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Nestled in the Satara district of Maharashtra, Bhilar is a tiny village that has been designated as India’s first ever ‘Village of Books’ or ‘Pustakanche Gaon’ by the Maharashtra Government. A book connoisseur’s haven – and with nearly 15,000 books to choose from – it will definitely satisfy the bookworm in you. Here’s everything you need to know about this ‘Village of Books’.
The project ‘Pustakanche Gaon’ was conceptualised by Mr. Vinod Tawde, Maharashtra’s Minister of Education and Culture, and carried out by government bodies – Marathi Bhasha Department and Rajya Marathi Vikas Sanstha, with the support of the residents of Bhilar. It is said that the project draws its inspiration from the Welsh Village of ‘Hay-on-Wye’, that is famed for its literary festivals and charming bookstores on every corner.
The idea behind this concept was to promote the culture and habit of reading, as well as increase tourism in the village. The prime focus is on Marathi literature and culture, and as of now, the books on offer are in Marathi language. In times to come, English and Hindi language books will also be available.
As part of this project, 25 places around the village have been transformed into the free reading rooms and these places include residences, schools, public spots and temples. Each location has been creatively inspired by book genres, plus they are well-lit and have comfortable seating facilities, thus creating the perfect environment to relax and read.
Each place houses around 450 books covering everything from literature, religion, poetry, environment, biographies, festival specials, history, autobiographies, folk literature, children’s books, comics and much more. With such a great collection on offer, there is definitely something to suit every interest and taste.
Its aim is to be a one-stop destination for literary connoisseurs, where you can spend hours perusing the collection and then curl up in one of the beanbags with your finds.
Considering the village’s close proximity to the hill stations – Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani that draw a great number of tourists every year, the lure of this village is increased even further. Also, the Maharashtra government plans to hold a literary festival in the village during the summer, where readers get a chance to meet their favourite authors and poets; alongside book publication events, reading sessions, exhibitions, teaching workshops, competitions and other literary programmes.
The Times of India reported Mr. Tawde saying, “Since the village is popular in the country for strawberries and thousands of people from across Maharashtra visit the village, it is the ideal place to start this initiative”.
Visitors can reach the village via road from Mumbai, which is 251 kilometres (miles) approximately 5 hours via Bangalore – Mumbai Highway – Pune Hwy and NH48.