Guwahati, Gwati & Guatemala

Brahmaputra ferry point off Fancy Bazaar in Guwahati

Brahmaputra ferry point off Fancy Bazaar in Guwahati


Rather, my former Hindustan Times colleague Sushmita Bose did it – Google a Guwahati ‘sound-alike’.

Sorry, Sushmita. I couldn’t help thank the technocrat Hindu god first for more reasons than one.

Vishwakarma is the god of all mechanics, architects, builders, masons, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, cobblers, barbers – people you simply cannot do without. He is also the deity of IT professionals and the online world by default, although hardware and software meant something else when He graduated to a god.

Besides, Vishwakarma is also believed to be the forefather of the Karmakars unlike their Maharashtrian ‘sound-alike’ – the Karmarkars.

So by the grace of the elephant-riding god’s search engine (Sergey Brin and Larry Page, please don’t mind), Guwahati does have a phonetic clone. In Cameroon, it’s a place named Gwati.

The websites don’t say much about Gwati beyond listing it as a city in Mbam region of Cameroon. The geographical coordinates of the place are 6° 1′ 0″ North, 11° 43′ 0″ East, while the nearest airport Banyo is 84 km away. I couldn’t find any more info, probably because I am still a Net novice.

So much for a city! Gwati either doesn’t have a history or its residents – and those in capital Yaounde – avoid the Net like a plague.

Surfing told me there’s more to Gwati than a city Vishwakarma probably didn’t build. It is a surname in Africa and if not used as a proper noun, means many things in various African tongues.

In the Chewa language, for instance, gwati is a small bottle or bamboo holder for tobacco. In Kalanga and Shona, it turns into the bark of a tree while in Venda, it is a thick piece of tree bark.

Guwahati, on the other hand, is an ancient city – arguably the oldest living after Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Its earlier name was Pragjyotishpur or “City of Eastern Lights”, where light was more knowledge than illumination. It’s present name comes from guwa (areca nut) and hat (marketplace).

Guwahati thus is a market-city that has gone beyond selling areca nuts to become the economic hub of Northeast India.

Guwahati’s growth has entailed a lot of business fairs. Fair in Assamese or Bengali is mela. You are invited whenever we host the next Guwahati Mela.

Does that sound like Guatemala? Fair enough.


About rahconteur

A mid-career journalist who's worked horizontally across India - from Arunachal Pradesh to Gujarat
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3 Responses to Guwahati, Gwati & Guatemala

  1. ketaki says:

    Nice…. i liked the way you looped Gwati, Guwahati and Guatemala together… keep it up

  2. Sushmita says:

    here’s to the new blog republic of gwati then! maybe this will do wonders for tourism out there.

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