug well—the first oil well in India—was drilled up to 102 feet (31 m) and proved dry. However the second well struck oil at Makum near Tinsukia, about 14 miles (23 km) from Digboi.

In 1939, there was a major labour union strike in the Refinery. The Gandhi Movement of Congress for Indian Independence struggle; backed by labour rights and equality status was headed by Sardar Amar Singh Marwah. The break of the World War II coincided with the Digboi labour strike resulted in harsh steps taken by the British Administrative offices to crush the strike. The Viceroy and the Governor had intervened to bring a settlement adopting sturdy steps were take to crush the union by shooting down of the president of the labour union to be followed by issuing orders of Quit Digboi, Quit Lakhimpur and finally Quit Assam to the leaders of the labour union.

Digboi Refinery[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Digboi Refinery.

The Digboi Refinery modernization project was taken up in large scale in order to overcome the technological obsolescence of the old refinery. Subsequently a number of other major projects were undertaken by Assam Oil Division to further revamp and modernise Digboi Refinery.Digboi refinery has been awarded the ISO-14001 and OHSMC certificate.


Digboi is located at 27°23′N 95°38′E / 27.38°N 95.63°E / 27.38; 95.63.[4] It has an average elevation of 165 metres (541 ft).It is situated 510 km north east of Guwahati.


As of 2001 India census,[5] Digboi had a population of 20,405. Males constitute 54% of the population and females 46%. Digboi has an average literacy rate of 81%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 85% and, female literacy is 77%. In Digboi, 10% of the population is under 6 years of age.

Digboi Oil Town was considered as a separate census town in 2001 India census.[5] As of 2001 India census, Digboi Oil Town had a population of 16,584. Males constitute 52% of the population and females 48%. Digboi Oil Town has an average literacy rate of 82%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 84% and, female literacy is 79%. In Digboi Oil Town, 10% of the population is under 6 years of age.

Culture & economy[edit]

Digboi has always retained a British-influenced culture years into independence. Club going, golfing, swimming and tennis were lifestyles of most Digboites since a long time back. Indian Oil corporation(Assam oil division) then known as Assam Oil Company runs its oil refinery in Digboi - "the oldest operational refinery in the world". Oil is third-largest industry of Assam contributing to the state economy trailing behind tea and timber. Dibrugarh Airport is the nearest Airport connecting to this oil town.Balaka is an important socio cultural organization.

Places of interest[edit]

Digboi has a old history of hundred years. Places of interest :-

  • Digboi Golf Club: It is a Golf Club having 18-hole golf course. Established in 1930 by the Britisher's. Names of the past CAPTAINS / PRIZE Winner's listed since 1930,can be seen the wall of the club.
  • Digboi Oil Museum: Digboi Centenary Museum shows the history of this town. It is maintained by Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. Various old machines of the Digboi Refinery/ Documents/ things of daily use are displayed. It is the only one oil industry related museum in the country.
  • Digboi Oil Field: The oil field next to the museum is worth visiting and has more than 1000 wells and some of them are still active and producing OIL. The oil field is now controlled by Oil India Limited, based in Duliajan.
  • Digboi War Cemetery: Digboi War Cemetery is one of the attraction of Digboi. The World War II Cemetery of the Europeans deployed here for joint operation with Chinese and Americans under General Stil Well.
  • Religious Places: Digboi has a multicultural society with temples, gurudwaras, churches, namghars etc. The main festivals celebrated here are durga puja,kali puja and bihu.
  • Market Place: The main markets are Savitry Complex Famous For Mobile Market, Charali Bazar, AOD market, Tinali Bazar,mIOC New Market and Muliabari Market.
Digboi war cemetery

Education and research[edit]

Digboi has many educational institutions:


  • Digboi College, Digboi (Estd. 1965)
  • Digboi Mahila Mahavidyalaya, Digboi(Estd. 1981)
  • R.D. Junior College, Digboi


  • Balika Vidya Mandir, Digboi
  • Ram Deo Bishnu Shiksha Mandir,Borbil No 1 Digboi
  • Rashtriya Vidyalay,Digboi
  • Carmel School, Digboi
  • Delhi Public School, Digboi
  • Oil Valley School, Bogapani, Digboi
  • Shishu Niketan, Digboi (Estd.1989)
  • The Little Stars Senior Secondary School, Digboi
  • Vivekananda Academy, Golai-3,Digboi
  • Vivekananda Vidyalaya, Missionpara, Digboi
  • Janata School
  • EPITOME IT Education Society
  • Sister Nivedita

Vocational Training Institutes :

  • The Indian Oil Multi–skill Development Institute ( with CII) has been set up in the premises of the AOD High School. Skill development will initially be given in three disciplines, welding, beauty and wellness and hospitality and Tourism. Already the first batch have taken admission and are on verge of completing the course. The institute was opened in 1st September 2014.



Digboi is part of Dibrugarh (Lok Sabha constituency) which is represented by Mr Rameswar Teli of Bharatiya Janata Party.It lies in the Digboi Constituency of the State Assembly where it is represented by Mr. Rameshwar Dhanowar of Indian National Congress. [6]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

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