India’s first ‘book village’, modelled on the world’s largest second-hand book centre — Hay-on-Wye, a village in Wales, UK — is a treat for book lovers. Walk into Bhilar village near Pune and pick up one of 15,000 books, rare issues of various periodicals, novels and reference books about Maharashtra and Marathi culture written by prominent authors.
- Hay-on-Wye, a village in Wales, UK, is the world’s largest second-hand book centre
- In 1972, villager Richard Booth was the first to set up a second-hand bookstore in an abandoned fire station. Several followed, transforming Hay-on-Wye into a paradise for bibliophiles
- Today, about 30 bookstores cater to the village’s population of 1,500 people
- Several unmanned ‘honesty bookshops’ and tiny outdoor shelves dot the landscape
- The village made headlines earlier this year, when a note written by author Enid Blyton was found in one of its bookstores
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, prominent Marathi writers, poets and artistes are expected to attend the village’s inauguration slated for today afternoon.
Bhilar has a population of about 10,000 people, 90% of whom are involved in farming. The village and its surrounding areas produce about 100 tonnes of strawberries annually, netting Rs50 crore.
Situated close to Mahabaleshwar — a hill station that became popular during the British era — Bhilar attracts a large number of tourists, for whom locally produced strawberries are a major draw. The village’s prime location is what prompted the government to come up with ideas to promote tourism and Marathi, said education minister Vinod Tawde. On becoming education minister, he had announced his plans to turn a location in Maharashtra into a book village or ‘pustakache gaon’.
The government will organise various events to promote literature. Prominent writers and poets will host events and give speeches over the next few days. The government of Laos plans to undertake a similar project in Maharashtra soon.
As many as 75 artists have painted houses, temples and other tourists destinations in Bhilar to beautify the village and attract tourists.