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First ‘book village’ near Pune, to add Gujarati,Hindi and Marathi works too

All reading material in Bhilar is in Marathi, until now. Increasing footfall is now forcing the village to break language barrier.

pune Updated: Mar 12, 2018 14:15 IST
Pune,Maharashtra,book village
The road leading to Bhilar village where excerpts from books are displayed. Twenty five locations in the village in Satara district of Maharashtra have been converted into reader hotspots making Bhilar the first ever book village in India. (HT FILE)

With increasing footfall and a rising appetite for reading books, India’s first ‘book village’ near Mahabaleshwar aims to now break the language barrier as it completes a year this summer.

Bhilar, a small hamlet, in May 2017 became the first ‘book village’ where tourists and locals visited specifically to read books, magazines and newspapers, stacked at 25 places across the village. All reading material in Bhilar is in Marathi. Until now.

As the response to the initiative has grown with a consistent rise in number of people coming to the village and reading books, the artistically decorated libraries spread across the village are now all set to add reading material in Gujarati, Hindi and English to the shelves, to cater to non-Marathi tourists.

Located near the popular hill station of Mahabaleshwar, Bhilar with a population of 10,000, already attracts a large number of tourists, who while reading their favourite authors can also enjoy the locally produced strawberries.

“Initially, there used to be 300 to 400 people visiting the libraries every weekend. Now the footfall has gone up to 600,” said Balasaheb Bhilare, a local farmer who hosts a library in a portion of his house, and is also the convener of the strawberry festival every year.

“Many visitors, coming mostly from Mumbai, wrote in the feedback column that they would prefer books other than Marathi so as to enrich themselves,” said Bhilare.

Following the feedback, Marathi Bhasha department and Rajya Marathi Vikas Sanstha, a government body, will now introduce books in other languages.

“We have been adding books at Bhilar on a regular basis. Now we plan to add books from other languages as the education minister Vinod Tawde is also keen on it,” said Vinay Mavalankar, the book village project in-charge.

At the moment, there are around 25,000 Marathi books pertaining to various genres of literature, said Mavalankar, adding that Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar recently donated 6,500 books.

According to Dr Jagatanand Bhatkar, the assistant secretary of the Marathi Vishwakosh Centre in the neighbouring Wai town, besides Marathi tourists, Gujarati tourists have been coming to Bhilar in large numbers. “To attract non-Marathi tourists, the decision of including Gujarati, Hindi and English books has been taken, said Bhatkar.

Some of the books, according to visitors, are very rare and out of publication, including novels, reference books about Maharashtra and Marathi culture written by prominent authors. Along with books, most houses have also been painted with pictures of books to attract tourists.

“It’s a treat to visit the village of books as one goes to Mahabaleshwar. The place is serene where one can read books of different genres,” said Abhilash Kulkarni, an IT engineer from Pune who recently visited Mahabaleshwar and also paid a visit to Bhilar.

Bhilar is similar to Hay-on-Wye, a village in Wales, UK, the world’s largest second-hand book centre.

In 1972, villager Richard Booth was the first to setup a second-hand bookstore in an abandoned fire station. Several followed, transforming Hay-on-Wye into a paradise for bibliophiles. Taking cue from Hay-on-Wye, the Maharashtra government turned Bhilar into “Pustakanche gaav” – Marathi for book village.

First Published: Mar 12, 2018 14:15 IST