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Jyoti Pathar and Sanghamitra Chakraborty
Date of Publish: 2019-03-23

Heritage Bungalows of Digboi where the past comes alive in the present

In 1901, Indian oil town Digboi in Assam scripted a history when it got the country’s first oil refinery. Also known to be the Asia’s first, Digboi oil refinery continues to be India’s oldest operating oil refinery.

Built on small hillocks of the oil township, heritage bungalows of Digboi hold out another chapter of its rich history. They tell us the stories of a unique building architecture that is now over a century old, yet continues to attract visitors.

The Heritage Bungalows of Digboi came into existence during the period of 1916-1917. The first set of bungalows was constructed in the area of Muliabari (Digboi) by the Britishers who were mostly from England. These early 20th century bungalows allows us a splendid view of nature and of the hillocks while taking us back to bygone days of the colonial period of the British Raj in India.

Two of the bungalows have been transformed into Guest Houses of Digboi. One is named as the Patkai Manor which was built in the late 1930s. This old property of the Assam Oil Company, carries signature of the original aura has been preserved. Well maintained exterior as well as interiors are a treat for the eyes.

The other guest house located along the Shillong Road is named as Hornbill Villa. It was renovated January 17, 1992. The guests come from all over India and have a happy stay as the serenity of the courtyard and also the hospitality of the staff make them feel like home.

The Bungalows were mostly constructed with Nahor wood ( Indian Rose Chestnut tree) considered to be the best woods of the time. Chief Executive Officer of Woodland Works R.N Chakraborty says these woods were also called ‘steel wood’ at that time as they were considered the perfect wood for the construction of the bungalows, Hollock woods were used for making the frames of the windows and Champa woods were used in making the furniture of the Bungalows.

 

The Assam Oil Company purchased the woods needed for building the heritage bungalows from the Woodland Works Industry which dealt with different kinds of timber. This is the oldest Industry in Digboi started by Chakraborty’s forefathers during British rule.

The orientation of these Bungalows is mostly north facing. The bungalows were made with CIC roofing because it was ideal for the climate of this part of Assam being heavy rainfall area and its large variation of temperature. These bungalows were constructed by the Burma Oil Company under the supervision of contractors of the time named as Adaram and Sardar Mohan Singh. Each Bungalow was constructed in a very limited period of 45 days and the Shillong road Bungalows were made just before the Second World War.

For those, exploring destinations where the past comes alive in the present, the heritage bungalows of Digboi could be an ideal halt.

 

Photo and text - Jyoti Pathar and Sanghamitra Chakraborty

Jyoti Pathar and Sanghamitra Chakraborty are pursuing Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication at the Centre for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communication, Dibrugarh University. They produced this feature as part of their internship at NEZINE. They can be reached at – jyotipathar@gmail.com and sanghamitrachakraborty74@gmail.com

 

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