A hamlet in Satara district of Maharashtra ( 260 km from Mumbai), popular for its strawberries has just earned tag of India’s first ‘village of books’, a concept inspired by Britain’s Hay-on-Wye, a Welsh town known for its book stores and literature festivals.

Terming it a “historic occasion”, Maharashtra Chief Minister Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday inaugurated it and said the opening of the ‘village of books’ was a pivotal moment in the country’s socio-cultural milieu.

How did the plan unfold?

The state government had announced its plans to launch such a book village and literary festivals concept in Maharashtra two years back on February 27, 2015 – Marathi Language Day.

Led by Education minister Vinod Tawde, this project was undertaken by the Marathi Bhasha department wherein 25 artistically decorated locations around the village will turn into reader hot spots with display of books ranging from literature, poetry, religion, women and children, history, environment, folk literature, biographies and autobiographies to festival specials.

What facilities will readers get?

As per the initiative, around 15,000 books (in Marathi) would be made available in the village premises. The state has also provided several facilities such as chairs, tables, decorated umbrellas and glass cupboards to local villagers to help them enhance the reading experience of literary connoisseurs visiting there, he said.

“Now we are opening it to all who have a love for language and literature. All these books are going to be available free of cost to the readers. Anybody can pick up a book of his/her choice, read for as long as they want and keep it back for others,” Tawde said.

Why Bhilar?

Bhilar village was selected for the project since a lot of tourists visit Panchgani and neighbouring destinations for vacationing. 

”Since the village is already famous for strawberries and thousands of people from across the state visit Bhilar, it is the ideal place to start the initiative. Though it is based on the Hay-on-Wey concept, it has been adapted in such a way that it depicts Marathi culture,” Tawade said.

The government is also planning to hold literary festivals in the village in the summers during this time. These festivals will comprise talk with authors, poets, reading sessions, presentation of essays, teaching workshops, exhibitions etc where people can participate freely, he added.

(With PTI inputs)